The Vision of Printmaking

Printmaking is an ancient art, dating back to at least the second century CE in China. The techniques on display here (woodcut, monoprint, collagraph, intaglio) are only a small sample of the multitude of processes by which prints are produced.

Printmaking in any form is a process of reversal. The artist works their image in reverse- when the original plate, woodcut, or matrix is pressed into the paper, it produces an image that is its own mirror. In this way, the process functions in much the same way as the human eye, which inverts images of the world so that we can understand them. There’s also a sense of spontaneity, of chance, in this process- as meticulous as the artist may be, they do not know exactly how the final image will appear, until it does- arriving suddenly, entirely.

Part of the magic of printmaking is its sense of arrested time; the processes are intensive, and require slow, careful work. Printmaking will not be rushed; it demands the artist’s full attention, and also demands our own as viewers. To look at a print requires a lingering pause, a dilation of time in which the details make themselves visible.

Finally, the registration of the print image is produced by pressure- applied either by hand or mechanical printing press- a process which leaves not only marks, but visible imprints on the paper. If you look closely, you may see these pressure scars at the edge of an image; visible evidence of the print’s making.

Reversal, time, and pressure. I think that is appropriate for the world, now.

Carlye Sina Frank
Director, Anita S Wooten Gallery
June 2020