Recently organised by the Lalit Kala Akademi, the National Lithography Camp was a way of giving space and impetus to the niche genre of lithography.

The scene of printmaking is witnessing some action. If not absolutely abuzz with activities, some excitement is seen surrounding the niche genre, which is believed to have been quiet for some years now. A few exhibitions of prints in the recent past especially over the last year and emergence of a new printmaking group can substantiate this claim to an extent.

The recently held National Lithography Camp organised by Lalit Kala Akademi Regional Centre, Garhi, New Delhi, from December 16 to 23 can be thus seen as a significant move in this context. The eight-day long camp that drew participants from different parts of India like Assam, Baroda etc, was dedicated to Surinder Chadha, a famous lithographer known for his highly individualistic lithographic prints.

To put the spotlight back on this once popular printmaking technique, artists from different age groups interested in the form gathered at Garhi studios. In addition, a number of students from schools and colleges were also invited to witness the activities at the camp.

Lithography is a method of printing wherein the relation between oil and water is manipulated. It is a Greek word composed of ‘lithos’ meaning ‘stone’, and ‘graphein’ meaning ‘to write’. It was originally introduced by Alois Senefelder, a German author/actor, in 1796. Since oil and water do not mix together, the oil-based ink which is applied onto the surface of the stone, after moistening it with water, clings only to the original drawing.

At the camp, the focus was mainly on colour lithography in which the participants were exposed to different chemical compositions used in making colours, and also introduced to the technical aspect of lithography. The works created by them during the camp were displayed on the last day.

“Printmaking is a medium for mass communication, and it has got a very social context. But, now it is being practised only by people of fine arts.” said Rajan Fulari, the head of the camp.

Free to choose the subject of their choice, the participants had drawn from human anatomy, society, relationships and animals. “The process of lithography really lets you exploit the surface of the stone, unlike other mediums. The experience is great since one is getting to meet new artists, discuss problems and share ideas immediately, which becomes a little difficult otherwise,” said Querozito D’Souza, one of the participants, adding that the availability of all the required infrastructure also added to the experience, as it isn’t available everywhere.

A labour-intensive technique which requires a relatively big set-up, this is more of a collective effort as compared to other mediums which can be practiced in solitude. “In this, a running water source is a pre-requisite, and I believe people living in Delhi don’t have time, to carry out long and tedious tasks, like this,” said another participant, Vijay Bagodi in response to a question about lithography’s fading popularity over the years.