Printmaking: A Complex Matrix

Blurb: Curators Bhavna Kakar and Satyajit Dave uncover a survey exhibition on the contemporary context of printmaking featuring a rich collection of over 57 artists.

Over the first week of March 2020, Gallery Latitude 28 presented ‘The Print: Matter in Matrix’, at Shridharani Gallery, Triveni Kala Sangam, that explored the medium of Printmaking through the constant evolution in technology and the ways artist have assimilated the new technology as a part of their practice. It has now been further extended at Sangeet Shyamala, Surrendra Paul Art Gallery, in Vasant Vihar, near Holy Child Auxilium School, New Delhi and is on till the 24th of April.

“I always felt that it is an intense and extensive art. I tried to combine my research in this exhibition that showcases the significance of printmaking as an art medium by bringing works from 60 artists in different sections like academic practice, book, digital and alternative practices, and 3-D printing,” says Bhavna Kakar, the founder-director of Gallery Latitude 28, who had studied Art History for her Masters but also spent her share of time looking at and participating in printmaking at the sweeping studios in MS University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda.

“The show also brings in reproductions that discuss the popular misconception of a print being a mere reproduction. We also have objects from history to build a narrative of how the medium of printmaking, or the act of taking a print has undergone various changes and in turn has impacted what it means to print,” says Satyajit Dave, co-curator of the exhibition, who was also an art history student from MSU. He is currently the Principal Consultant and Owner at Astanzi. Both the curators, who have researched and worked on this show for two-years, are excited to have the 29th edition, of The Book: It’s Printers, Illustrations and Binders, sourced from the private collection of the upcoming Prarang Museum in Noida among other archival books and engravings that are sourced from the museum.

Historically, it is perhaps predictable that the first set of ‘prints’ that made its way to India was part of illustrations for the Polyglot Bible, given that the initial wave of printmaking happened with religious zeal behind it. Although printmaking originated in China after paper was invented around AD 105, relief printing appeared in Europe in the 15th Century, when the process of papermaking was imported from the East. In contemporary art the older techniques of printmaking like etching, woodcut and linocut, are located within the realm of high or fine art, but this exhibition pushes the envelope to include other modern and contemporary methods and one can enjoy limited edition prints that are off the beaten track, including a few limited edition sculptural ‘prints’.

Manjunath Kamath - I know it’s a similar story
Digital print,108 x 48 inches 2018.

This exhibition showcases a variety of large-scale works and a collection of intimate ones, as well as covering the different printmaking disciplines of etchings, woodcuts, lino-cuts, viscosity works, digital artworks, 3-D Printed artworks, cyanotype artworks, artist’s books and rare colonial and colonial period collectible objects. “The artists being exhibited are from various parts of the country that offers the viewers an opportunity to experience printmaking works from centers like Goa, Kolkata, Chennai, Baroda, Mumbai, Raipur and Santiniketan, among others,” says Kakar.

As one enters Shridharani Gallery, one can barely urge oneself to walk past the larger-than-life, filled with intensive detail and fascinating narrative archival ink on canvas by Ranbir Kaleka, titled Snips and Figments from City as a Stage. However, when one does one will discover that there are 57 artists featured in the exhibition. Incidentally, Kaleka’s ‘theatre of everyday life’ features acrobats and circus performers, balancing on construction sites, historical monuments and poles, mingled with mundane folk, shopping, gawping and going on about life, among exotic animals and a hidden self-portrait of the artist. This work is a variation on the Ritz Carlton, Pune mural.

Anupam Sud - Dialogue I
Etching 23.5 x 29 inches, II Edition, Edition of 6 of 10,1984-90

Next, one comes in contact with some very rare etchings by Gulam Mohammed Sheikh that display his political commentary laced with his sharp sense of humor. In the funny vein is also Sarnath Banerjee, known for his graphic novel style that he brings successfully to his prints and then there is the affable modern fable by Manjunath Kamath, that weaves mythology, Renaissance painting, Hollywood, the amusing exotic beasts who hit notes of familiarity with Kaleka while defining their own aesthetic of Victorian interiors.

Arpana Caur - Soldiers' Mother
Etching 17 x 13 inches/ Edition 32 of 32_1995

One must of course tip the hat to the pioneers; there is Krishna Reddy, master of intaglio prints and viscosity, Zarina Hashmi whose minimal woodcuts tell us many tales about her experiences of being an early woman pilot and her experience of partition, Anupam Sud who brought her flair with realism and biting feminist critique of gender polemics to her etchings; she is easily one of the most prolific and important ‘woman’ print-makers of her generation. One also got a glimpse of important early works by Kanchan Chander and Arpana Caur, women artists whose prints also comment on gender politics.

Other important works on display are by Jogen Chowdhury, Bhupen Khakhar, Somnath Hore, a delightful colonial comment by Waswo x Waswo who slips in his self-portrait on an archival looking print, artist Jyoti Bhatt, who takes us on a journey of different processes of printmaking in his fold out book and there is of course an M F Husain silkscreen print, sourced from his earlier oeuvre.

Chittaprosad - The Pregnant Mother
Linocut on paper_9.5 x 9.7 inches_1968

Ketaki Sarpotdar - Nobody Knows
Etching on paper_4.5 x 9 inches_2019

There are also some delightful humorous etchings by Ketaki Sarpotdar. One also experiences a power-packed socio-political linocut by Chittoprasad, of a pregnant working-class mother lifting a basket of soil on to her head from her male counterpart who has dug it from the soil. It hits out at the cruel rule of early colonial India. Artist T. Venkanna intimately shares his process by displaying not just the print of a woman and her wide-open visage, he also places the etched copper plate alongside it.

Rajat Gajjar - Parlour
FDM 3D Prints, wood, Acrylic, Gold leaf, graphite and archival sticker prints 16 x 12 inches 2019

One may delight in the interpretation of the third dimension, we are told that the advent of 3-D printing technology is changing the role of not only sculpture as a built object but the role of ready-mades. Artist Rajat Gajjar brings us to the three-dimensional reconstruction of physical spaces. There’s a smutty hotel with its innuendo-loaded signage in Colaba Causeway, a grand colonial interior with a fallen doric column and yet another outdoor space that evokes a grand fountain against a peeling and decrepit wall. The idea, as we are told by Gajjar, is to talk of the multiplicity of time that is weaved into structures that exist upon buildings in Bombay/Mumbai. Ankit Patel does a humorous take on the idea of the finger as a sculptural object at the MoMA, playing on the Gujarati word Muma (translated as finger in the mouth) which indicates a prevailing sense of sarcasm that pervades his work.

As both Kakar and Dave point out, printmaking has always been at the tipping point of innovation when it comes to creating visual arts, and with new strides being taken in the field regularly, printing technology is further opening up building possibilities in architecture and other fields as well.

‘The Print: Matter in Matrix’ continues 14th to 24th April at Sangeet Shyamala in Vasant Vihar, near Holy Child Auxilium School, New Delhi

Text by Georgina Maddox

Find out more about artists, curators and galleries: