Biennial features responses to digital art print revolution

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Biennial features responses to digital art print revolution

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Traditional art printing may be old-fashioned and even forgotten, but printing goes way back to the paleolithic age when cavemen first made hand prints. Printmaking revolutionized the way we lived and thought, and the first half of the 20th century saw an explosion of printmaking technology. Pablo Picasso, who made more than 1,000 prints including etchings, engravings, drypoints, woodcuts, lithographs and lino cuts, was a leading artist who contributed to the period. It was only recently that the traditional art of printing lost popularity after its boom.
Showing retrograde responses to the digital revolution in art prints, the exhibition “14th Seoul _ Space International Print Biennial” presents 99 prize-winning art works ― excluding mono-type and digital prints ― selected through a scrupulous screening process from 756 entries by 406 print artists from 55 countries.
The exhibition, currently showing at the Seoul Museum of Art in central Seoul, shows prints that are not influenced by current trends but that display craftsmanship and completeness through traditional print techniques. The entries were screened by four jurors: Professor Han Un-sung of the Seoul National University, Korea; Professor Kobayashi Keisei of the Tokyo Tama University, Japan; Andrey Martynov, Director of the Novosibirsk State Art Museum, Russia; and Annette Dixon, Curator of Prints and Drawings, Portland Art Museum, the United States.
From the 99 exhibition pieces, the jurors awarded two prizes for excellence and one grand prize ― awarded unanimously to a linocut print by Marta Lech of Poland titled “20.09.”
Professor Han said of the winning piece, “This artwork was the first piece I chose during the screening process. By using very basic print techniques, the artist produced an excellent work that projects the human touch with delicate techniques.”
“This proves that very basic techniques,” he said, “can produce an excellent work that cannot be created by high-tech digital imagery.”
Active discussions exist concerning the boundaries of print expression and whether to include digital prints and mono type in the same categories as traditional prints. The Space Group, which hosted the biennial with the Seoul Museum of Art, didn’t accept any high-tech images for entry as it doubted the “plurality” and the “indirectness” of high-tech digital print images.
According to Mr. Han, those two traits are what make art prints special. Indirectness is a trait of print art related to the printing blocks and plurality refers to multiple editions. Both concepts cause debate when applied to mono type and digital images.
Mr Han added that “20.09” showed exquisite sentiment and technical excellence since in the genre of art print criticism, artistic features cannot be judged while neglecting the artist’s technical skills. Though using only black and white, the color of prints using basic techniques, the print showed completeness in its artistic aspect. A myriad of white small dots overlaps and depicts a window and the lightning which brightens the black background.
The two prints that received prizes for excellence ― “Urban Serenity” by Michael Goro of the United States and “Five sense...llA” by Isabelle Lutz of Luxembourg ― were also black and white prints using basic techniques such as etching and engraving. “Urban Serenity” shows the fine detail of a snowscene with railroad tracks, illustrating the features of traditional print art both in its theme and techniques.
The biennial has established itself as a well-known international print exhibition since its launch in 1980, while many similar events have come to an end. Mr. Han, a winner of a prize for excellence at the First Space International Print Biennial in 1980, explains that the biennial pursues the “orthodox,” making it one of the most renowned of its kind.


by Chough Eun-young

The exhibition, “14 th Seoul _ Space International Print Biennial,” runs until Oct. 8. The Seoul Museum of Art is located at 37 Seosomun-dong, Museum of Art-gil in central Seoul. The museum is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. It is closed on Mondays.
The nearest subway station is City Hall, line No. 1 or 2, exit 1.
For a detailed map or more information, call (02) 2124-8800 or visit the museum’s Web site, www.seoulmoa.org.

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