Making an imprint

K.S. Viswambhara's art work  

“The awareness unfortunately for graphic art is almost absent in India; it has not picked up the way various mediums of painting and sculpture have. People fail to realise that man’s aesthetic mind and its imaginations started working from graphics; if we see in the prehistoric caves, the images man had made were engravings on the rock walls; this was the beginning for art; he would use his hand as stencil and blow blood and mud on it with his mouth or animal horns and create impressions,” says Prof. K.S. Viswambhara, who was the Artists in Residency under the auspices of Lalit Kala Akademi at the Graphics Studio at Kalakshetra held in collaboration with the latter.

“The response to graphic arts is very poor here from the art collectors, art lovers and administrators and the graphic artists themselves give it up when their work is not appreciated; writers too do not highlight the importance of this medium; in Europe there are collectors for specific genre — painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphics; but here it is only painting they are after; curators too don’t go in for graphic prints, though it is a beautiful medium,” feels the professor.

In the West there is better awareness for art, including graphics, because it is part of the school curriculum; children are taken to museums and explained about everything in detail.

“ Youngsters who have the inclination for graphic art should focus, work hard and continue to create, so that people around would begin to take notice”, says the artist, who has behind him years of teaching and practising this genre.

Seventy-five-year-old Viswambhara obtained his diploma in Fine Arts from Kala Bhavan, Shantiniketan . He was a student of the well-known veteran Somnath Hore.

He has exhibited and been in Residency in the U.S., England, France, Poland, Egypt, Japan, Brazil and Taiwan besides India. Often people do not know the difference between printing and print making. The latter is more complex and it involves chemistry as well as human aesthetics, imagination and skill.

“When paper, which was initially made only in China, began to be made in Europe, matrix was made from wood block and used for printing. When understanding of the nature of the printed image and the technicalities involved dawned, the human mind began searching for new ideas; thus copper plate, which was malleable and convenient to engrave, replaced wood block; prints were used mainly for illustrating the Bible. When only surface was getting printed, artist began wondering that the space of the engraved line was wasted and began applying ink into the cut lines; but as the hand pressure was not sufficient, rollers were invented to apply required pressure; it was also realised that the paper had to be damp for it to absorb the ink; now the surface was plain and in order to use that area, different colour was applied on it. Thus gradually print making advanced with newer techniques with the involvement of the individual artists and their imagination. The grooves and burrs threw up their own effect to the outcome; for applying different tones, light and shade new techniques were thought of.

In more recent times zinc replaced copper, which is more expensive. Depending on the compatibility of different metals to different chemicals, newer techniques got established. Monochrome became multicolour, viscosity printing came up so that multiple colours could be printed at the same time. “When lithography — print making with limestone in place of metal — came into being, it led to commercial printing; offset printing came in, making it possible to print thousands of copies at one go involving machinery and electricity.” Now even offset has become almost obsolete with the introduction of digital printing.

At present the images are transferred digitally on to the plate; human skill and effort are coming down. When tools are used to create the image on the plate, one can see the skill of the artist; the artist too would miss the tactile feeling of working on the surface with hand.

“They don’t want to labour any more; they want everything fast,” he says.

Often natural disasters form the basis of his subjects. But the finished print would be something artistic with the interplay of lines, colours and tones.

In the residency, he has been working on the theme of the December deluge in Chennai, in which his daughter who lives in Velachery, was also affected.

He has made a rough painting, which would be dealt with on the plate and undergo several layers of work before printing. He would be making editions of prints.

It indeed has been an interesting experience watching the process.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 4:12:48 AM |

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