PRINTMAKING SOCIETY, SINGAPORE
Source: Marianne Teo
Marianne Teo is a freelance writer and curator. She graduated with a MA in Museum Studies from the University College, London, and was a curator with the then Singapore National Museum and NUS Museum.
Time Phase Print
Written by Marianne Teo
To mark its 25th Anniversary, The Printmaking Society (Singapore) is holding the exhibition, Time Phase Print, as well as a series of workshops and talks. Sixteen members are participating in this exhibition together with several invited artists. The title aptly sums up the Society's strategy to advance printmaking as an art form as it reaches another milestone.
Sunday Pop Over, 2005
Nur Ain, 20 x 20 cm, Silkscreen, drawing, collage,
stitching on paper
Founded in 1980 as the Contemporary Printmaking Association by Tan Ping Chiang, Ho Ho Ying, Thang Kiang How and Wee Beng Chong from the Art Society to promote the art of printmaking, the name was changed in 1998 to the Printmaking Society (Singapore). Over the years it has held regular exhibitions to display the works of printmakers. In tandem with exhibitions, it has also organised talks and demonstrations, while some of its members teach this art form at local art institutions. However, prior to its founding, the printmaking scene was a quiet one and printmaking was not offered in the art schools until the mid-eighties.
Yet printmaking has enjoyed a long history in Singapore; woodblock prints appeared as illustrations in the local Chinese newspapers in the 1930s. It was a medium brought here by Chinese immigrant artists. This medium was widely exploited for illustrations in books and magazines. The turning point came in the post-war period when artists found an ideal subject for woodblock; the subject was the social ills that came to the fore in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s. The heyday for printmaking was during this period and artists like Lim Mu Hue, Foo Chee San and See Cheen Tee produced powerful images that captured the milieu of that time. Such works were displayed in the 1998 exhibition, History through Prints: Woodblock Prints in Singapore, organized by the Society and the Singapore History Museum. This exhibition highlighted both the medium and the works, and demonstrated to great effect what simple tools could achieve under the creative hands of the artists.
Today, printmaking in Singapore is challenged by the availability of the different facilities and materials, and the lure of newer more 'exciting' mediums. The works in this exhibition will however, hold the visitor's attention with their detail and the personal touch of the artists.
Gods of Time / Immediate Attention II
Kelly Reedy, 50 x 50 cm
monoprint on paper
There are four parts to the exhibition. First is the striking 'patchwork' of the participating artists' works. Each artist contributed three prints to this fusion of cleverly collated work. The artists did not know how the final composition would work out; the conditions they had to observe were a specific set of colours, the use of a specific type of paper, the dimensions and the bleeding of the edges. Once the prints were placed in position, another technique was used to print images over this composition. Thus, in this composite work, the different phases in the different techniques in the printing process were creatively fused into a dazzling large composition - a fitting metaphor for the efforts of the Society in promoting the appreciation and the art of printmaking.
The second interesting part of the exhibition is the Book of Prints. Each artist contributed a minimum of three prints which were then bound into a book format measuring 50cm by 70cm. This will take visitors back in time to the past, when prints were book illustrations. The images were painstakingly etched on wood, stone or metal plates and printed in the printing workshops. In leafing through these prints, visitors can also take a closer look at the prints and see the creative features of the different printing techniques. Some will evoke a contemplative mood while others will challenge the viewer to think about how the prints came into being. It will be a rare visual and tactile treat to leaf through this Book of Prints.
140 degree moment, 2005
Monotype, stenciling on paper
The third segment of the exhibition will offer a visual treat to the visitors. Here, the prints are mounted individually and the visitor can enjoy each work in its own space. The range of techniques used is indicative of the march of progress from the Society's early years. The bold dramatic woodcuts contrast with the muted, rather whimsical silkscreen and collagraph prints. Visitors will also be treated to works by Chng Seok Tin, the doyen of the printmaking fraternity. An artist, a teacher and a mentor, she has worked tirelessly in pursuit of pushing the limits of the medium and the technique. Her works in this exhibition show the versatility of printmaking and the level of maturity in this art form.
The final section brings the visitor to the origins of the prints - the plates from which the prints were pulled off. The plates range from wood to metal to silkscreen. Wood, readily available, has been popular with artists like Lim Mu Hue. A plank of wood is patiently carved to reveal the desired image in relief. The raised image is inked with a sticky ink which does not flow into the grooves. The paper is then pressed onto the inked block to lift the inked image. This relief printing process is the same for images worked on metal plates. The antithesis to the relief printing process is intaglio, where the image is recessed into the plate and the ink is forced into the grooves or pits. The paper is then pressed onto the plate to lift the image off the grooves or pits. Moving away from carving or engraving on a plate is the method of silkscreen printing. Here a stencil, cut into the desired image, is affixed to a fine mesh of silk and the ink is forced through this onto the paper below the screen. The plates invite the visitor to pause and ponder the various processes of printmaking.
The organisation of the works in this exhibition serve to inform the lay visitor of the creative printmaking process and the results of this process. For fellow artists, the exhibition is a platform for sharing of ideas and the re-thinking of one's art and art making. In the attendant activities organised by the Society, the printmaking medium will be put forth for discussion and creative innovations will be bared for scrutiny and debate. Time Phase Print is thus a timely platform to bring the Society to a new level of communication within the printmaking community and the public at large.
Forest Queen, 2005
Susanne Ramberg, 50 x 50 cm
Silkscreen on paper