Guanlan International Print Biennial-the Platform of Presentation and Combing

Issuing time:2013-05-20 16:17Author:Kang Jianfei

It is my great honor to be invited as a curator by the organizing committee in the 4th Guanlan International Print Biennial. In order to avoid too much emphasis placed on the ontological attributes of the exhibition, and to enhance the publicity of prints, I invited Dr. Liu Libin, the famous critic of contemporary art, as co-curator of the current Biennial. Now it is the fourth Guanlan International Print Biennial; with the unremitting efforts of people devoted to Guanlan printmaking, the biennial has become one of the largest international print exhibitions with the highest academic standard. With the constant perfection of curatorial system and the joining of thematic exhibition, Guanlan International Print Biennial has strengthened its academic feature, and increasingly become an important platform for the presentation of current situation of print and academic combing.

Through the platform of Guanlan International Print Biennial, we can observe the trends of the international print world, realize the similarities and differences between Chinese prints and overseas prints, and ultimately achieve the purpose of promoting the development of Chinese printmaking. As a print artist, teacher in the academy and organizer of many prints exhibitions, I will demonstrate my understandings from the aspects of current situation of Chinese prints, the characteristics of the 4th Guanlan International Print Biennial, and academic positioning of thematic exhibition, and the possibility of future development of prints.

Contemporary Chinese creative prints originating from the New Woodcut Movement started 80 years ago. From the academic perspective, the latest prints academic development should be the stage of ontological language research rising in the late 1980s and early 1990s. After twenty years’ development, Chinese prints achieved remarkable results particularly in academic research, and already reached international standards at the aspects of print techniques, language, and concept. Seen from the large-scale print exhibition such as the National Print Exhibition, Guanlan International Print Biennial held in recent years, Chinese prints really enter into a pluralistic development stage. Because it is difficult to summarize the so-called “mainstream phenomenon” in all these print exhibitions, which is clearly distinguished from the phases of “Anti-Japanese War Prints”, “Group Prints”, and “Realism Prints” in history. First of all, from the perspective of the overall development of the print, the stage of print ontological language research has come to an end, in other words, the study of ontological print language has become a part of the routines of printmakers, needless to be periodically emphasized. The most important task for the academic circle is to make the identification and assessment of the staged result, shortage and impact of the language research so as to find possible directions for future development of print art.

Seen from the final selected works of the 4th Guanlan International Print Biennial, the visible parts have apparently reached a very high level, and what I mean visible parts refer specifically to the printmaking materials, printing effects, difficulty in techniques, personal form language and so on. I think this is the achievements in research of ontological language of print during the past twenty years. For the international part, because of the lack of understanding of artists’ background, it will be difficult to judge from the entirety of art work. For the domestic part, relatively speaking, we have a much better understanding: judging from the integrity of the work, the works emphasizing on print language still accounts for a larger proportion, and works emphasizing “print concept” also appear. That techniques come first is still the secret hidden rule of printmaking world. Contents have become excuses and the artistic feature above printmaking language is neglected to some extent. The issue I mentioned here is that the diversion of prints is not due to some external influence, but a necessary stage of the development of printmaking. The improvement of technology is an essential part rather than everything for a good print. It seems that the development of Chinese prints is like a hermit secluded in the city almost beyond the influence of the crazy development of the Chinese art market in the last two decades. Therefore, on one hand, Chinese print has ensured its academic purity; on the other hand, it reduces the social influence of the prints. So I think now Chinese prints should walk out of the hermitage and get in touch with the society. The relationship between printmaking and society, the relationship between printmaking and overall status quo of art, the relationship between printmaking and the public should be emphasized. Chinese print should not only exhibit the achievements of the past two decades but also take advantage of these research results.

To make the problem I mentioned more obvious, the thematic exhibition of this Biennial titled as “Straight to the Point – Directness Research of Print Creation” is to emphasize the kind of Chinese print whose aim is not to highlight printmaking techniques. And with the contrast of thematic exhibition and the Biennial, start the discussion of current situation.

We hope this Biennial not only can show achievements, but also find out problems, and thus can play a valuable role in attracting more people to research and discuss print art. Nothing can be perfect. The most regrettable of this Biennial is that: due to the limitation of the exhibition space it is impossible to exhibit more works; due to the constraints of collection fund, it is unlikely to keep all selected outstanding works in Guanlan. But with the completion of Guanlan Print Museum it is convinced that these problems will have a good resolution by the 5th Guanlan International Print Biennial in 2015.

Retrospecting the Biennial, I would like to extend my thanks to the organizing committee for their trust in Dr. Liu Libin and me, and their great support to our curatorial work. I would also like to show my gratitude to the jury experts for their strict quality assurance of the selected works. I also want to thank the staff of Guanlan Original Printmaking Base for their meticulous and efficient work for this Biennial. Finally, I want to thank all the artists who participate in this Biennial and the thematic exhibition. Without their print works and support, the value of the exhibition would be out of the question. May our joint efforts make due contribution to the promotion of the human arts course.

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