Immersed in the Spring of Printmaking in Guanlan

Issuing time:2019-05-20 10:59Author:Jiang Lu

In May, with the season of flowers in bloom, the China Guanlan International Print Biennial will be unveiled in the China Printmaking Museum after the hard and well-organized preparation.

My participation in the Guanlan International Print Biennial as a juror is really a rare pleasure. Walking into the review hall and viewing thousands of works from all over the world is as good as attending a print feast. In my personal view, it’s not only a very valuable learning opportunity; it also triggers my thinking related to the state of contemporary printmaking.

How time flies! It’s been more than ten years since the establishment of Guanlan Original Printmaking Base. The Base has developed into a structurally complete printmaking art center. The Printmaking Workshop is the foundation where artists from home and abroad reside for the creation of new works. The China Printmaking Museum is the window which integrates the collection, research, exhibitions and social service functions. The exhibition is the stage under which Guanlan International Print Biennials, Chinese Printmaking Exhibitions and exhibitions of various scales and academic themes are held alternately. Guanlan Original Printmaking Base has become an artistic institution with important influences at home and abroad with its gradual growth over the past decade. Its status and roles in the history of modern Chinese printmaking are evident and will continue to be proven by the history.

The quantity of the works received by the Biennial and the number of countries represented by artists hit a new record this year. This enables us to understand the developmental status of international prints more comprehensively, and also allows us to compare and observe the current situations of the creation of prints in China under very convenient and intuitive conditions.

For those Chinese printmakers who submit their works to this Biennial, the youth printmakers constituted the majority, which is really delightful. The multi-year efforts by the peers in the domestic printmaking circle have created an environment and condition suitable for the development of printmaking art. The printmaking specialty of the colleges and the social printmaking institutions have played decisive roles in the talent cultivation and creation of work. Going forward, we can anticipate even greater vitality and vigor in printmaking art.

Beginning with the in-depth exploration of various printmaking approaches, the overall quality of domestic printmaking production has improved rapidly and significantly. In terms of the production quality of the works, Chinese printmaking has markedly improved. Casting our minds back a dozen years, it was quite easy to distinguish the Chinese prints from the foreign works when they were put together. The works fromabroad were often impressive due to the accumulation of historical experience and the then-production conditions unattainable in China. By contrast, although the domestic works had good concepts and form, they had difficulty in achieving optimal artistic effects since they were often rough and unrefined in production. How big a pity it was! Nowadays, the situation has changed. Although different quality levels and room for improvement still exist, the quality of our printmaking creation is closer to that of the foreign works, which was particularly felt during the review of this Biennial.

International communication is a very important factor for the overall improvement of the production quality of Chinese printmaking. Since the reform and the opening up, many domestic printmakers and young students have gone out to study abroad, especially in the European universities and printmaking institutions. As they return home, their learning achievements have entered the domestic printmaking teaching systems, which has effectively improved the domestic printmaking teaching and research. At the same time, many outstanding foreign printmakers and printmaking educators have come to China to teach the skills and thoughts devotedly, which has played a very important role in promoting the overall quality of Chinese printmaking. Chinese printmaking has changed with continuous going out and coming in, during which Shenzhen Guanlan Original Printmaking Base and the Biennial have played particularly important roles.

Relatively speaking, printmaking creation requires a higher level of technology because its generation and evolution are closely connected with science and technology, especially printing technology. The rapid development of digital technology will undoubtedly promote a generation of new ways of image expression, however, in my view, the technology always has a cold side and lacks the life temperature of a human being. In recent years, the traces of digital technology application are seen more or less in the prints, including the works in this Biennial, showing the effects of the good and bad intermingled. Therefore, regarding how to grasp the applications of digital technology and how to retain the subjective factors and direct effects of the artists, we should have a clear mind and make judgment more in line with the law of artistic values.

The artistic values in the multicultural era reflect the artists’ philosophies and attitudes. In addition to creativity, the almost common pursuit, I’m afraid that every artist must confront, from time to time, the essential questions of what to do and how to do it. The printmaking community has had a strong sense of crisis for a long time. On one hand, the sense of crisis comes from the artistic market, and on the other hand, it comes from the concerns about the survival of traditional styles of art. In fact, when looking at the traditional styles of art in the context of contemporary art, we may find that any kind of painting has similar concerns; the question is that printmaking has its own special concerns. It’s a long story on this topic, but fortunately it seems that the sense of crisis has begun to fade away. Actually, the way and concept are sometimes not the same thing. When we see printmakers, either from Europe or United Statesor Japan, passionately creating their prints, we may feel a status of mental stability,self-confidence and artistic freedom. Furthermore, the artists may have their self-identification, which brings expertise; also, they can be unrestrained, which, in turn, brings full freedom. If you have something to say, just do it! For this reason, when we see the works of Guanlan International Print Biennial, especially the works of the many young printmakers, we may have a feeling that art doesn’t need to be proven, just do it if you like it and it’s good if it looks good. The creations based on the heart and sincere expressions should be the artists’ standpoints and attitudes, but also the standpoints and attitudes upheld by the printmakers. Similarly, when we see many printmakers, especially the younger generation of printmakers, trying new languages, we may feel the active characteristics, creation potentials and valuable experimental spirits of printmaking thinking, which not only brings new vitality to the traditional ways, but also opens new paths to find a broader space for artistic creation.

The Guanlan International Print Biennial is among the largest of important international print exhibitions. Even so, not all of the good works can be selected, which is really a great regret. In general, the persistent pursuit of quality is the common ideal of most printmakers. While the contemporary art is often too highbrow to be popular, so too with printmaking. How to make printmaking truly go out of the ivory tower, connect with the public aesthetic tastes and maintain the spiritual communications with the public should be thought about by printmakers.

The 7th Guanlan International Print Biennial is upcoming. As a juror having reviewed the Biennial exhibitions for several times and one of the curators for this Biennial, I’ve personally experienced the growth of Guanlan Original Printmaking Base, an international printmaking base, and have many feelings from my participation. The older generation of artists with full pioneering spirits and historical senses of responsibility have pushed the boundaries of printmaking ever farther, and the younger artists with solid strength, broad vision and full vitality are actively participating, making Guanlan Original Printmaking Base thrive.

I wish more friends at home and abroad like and support Guanlan International Print Biennial and I sincerely wish this Biennial a great success.

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