Monday, Aug 15, 2022
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How India Printmaker House’s Shivangi Ladha Is Redefining The Printmaking Concept 

According to her , the advancements in the technology and the easy availability of modern printing techniques has overshadowed the traditional ways of handmade printing. There is also a lack of awareness among the people as they confuse the printmaking medium with digital prints

Shivangi Ladha
Shivangi Ladha

What attracted you to the process of print making? 

The process of printing seems like magic to me. The wheels of the press spin with precision, yet the image will change slightly with each impression. Waiting to see what the press would reveal on the other side when the paper is lifted is extremely fascinating. 

Printmaking is an unpredictable process, just like life, so I resonate with it. The repetitive nature of the medium becomes a kind of force which seems to transcend my mind and it takes me to an another dimension.

Within the realm of visual art, compared to painting or sculpture, how is the medium of printmaking misunderstood? 

The advancements in the technology and the easy availability of modern printing techniques has overshadowed the traditional ways of handmade printing. There is
also a lack of awareness among the people as they confuse the printmaking medium with digital prints. Digital prints are potentially less expensive, easily reproducible, replicable & quick. The handmade print is a multiple which still stands as an original.

The creativity and labour that goes into printmaking is not well understood by people and not appreciated fully. There are various printmaking techniques like Etching,Lithography, Screen-print and Monoprint. Every technique propels to a beautiful unique line and texture.

You’re the founder of India Printmaker House, could you tell us what led you to this position? 

It’s very essential to think of growth not just as an individual artist but as a collective society. With this thought in mind, I started the platform India Printmaker House (IPMH) which supports young printmakers by providing awards, residencies and prizes. We also organize workshops, presentations and lectures to educate people about this medium. We have partnered with various organisations who are supporting our initiative in their own and meaningful ways. IPMH has allowed me to see the sheer talent that exists in India. 

Could you tell us more about the printmaking scene in India, and the direction it’s taking?

In the past three years, the printmaking scene in India has blossomed dramatically. Now there are many artist-led printmaking studios in the country, which didn’t exist three years ago. This helps in building and strengthening the printmaking community. 

Printmaking requires a certain set of resources and working conditions like a manual printing press, aquatint box and an acid area with exhausts. For an independent artist to have this setup, it can be expensive. Hence we see the need for shared infrastructure of studios. The studios become a catalyst for dialogue between artists, curators, gallerists and collectors. It’s an inclusive space that inspires critique and collaboration. They provide a neutral space for artists to come together with an aim to build a vibrant community. The real challenge we are still facing are lack of opportunities and with driving the sale of prints. 

What are some innovative ways the process is now being used ? Please take examples of how you are using the medium creatively. 

Earlier, artists were more conservative regarding the size, technique, registration and the use of material in the printmaking process. However, today I believe that practitioners are more experimental and are willing to take risks.

For instance I have used printmaking in artist books, on textile, interactive installations or have printed directly on the walls. I like my prints to be free and unrestricted; as such, I have attempted to break out of certain conventions of screenprinting. In the work self portrait the drawings are repeated through the action of screen printing across a surface. I then incorporate pieces of tape and place them on top of the print, which covers, imposes, hides, reveals and amplifies the bodies and their presence at the same time. In its totality, tension is created between the organically hand-drawn and the mechanically reproduced states of making and experiencing the image.

 You majored in printmaking at The Royal College of Art (RCA), London. What was that experience like, and having practiced in different countries, do you sense key differences in approaches to the medium and future of printmaking?
The RCA indeed has great facilities, no doubt about it. There were regular visits from artists, who critiqued our works and carried out presentations, which were very helpful. It provided for a safe place where I could make many artistic inquiries. I also lived alone in a small studio apartment, which provided me with plenty of time to read and reconnect with myself. 

I am also very grateful to have been invited by various printmaking studios in distinct countries through  residencies. It was quite interesting to see how the studios had many similarities, but also had their own uniqueness. The most eye-opening experience I had was at SNAP, Canada. It was a completely nontoxic setup, and it was very well-organised. They used soy sauce and chalk powder to degrease the plate, vegetable oil to clean the ink, rust paint spray instead of rosin, water-based inks, acrylic-based grounds, and so on! I see the future of printmaking to be for sure more eco-friendly and sustainable.