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Scotland-India interface

The works of the U.K. and Indian artists on display at Ashvita show how etching press has evolved into a tool for artistic expression

Etching presses or engraving machines are passé when it comes to commercial printing. But when a few artists realised the potential of the unwieldy etching press to create art, it evolved into a tool for artistic expression. The etching press, however, is just one of the tools used in the art of printmaking.

The British Council, Chennai and Ashvita Arts and Artefacts teamed up to display the works of 12 artists who participated in the Glasgow Prints Studio - Mumbai J.J. School of Arts prints workshop. "The exhibition is just one aspect of the close relations between Scotland and India", said Eunice Crook, the South India director, British Council. "The Scotland-India interface has led to a range of styles and inspirations in printmaking," she added.

The U.K. artists displayed include Anna Strachan (`First Night in Boreray') specialising in monoprints of Scottish landscapes, Carole Fulton (`A journey through life') using Intaglio techniques, David Traynor exploring relief printing, Ian Mc Nicol (`Glasgow End') with his interest in Glasgow's Victorian architecture, Norman Matheison (`Letter to Mexico', `Daybreak') experimenting with textural patterns and Murray Robertson (`Cityscape and Tradition'). The Indian artists include Anant Nikam, Madhukar Munde, Paul Kohli, Rajan Fulari and Vilas Shinde. A popular form in Europe, printmaking seems to have come of age in India too with artists experimenting in techniques, coloring, imagery and texture.

Printmaking differs from painting, where the artist puts the brush directly onto the canvas. The printmaker, however, has to contend with two different surfaces. One, the surface, made of copper, zinc, screen, wood or limestone, that helps form the image, and two, the plain surface on which the image is produced. Clarifying the double-surface concept, printmaker S. Ravishankar said, "That is, when you want to reproduce the image of your right hand, you have to create an etch of your left hand on a plate". S. Ravishankar himself has been to an earlier print workshop in Scotland as part of the British Council's Link Program.

In the course of dealing with two surfaces, print art has developed its own techniques. "The hidden processes involved in printmaking are not well-appreciated by art collectors. Thus they still prefer paintings to prints," said Ashvin Rajagopalan of Ashvita Gallery, adding, "By virtue of being prints, their value comes down price-wise."

The exhibition-cum-sale is on at Ashvita till October 14, after which it will travel to Pondicherry.


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