By Katerina Kyselica | Conceived as a mirror image of contemporary visual reality, the 2018 International Print Triennial Krakow in Poland brought under the summer spotlight 257 printmaking projects. From etchings, relief and screen prints, to video games, installations and laboratory extensions of movable imagery, the triennial surprisingly unveiled a romantic notion of the world through the resurfacing of humanity.
Grzegorz Banaszkiewicz, Poland, Laboratory of the Graphic Imagining, 2018, variable dimensions. Photograph: Lech Polcyn, Karol Szafran.
Draped over the Main Square in Krakow—one of Europe’s largest medieval town squares, dominated by the stunning, Renaissance-style Cloth Hall—bold yellow banners indicated the event of the summer: the International Print Triennial. The 2018 edition included several exhibitions, among them Transgrafia, a refreshing presentation of Polish printmaking today. The central, juried exhibition of Polish and international projects entitled Immersed in Images took place in the Old Town at Bunkier Sztuky (Art Bunker), a Brutalist gallery erected in 1965 for contemporary art.
Krakow, International Print Triennial 2018, Bunkier Sztuky (Art Bunker). Photographs: Katerina Kyselica.
Thematically speaking, “immersion” brings attention to our present-day experiential reality wherein the image functions as an autonomous language in which our process of perception occurs. The language of images pervades our thought mechanisms. It is a primary form of reading the world as well as expressing our convictions. It is used to provide information (vertiginous development of heterogeneous infographic forms), to express emotions (emoticons) and to comment on circumstances (memes).
By drifting in the continuous visual stream, however, we can lose our ability to distinguish between reality and its representation. Difficulty often arises in efforts to verify truthfulness of data that reach us through the instruments of pictorial communication. Immersion in images has thus become one of the most critical human experiences; constantly confronting our sensory intake, images transform us in multiple ways.
The triennial’s main exhibition Immersed in Images did not question the future of the image or the ways that the flow of visuals impacts human perception. Instead, the event embraced the image’s prominence in contemporary culture and encouraged viewers to embrace the diversity. The works were selected by an international, five-member jury (including our contributor Breda Skrjanec), a traditional operation for the triennial. Given the pool of over 1,300 submissions from all around the globe, they were tasked with a daunting feat to search for disparate imagery that would demonstrate a wide range of printmaking techniques and approaches. The jurors found excellent examples to help devise the exhibition’s main thrust, the situation of a person amid the status quo.
Views of the Main Exhibition Immersed in Images, International Print Triennial Krakow 2018. Photograph: Katerina Kyselica.
Image: Igor Benca, Slovakia, Trans-for-man 1, 2015, screen print, 86 x 122 cm. Photograph: Lech Polcyn, Karol Szafran.
The installation scheme consisted of individual chapters that unveiled as the visitors walked through the gallery, for example, “trans-for-man” (also a title of the screen print by Slovak artist Igor Benca), displaying projects that considered the human body subject to constant transmutation when faced with exigent challenges; “the winter is coming,” contemplating consequences of war, conflict and injustice; and “different shades of flaneur,” focusing on fragments and remnants of people’s activities. This poetic division of the show induced dialogue between works throughout most of the space and provided a welcome guidance that intensified the practice of immersion. The exhibition was also reassuring, exemplifying that, in their search for meaning, artists may employ printmaking free from concerns about established categories and unconditional methods.
Breda Skrjanec, President of the 2018 Jury
“I like the printmaking ideology behind such work as this video game [by Natalie Lamanova]. I also like the fact that the viewer is engaged—contributing to the movement, to the repetition of elements. I like the way the repetition is controlled. Although one cannot change everything. [This piece] also has nice aesthetics.”
Natalie Lamanova, Russia, Kinetos Interactive, 2017 - 2018, multimedia graphic game.
Stefan Kaczmarek, Acid Etched Portrait 1-3, 2017-2018, screen print, computer graphics, etching, 80 x 70 cm. Photograph: Katerina Kyselica.
Stefan Kaczmarek's Acid Etched Portraits investigate the problem of brutal, inhuman attacks made with acid. The acid damages tissues, often exposing the bones and sometimes even dissolving them, bringing to the victims long-term suffering, both physical and mental. The raster portraits, prepared using a computer program and exposed onto a screen matrix were printed with an etching varnish on pieces of tinware, and etched in nitric acid. Nitric acid, often used by the perpetrators, was biting the metal matrix for many hours, bringing to the fore the image of the wounded face.
Joanna Leszczynska's screen prints Human X and Human XI explore the nature of human existence, the process of life, using mathematical formulas, architectural drawings with fragments of buildings, and dimensional numbers. She used a method of reductive paint when the most creative and engaging part of the process is the printing, not the creation of matrix. Screen printing templates are, in this case, a set of artistic forms, allowing the artist to build up an image. Each presented work was constructed directly on the screen mesh, resulting in a unique image that does not exist on the matrix.
Images: Joanna Leszczynska, Human X and XI, 2018, screen print, 100 x 183 cm. Photo: Katerina Kyselica.
KATERINA KYSELICA is a visual artist, designer, curator and lecturer. She received a BFA from VCU School of the Arts in Virginia and a Master’s Degree from Charles University in Prague. Her prints and works on paper, represented in private collections, have been exhibited in solo and group shows in New York, Paris and the Czech Republic. She organized and curated the Celebrating Print Exhibition (2013–2015) a survey of contemporary prints from Central and Eastern Europe, and Forgetting Remembering (2018) with contemporary prints and artists' books. Kyselica’s articles on art, printmaking and design have appeared in Czechdesign.cz, Design Magazin, MF DNES, Celebrating Print and the Journal of the Print World.