By Katerina Kyselica | When I studied art and design in the United States, it saddened me not to see any recognition of Central European culture or contributions in the colorful art history textbooks that were used in my courses. I’m originally from the Czech Republic. Throughout my studies, I missed mentions of my home region’s functionalist architecture, poster design and typography, and art concepts like artificialism or concretism. Later, when I joined the printmaking community in New York City, I realized that if there is familiarity with the region’s print medium, it is often fragmentary and without context.
Our Celebrating Print Magazine, a biannual publication, features articles, interviews and projects exploring printmaking and print-related culture primarily in Central and Eastern Europe. The goal is to bring English-speaking readers closer to the region’s rich history and its centuries-long printmaking traditions, as well as to join the global community in the discussion of the medium's contemporary practice.
In this first issue, Breda Skrjanec’s article lets you peek into the history of modern and contemporary printmaking in Slovenia, a small but culturally rich country full of artists. Skrjanec offers a brief survey of Slovenian printmaking in the second half of the 20th century, highlighting the Ljubljana School of Graphic Art and their standards for the modern printmaking tradition. The current practice is explored in Katarzyna Haber’s portrait of two Polish artists, Agnieszka Cieslinska and Wojciech Tylbor-Kubrakiewicz, in connection with their recent presentation at the International Print Triennial Krakow.
The multi-layered, technically rigorous processes of printmaking disciplines are a challenge for practicing artists, who must learn how to handle and work with specific materials. At the same time, the medium offers artists an array of unique opportunities for experimental development.
In the project presented by Lenka Vilhelmova, the focus lies primarily on the matrix—the printmaking plate—and alternative methods of its creation. Vojtech Kovarik, who has mastered the art of large-format linocuts, certainly insists in an almost provocative discussion with Alena Laufrova on the significance of the printmaking process—despite the fact that his images may appear like meticulously carved-out copies of his photographs. In another featured interview, Rada Nita invites Christopher Nowicki, a professor at the Wroclaw School of Printmaking in Poland, to discuss the role of traditional printmaking, aspects of artistry and how he creates mental mirrors through his mezzotints in attempt to alter the viewer’s sense of reality. Additionally, I visited the studio of Czech letterist and innovative printmaker Eduard Ovcacek in the city of Ostrava, and may, thus, present you with my observations of this artist’s early experiments with structural printmaking along with his recent digital works.
The question of where traditional printmaking fits in contemporary art appears throughout this issue, but with no ambition to find a definite answer. One of my favorite 20th-century modernist artists Jiri Kolar, whose work and support of young artists inspired one of this issue’s featured projects, was asked in the 1960s what poetry is. “Maybe nothing, maybe something,” he said. I consider the essence of his response applicable to the wrap-up of this magazine’s brief introduction. What is there to say about printmaking today? Maybe there is nothing about it. Because it often clings to the traditional definition of handmade, it may seem that printmaking struggles to progress as a practice. But, maybe there is something.
For years, many artists have discovered the potential of printmaking as a multifaceted medium to embrace conceptual approaches and execute experimental takes on multiplication, the matrix and even the very definition of impression.
In regard to determining a concrete answer amidst such ambivalence, I believe it depends on how hard you look and what exactly you seek to find. The featured artists in this issue, for example, succeed in finding meaning in printmaking without aiming to justify the medium’s relevance. And we, at Celebrating Print Magazine, hope to succeed in triggering your interest in printmaking through our written accounts—plus provide further inspiration for those who already practice. Maybe you will even visit one of the region’s countries. Either way, I certainly welcome your letters and comments on printmaking, as well as your thoughts on the direction of this magazine. For it is you, our readers, for whom we will tailor and craft each issue.