Looking back at the historical timeline of art, printmaking has grown extensively. With its enormous possibilities of experimentation, it has succeeded to never stay stagnant. The lengthy and laborious process upturns the elasticity of the medium.
Back to basics, was a two-week workshop organized by the Indus Valley School Print studio, Karachi, in collaboration with Vasl Artists collective. It was a brain-child of Nurayah Sheikh Nabi, the head of Printmaking Department at Indus Valley School in collaboration with Damon Kowarsky and Hyun Ju Kim, who are both internationally acclaimed printmakers.
Damon Kowarsky studied printmaking at VCA and Glasgow School of Art and Advanced Figure Drawing with Godwin Bradbeer at RMIT. Since graduating he has worked as a scientific, courtroom, and archaeological illustrator.
Hyun Ju Kim is a Korean artist; in 2006 she went to India for MFA, printmaking at Visva Bharati University in Santiniketan. This was followed by her undergraduate studies in painting at Dankook University in Korea 2005. After graduating in 2009, she exhibited works in England, Greece, India, Korea, Egypt, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia and Pakistan. Both the artists share a deep bond with Pakistan and are very fond of working here.
The technique used by the artists in the workshop is called ‘Intaglio’; Intaglio printing (from the Italian ‘intagliare’, which means to engrave), in which a metal plate is used and the selected image is either engraved into the metal with a ‘burin’, or the plate is coated with a waxy substance upon which the design is drawn with a needle. The plate is then soaked in acid which eats into the areas exposed by the drawing to produce an image. Intaglio is used for engraving, etching, mezzotint, aquatint, chine-collé and drypoint. Intaglio uses the opposite process to woodcuts, in that the raised portions remain blank while the grooves or crevices are inked.
As one walks into the gallery and glances around, taking it all in, one notices that there is a very subtle feel to the work as a whole. The artworks are predominantly monochromatic, which adds a simplicity to them, helping the viewer focus on the idea and subject of the work instead of getting distracted by colors, as usually tends to happen. Some of the works also have a very comical touch to them, owing to the way they are drawn or etched. Emaan Mahmud, Noreen Ali Parpia, and Aziza Ahmad, for instance, have made cats and dogs the subject of their work. Mahmud’s dog sits upright, apparently looking and smiling straight into the camera, as if it is prepared to have a handsome photograph taken of itself. Ali’s cat is big, plump and fluffy, and has five legs; the large scale Ali has chosen for it makes it appear even more so, as it covers most part of the paper. The cat looks smug and content and seems to have a distinctly amusing smirk on its face. In the background, there are mountains and a house— the kind we have all drawn back in kindergarten. Ahmed’s work contains herself, cats and some other women; everything is haphazard— perhaps representing the chaos inside her mind— and the detailed expressions on everybody’s faces are commendable and are sure to bring a smile on the viewer’s face.
Speaking of self-portraits, Farrukh Shahab’s (popular for working with self-portraits) work also features himself as a Sufi dervish; standing under a lamp with his eyes closed, he seems to be meditating. He has, without a doubt, drawn an actual and accurate representation of himself.
There is a childlike innocence in the works of the artists mentioned above, and yet the details in their work speak of an artistic maturity and prowess. Also, their audacity to take risks, to place their faith in the medium of printmaking and to let it take control of how their work will turn out, is also evident in their work.
Nurayah Sheikh and Naila Mahmood’s works seem to be more inclined to nature, its beauty and value. Both works share the same technique, i.e. chine-collé. Sheikh is known for her fascination with dragonflies, and her work is truly a treat for the eyes. Mahmood has drawn a tree, with its roots exposed; it reminds one of the sweet old times when children would sit under the shades of trees and listen to their grandmothers’ stories while feasting on handmade sandwiches and lemonade. It seems to be a celebration of the art of storytelling, and it also makes one think how much more there is to a tree than it just being a trunk and leaves. There is so much more to everything that we see, actually.
The beauty of printmaking lies in how the process begins to matter more than the print itself, similar to traveling where the journey becomes the destination. This exhibition is an ode to printmaking, beading artists from different generations and different mediums into one beautiful garland that not only gave them the opportunity to create their portfolios but also celebrated the diversity that shone through in spite of them working under the same medium at the same time.
Artists who participated in the workshop: Emaan Mahmud, Aamir Habib, Ayesha Naveed, Rabia Ali, Moeen Faruqi, Aziza Ahmad, Damon Kowarsky, Natasha Malik, Hyunju Kim, Nurayah Sheikh Nabi, Zara Asghar, Noreen Ali, Roohi Ahmed, Meher Afroz, Muzummil Ruheel, Sara Mahmood, Abdul Jabbar Gul, Farrukh Shahab, Naila Mahmud.