By Ana Vivoda | I have always seen my conversations with the space in which I exist as fragments capable of reflecting all permanent changes—transformations that occur throughout the surrounding landscape as well as within my internal world. The presented project entitled Traces explores the parallels between the physical environment, the printing plate and my inner landscapes. These unstable surfaces bear traces of intentional activities along with accidental results that take place in a continuous motion.
Ana Vivoda, Traces (composition of three prints), 2016, lift-ground etching, drypoint on Japanese Kawashi paper, 38 1/2 x 77 7/8 inches (98 x 198 cm), unique, printed by the artist, photograph by Ana Vivoda.
Installation view of Traces, 2010–2013, at Gallery Vladimir Buzancic, Zagreb, Croatia, 2013. Photograph by Ana Vivoda.
Developed as a doctoral thesis at the Department of Graphic Arts, Academy of Fine Arts, University of Zagreb, from 2010 to 2013, the project expands upon the traditional practice of intaglio and relief techniques. At the same time, Traces abandons the strict framework of conventional printmaking practice: traditional tools are replaced with elements of nature, such as dried plants or rocks, introducing the environment into the plate; the matrix does not serve the purpose of printing an edition; and the prints are not the final outcome of the project but material documents of the artistic process.
Traces explores mark-making. It is based on continuous interventions over the course of three years on a set of thirteen matrices (ten zinc plates and three linoleum blocks) by adding, altering or scratching previous traces, thus enabling new experiences on the same plate. There were cases in which I only created a single unique print off of a matrix, but off of others, I pulled as many as ten. The project yielded a collection of about sixty unique prints. When Traces is installed in a gallery, each paper print presents to the viewer a fragment of time in which my interactions with the matrix were recorded. I chose to employ intaglio techniques like lift-ground etching, etching, drypoint and aquatint. They may seem tiring, repetitive and complicated because of their physical nature and labor-intensive process—especially in contrast with easily accessible, simpler and more reliable digital solutions. However, I value the challenge of the traditional endeavor along with the “slowness” and uncertainty of the final outcome. The strict sequence of complex actions that intaglio entails requires me to be physically and mentally integrated in the work for an extended period of time.1
The conceptualization process and articulation of the artwork intertwine throughout the entire project. I am involved with the genesis of an image in my mind, the translation of it onto a plate and the process of documenting various environmental interventions. What emerges throughout the gradual act of marking the matrix, as an act of presence, is the print. Nevertheless, I do not consider the paper prints to be a final product, but rather as mementos of an ongoing transformation of experiences.
The project evolves through the relationship between the mental images and consequential images—mediated by imagination, memory and perception—shaped in the process of "embodiment" through the print medium.2 Instead of the sum of artifacts with emphasis on their aesthetic dimension, the prints are based exclusively on my experiences, sediments of the time and contemplation channeled through different material surfaces. The recording of these experiences, in sequence on a number of matrices, dissects the intimate conversations I have with the surrounding space into a series of individually cut fragments of memory. As prints, the physical fragments can be reordered and reshaped into arbitrary contexts through different combinations in various gallery settings. Because of this ludic approach, I deviated from the conventional idea of the print as an artwork—a stable, completed and multipliable medium—to understanding the matrix as a place that echoes the communication between the artist and the work. Such thinking leads to a non-traditional attitude towards printmaking in that the artistic trace, which at one point of the journey acquired an appropriate poetic form, does not remain the permanent condition of the matrix. Instead, it is preserved through a number of prints marked as referential stages in the ideation of the artwork, but the process of creation—or the transformation of form—persists. I perpetually rework the markings on the body of the matrix as an effort to explore the evolution and impermanence of time. The initial ideas of recording the changes and transformations of the artist’s mind, the outer landscape and their intensive relationships progress as they adapt, enrich, reshape and mature. I, as the creator, change as well. Such a system puts further emphasis on the impossibility of unique, monovalent definition of the work or me as the author: the trace of my signature is recorded in the ever-changing quality of the print and how its meanings multiply with each of my additional interventions.3 The matrix advances into an open, indefinite, constantly changing network of correlations, which question the meaning of time in the context of its creation. The concept behind the project is similar to that of photography, in which artists go through a wide range of experiences and use the lens to capture the images that reflect their ideas most clearly. The prints are therefore analogous to still film frames, as slices of time I chose to record.
Ana Vivoda in her studio in Gornje Vrhovine, Croatia, preparing one of the zinc matrices. Photograph by Josip Butkovic.
Ana Vivoda, Traces (individual print), 2011, lift-ground etching, drypoint on Hahnemuhle paper, 38 1/2 x 25 1/8 inches (98 x 64 cm), unique, printed by the artist, photograph by Ana Vivoda.
Traces begins yet another journey in the context of the gallery as a spatial installation: the prints, printed on transparent Japanese Kozo paper and materialized as autonomous objects, are arranged in an environment as a continuum of inseparable fragments of the complex whole. They are often hung from the ceiling to form rows of posters, but other times, they are posted upon the gallery walls. The transparent paper is suitable for the artwork; the material’s ethereal quality blurs the boundaries between each piece and allows visual traces to mix, like in the printing process. The form of the presentation is intended as one of many possible definitions of the multilayered activity shown through referential points. In public, the prints provide outlets for self-reflection and communication with the surroundings. The project gains and builds extended meanings through different receptions of the viewers.
When Traces is arranged into the landscape of the gallery, the experience grants the artwork independence from the confines of storage space and the realm of the artist’s imagination. The prints serve as a metaphor for “virtual spaces of subjectivity” that function as signs for heterotopic space,4 whether they constitute pieces of a particular exhibition or the entire Traces volume. It seems impossible to define artwork only by its physical features; it exists as an open invitation in search of space and time that is not lost, but always repeatedly formed in the communication with the viewer, who only by entering the fabric of the graphic text defines the work’s final form and concludes the process of experience.
Traces has been presented at several venues, including Gallery Milotic in Pula (2011) and Gallery Vladimir Buzancic in Zagreb (2013). Each installation of the artwork is intended as a referential stage of its continuous development. I have upgraded the project’s idea through subsequent printmaking experiments, such as a publication of an edition equally titled Traces (2015) by the Cabinet of Prints of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. I executed the entire edition on a single zinc plate with several stages of interventions and alterations. More recently, I adapted Traces into several artist’s books and a series of prints by combining intaglio and linocut techniques with laser prints.
1. W. J. T. Mitchell, What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2005), 217–219.
2. Hans Belting, An Anthropology of Images: Picture, Medium, Body (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2011), 144–146.
3. Roland Barthes, Uzitak u tekstu: Varijacije o pismu [The pleasure of the text: Variations on writing], (Zagreb: Meandar, 2004), 123–152.
4. Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics 16, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 22–27.
Installation views of Ana Vivoda's Traces, 2010-2013, at the International Print Triennial Krakow, Gallery Bunkier Sztuki, Krakow, Poland, 2015. Photographs by Josip Butkovic.
This article Ana Vivoda: Traces appears in the print edition of Celebrating Print, Vol.2 No. 2, published in October 2016.
ANA VIVODA (b. 1979, in Rijeka, Croatia) is a visual artist, printmaker and book artist. She graduated from the Department of Visual Arts, Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Rijeka and completed postgraduate studies at the Royal University College of Fine Arts in Stockholm, Sweden, and doctoral studies at the Academy of Fine Arts of the University of Zagreb, Croatia. Her work, represented in private and public collections, has been shown in solo exhibitions in Croatia and Spain. She has participated in over 150 exhibitions of prints, drawings and artists’ books in Croatia and abroad, receiving a number of international and national awards and acknowledgements. Vivoda has worked as an assistant professor of art education at the University of Zadar, Croatia, since 2011.