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March '07

art gallery
New Delhi

Curated by
Johny ML


  • Vijay Bagodi - Gandhi at the feet of Gandhiji
  • Jay Kumar - Life Weaver
  • K.G. Subramaniyan - Untitled (monkey chair)
  • Viraj Naik - Vigilant
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Making Prints

Sandhya Bordewekar visits the ‘Print Making-As We Know it Today Part I’ show at Ahmedabad’s Lemongrasshopper Gallery and comes out with a feeling that the general art loving public needs to be educated further to understand and appreciate a print maker’s creativity.

It is unfortunate that Prints continue to ‘enjoy’ second-class status even today vis-à-vis Paintings. Very few commercial galleries want to touch prints, let alone exhibit them and very few buyers want to ‘invest’ in them. (These days nobody seems to want to buy art just because it thrills them so much that they want to look at it every day.) So whenever I get an invite for a show of prints, I am a tad surprised. Until I find that most of the ‘printmakers’ are actually painters in disguise. That explains the trouble a gallery takes for the show.

So when I found that the barely year-old Lemongrasshopper Gallery in Ahmedabad was not only having a Prints Show (in two parts, if you please), but also having a talk by Prof. Jyoti Bhatt on the subject on the day of the opening (Nov. 26), I was really, really taken aback. Walter D’Souza, that die-hard woodcut-maker, has helped Khanjan Dalal of the Gallery put together both shows  (part 2 of the exhibition is in January and will exhibit new technologies related to Prints) and it was good to see that the artists were either committed printmakers (Somnath Hore, Krishna Reddy, Anupam Sud, Jyoti Bhatt, Rini Dhumal, Vijay Bagodi, Kavita Shah, K K Mohammad, Naveen Kumar, Jaya Kumar) or painters who took their printmaking self quite seriously (K G Subramanyan, Indrapramit Roy, Gargi Raina, Nataraj Sharma and so on). Prof. Jyoti Bhatt’s talk was very well attended and in his own articulate way, he was able to sweep aside a lot of cobwebs that smudge and confuse the ‘what is a print, how is it different from a painting’ question.

Since this part of the exhibition (Print Making – As We Know It Today, Part I) concentrated on the traditional forms of print-making – etchings, wood-cuts, lithographs, monoprints, dry point -- Jyotibhai’s talk was able to put a lot of aspects about making prints in the right perspective, and visitors could actually see and hopefully understand what he was talking about when they saw the exhibition. Most printmakers had sent in really good, representative works and it was certainly a well put together show.

In the past, a lot of printmakers have made very diligent and honest efforts to explain to the viewing public what are prints, how and why they make them, why they are priced lower than paintings and drawings and so on. Many decades ago, Shanti Dave put out an exhibition of prints specifically targeted for those who liked his work but could not afford the paintings. When Devraj  Dakoji shifted to Delhi in the 1990s to start a printmaking workshop where printmakers could ‘rent’ the facilities, he also published a handy booklet called “What is a Print” that was distributed free of charge in hundreds. Very recently, a huge traveling show of prints was organized by the American Center (which came to Baroda also), where the catalogue carried articles on printmaking but unfortunately the catalogues were just not available. Print Biennales, believed to be popular events, are held across the world and in India, we have one at Bhopal but that has still not upgraded the commercial interest in prints here.

A couple of years back, I went to a local printmaking camp being held in Baroda to find that amongst the participants there were more painters than printmakers, and many of the painters did not seem to have a clue about how a print is made (I was witness to a contentious argument on a technical point between a senior painter and a young printmaker who was retained at the camp to make the prints for these artists). Later, I asked Jyotibhai (who was also in the camp) why prints made by painters were often more popular than those made printmakers, sometimes they were even better in terms of content and the image-making. His reply was succinct and incisive – printmakers, he said, were often so much taken up by the technology of making the print -- complications and possibilities of the process itself, the right ink, the right paper, the right pressure, that sometimes the actual print and what the printmaker wants to convey through it, gets ignored. Non-printmakers making a print couldn’t care less about the process, they want the final product to say what they want to convey. The same goes for the viewer – who is more impressed by the final presentation of the print, not how it was made. And that’s where perhaps the painter (printmaker) scores over the printmaker (printmaker)!

When I met Khanjan a good ten days after the show and asked him how it was doing, he pulled a face. “So-so,” he smiled. “I am still explaining to people that just because there are more than one copy of a print, it does not mean that it is of no value or that it is any less significant than a painting.”


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