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Printmaking As a Phenomenon of Thinking

By Dorota Folga-Januszewska | With the boundaries of art disciplines dissolved, the field of printmaking evolved into a phenomenon of thinking reflected in the creation of a matrix and its potential image. The matrix, as a concept and technical entity, embodies an openness to change—the only constant variable being change in itself.

MFA Thesis exhibition Coming Out, Maciej Januszewski, 2014, Poland

View of the MFA Thesis exhibition Coming Out, Maciej Januszewski, Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, Poland, 2014. Detail of wall installation, wood prints on paper and cardboard. Photograph by the artist.

From the turn of the 1990s and into the first decade of the 21st century, substantial cultural changes took place not only in technology, but also in typology. The blurred division of art disciplines seen over the 20th century finally became a reality. Sculpture, painting, design and drawing ceased to denote disciplines of art, but have begun defining methods of action that can be performed in the city space, upon a landscape, on a canvas or even in the virtual and digital world. Beyond just talking about the practices of different art media, the term “ways of thinking” has entered the discourse. Now we often discuss the “painting way of thinking,” the “architectural way of thinking” or the “printmaking way of thinking”—whether we are analyzing paintings, happenings, installations, architecture, films, multimedia, furniture design, drawings or animations. At museums, collectors are working to consider the “printmaking way of thinking” as they decide how to gauge fine art prints.

There is a certain strategy for understanding the printmaking way of thinking, for which implied thinking is quintessential. Exercised in the fields of arts and sciences, implied thinking encourages us to mine into the hidden meanings within a subject, and to identify the important messages that are not directly presented. If we wish to connect implied thinking to the printmaking way of thinking, we first take a look at the matrix, and thereby begin to compare this fundamental component to a concept, idea, project or device with a concrete, constant and visible form, rather than a fleeting one (although the matrix is sometimes digital).1 In the tradition of printmaking, the matrix could be a wooden block, engraved or etched plate, lithographic stone, screen, stencil, negative or positive. However, if we consider the matrix as a technical entity, it could also be a computer program, an algorithm, or even the order and rules of the game. One feature of the matrix is its potential presence in the piece and process, regardless of whether the matrix itself is material (plate) or digital (program, code). The matrix is potentially and actually imprinted into the surface of the resulting print. Nearly everything that surrounds us can become a print: paper, soil, plastic (such as in 3D printing), the human body or almost any known material. Versions of the matrix, as we know it from printmaking, are present in biology, genetics, geology, physics, history, art, pedagogy, education, medicine and politics. Matrices are ubiquitous...

[This article appears in full in the print and digital edition of CELEBRATING PRINT, Volume 2, Number 1.]


1. Dorota Folga-Januszewska, “Podwojny byt grafiki” [Dual being of printmaking] in Grafika wspolczesna: miedzy unikatem a elektroniczna kopia:materialy sesji zorganizowanej w ramach programu Miedzynarodowego Triennale Grafiki Krakow '97, ed. Tomasz Gryglewicz, (Krakow, Poland: International Print Triennial Society, 1999), 28-31, published amongst papers pertaining to the International Print Triennial Krakow 1997; Grzegorz Banaszkiewicz, “Pojecia grafiki II” [Notions of printmaking II], Zeszyty Artystyczne 20 (2011): 9–27. Both pieces further explain the multifaceted nature of the matrix.


A full version of this article Printmaking As a Phenomenon of Thinking by Dorota Folga-Januszewska appears in the print edition of Celebrating Print, Vol.2 No.1, published in April 2016.

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DOROTA FOLGA-JANUSZEWSKA is an art historian, art critic, curator, museologist and educator. As a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, she heads the Theory Department at the Faculty of Graphic Arts. She is also a Deputy Director at the King Jan III Palace Museum in Wilanow, Warsaw. Her research—which covers topics like the intellectual condition of contemporary printmaking, theories of vision and neuroaesthetics—has been published in over 300 books, journals and catalogs. She has curated over 50 exhibitions and served as a juror in numerous contemporary print competitions. Folga-Januszewska is an Honorary Member of the International Print Triennial Society in Krakow and President of ICOM Poland.


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