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John FIRTH SMITH
Printmaking Techniques WOODBLOCKS & LINOCUTS
At the start of the 20th century, the art of the traditional Japanese woodblock print was rescued from the forgotten. It was revived in hanga movements and modernized in various ways. The shin hanga artists sought the path into the modern in incorporating western elements. They thoroughly preserved tradition, however, with respect to teamwork, and enriched their works with western characteristics, for example light and shadows and the use of perspective. Sosaku hanga ("creative prints") artists oriented themselves on the other hand as much as possible according to western understanding of the modern: the artist as an individual who handles the creative process in its entirety alone. The stylistic similarities to classical European modernism, accompanied with a certain simplification or, on the other hand, a thematic opening, should not be overlooked. Even though the works of the sosaku hanga movement sometimes appear naive, they make a connection to the international contemporary art possible. The term moku hanga is increasingly used for this development and it does not only include those Japanese artists who follow traditional Japanese techniques - regardless of the stylistic tendencies. Hanga is meanwhile found all over the world and Western hanga artists are sometimes more recognized than the Japanese masters. Thanks to a yearly internationally successful exhibition of prints at the CWAJ (College Women Association of Japan) print show in Tokyo, these prints are increasingly succeeding in opening to the international public the singularity and high quality of Japanese art. Thus the traditional Japanese art of color woodblock printing entered into the 21st century.
Although linoleum as a floor covering dates to the 1860s, the linocut printing technique was used first by the artists of Die Brücke in Germany between 1905 and 1913 where it had been similarly used for wallpaper printing. They initially described these prints as woodcuts, which sounded more respectable. Lino cutting is a relief printing process. An image is transferred onto a block of lino and the areas that you wish to be white are cut away with gouges.The remaining block is inked up and printed. You can print linocuts in colour either by cutting away the block and over printing in successive colours (reduction printing) or by making several blocks one for each colour (multiple block printing). It is a good technique for bold and graphic images but less suitable for delicate drawn images. Since the material being carved has no directional grain and does not tend to split, it is easier to obtain certain art]q similarly, non-professional artists often cut lino rather than wood for printing. However, in the contemporary art world the linocut is an established professional print medium, following its use by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. A design is cut into the linoleum surface with a sharp knife, V-shaped chisel or gouge, with the raised (uncarved) areas representing a reversal (mirror image) of the parts to show printed. The linoleum sheet is inked with a roller (called a brayer), and then impressed onto paper or fabric. The actual printing can be done by hand or with a press.
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