I get this question a lot. A lot of people were telling me, “If you’re into art so much, why not just do traditional representative art using oil and canvas, watercolors, or other types of media? Why print art?” I suppose I can see why they’re concerned because a lot of these people operate on two levels. On the one end, there are individuals who see that art, by and large, has been stripped out of the modern printmaking process.
Thanks to modern technology, in particular laser printing, a lot of the messy, sweaty, inconvenient and uncomfortable elements of traditional printmaking has completely been erased from the picture, as in vaporized. We’re talking about a clean process where you can draw using an electronic pen on a tablet surface and even trace pictures. Once you’ve done that, you can convert that digital format into laser instructions which are then cut onto a surface. You never get your hands dirty. You never have to roll up your sleeves. You don’t have to sweat by your brow. You have completely dispensed with all of that.
In the minds of these people or in the minds of the people on this end of the equation, this is no longer art. They look at it as simple draftsmanship. It’s not much different from calling yourself an expert pizza maker when all the work you did consisted of simply picking up the phone and ordering a pepperoni pizza. I take exception to this criticism because there’s still a lot of art involved. They simply confuse the process of art creation with the value of the art itself.
Just because it’s produced in a certain streamlined, heavily-modernized and digitized format doesn’t take away the sense of emotional urgency, the reality and the truths contained by the work of art itself. Unfortunately, there’s a little bit of snobbery here and elitism and it’s also quite hopelessly romantic because it’s grounded on technology that is fast dying.
If you had your choice and you were given the opportunity to spend 18 hours of your life hammering away at a piece of marble or simply instructing computerized lasers to cut away and polish that marble in a fraction of the time, I would hope that the answer is obvious. I really don’t understand the purest criticism of printmaking because it leaves out a lot of the art and confuses process with art itself.
On the other side of the equation are people who simply think that this is just draftsmanship and that there’s really no point in art. They have completely turned their back on the concept of art because everything is digital. In their minds, art doesn’t exist because whatever representation we can come up with, we have a machine that could do that. In fact, in their minds, artificial intelligence technologies like machine learning have completely done away with the distinction between human effort, human aspirations, and certain artistic expressions. This too is problematic because it denies the soul of the artist.
Make no mistake about it. If you hear music and you feel emotions or if you see art and you feel there’s a certain tug at your heart, that art is working. That art resonates on a deep, profound and human level. This is why I think print art is so awesome regardless of how you make it. Sure, you can make it very quickly using laser printing or you can take the time to make wood blocks and print this out manually.
Regardless, whatever comes out is still art. It highlights the attention to detail. It highlights the impact of replicating that image many times over, which is also part of the artistic fact. I consider print art awesome due to its democratic nature. Everybody’s entitled to their own truth. Everybody’s entitled to their own take and that’s what’s so awesome about print art.