Printmaking as a medium is slowly making its presence felt in the world of creativity. Like chamber music, the language of printmaking is soft, intimate and modest. While a painter has an entire orchestra of colours at his disposal, a print-maker works with only black, white and a few basic colours. Yet, these colours are enough to express a spectrum of emotions; from the moods of nature to the feelings of the heart. Outlines and silhouettes of a subject express wit and humour, revealing character better and in a more subtle manner than their coloured counterparts. Printmaking, originally invented and used for commercial purposes, is now an independent and eloquent mode of creative expression.
And to explore this medium, the Rastriya Lalit Kala Akademi last week organised a workshop by inviting some emerging and well-known names in the field. The week-long workshop brought to focus the significance of printmaking, the techniques and processes involved. It was a treat to watch the masters as well as upcoming print-makers rolled up under a single roof, exchanging views and ideas as also executing their works. Fourteen print-making artists from Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha participated.
The creative output of the workshop was put together in an exhibition at the Lalit Kala Akademi Gallery on Friday. The viewers had the privilege of studying not only the prints but also the etched and engraved plates from which the prints were derived.
‘’This is not a new medium. It has been present since the 2nd Century but it never got its due recognition. The reason being that it was basically treated as a secondary art form and used extensively for creating illustrations for supporting stories. Though there are hundreds of good works they were never treated on par with other paintings as they were basically considered as reproductive work that lacked the artists’ imagination. Printmaking has four different varieties - intaglio, lithography, serigraphy and woodcut,” says Ajit Seal, a senior print-maker from Santiniketan who was the resource person for the participating artists.
As one viewed the exhibition, it became clear that the works put on display were neither trivial nor frivolous, even with the obvious constraints of time. On the other hand, the prints bore testimony to the penchant, craftsmanship, and creative stamina of the print-makers besides demonstrating their unflinching dedication to the art. All the artists worked on intaglio form.
Bihar’s Vicky Verma’s ‘Interlocking of Sky and Earth’ was a notable work that caught the eye, thanks to the compelling texturing and exquisite deftness. Similarly, Odisha’s Trinath Mohanty delivered a profile of a girl midst dexterously etched trees, flowers, shrubs, and plants.
Abhijeet Singh from Jharkhand created an interesting piece on urbanisation. His plate had three skeletal frames of birds surrounded by large buildings. The measured lines and meticulously executed curves heightened the feel of the images, which were placed one above the other. ‘’I wanted to show the rapid urbanisation happening these days and its effect on animals and humans,’’ he said.
Rabinarayan Gupta from Chhattisagarh and Anil S Jeri of Madhya Pradesh blended a complex mélange of human forms and situations in their works by radically grading and shading the images. ‘’A plate of zinc is dipped in acid and a needle run over it at a rhythmic pace. Filling the crevices created by the sharp needle with a black-brown ink, we smoother the edges of the plates with a scraper. We take the prints on a paper to see the desired image,’’ explained Anil.
Rekha Prasad from Jharkhand, who worked on a landscape, said since awareness on printmaking as an art is very low, they want to encourage public to understand and appreciate the amount of hard work that goes into creating these art forms.‘’Print-making demands technical elegance and physical labour to etch out an aesthetic work,’’ she said. The artists said such workshops help them interact with their peers and share expertise. ‘’The art of printmaking involves a lot of work. We work with acids all the time and creating grooves on the plates need good concentration. We hope the beauty of this art is spread through such workshops,’’ said Subrat Kumar Behera, an Odia artist.