Editor's note: On November 8, 2021, the International Printmaking Institute at Central Academy of Fine Arts held a lecture called "Digital Print Media, Past and Futre", part of the "Technology and Printmaking" lecture series. This lecture was hosted by Professor Zhou Jirong, first deputy dean of the International Printmaking Institute at Central Academy of Fine Arts. Professor Scheer from Alfred University, New York, USA was the guest speaker.
In the lecture, Professor Scheer shared his creative practice and thinking. Professor Scheer's art includes printmaking, video, and network projects. Through interpretive collecting and visual recording, he uses technology to re-examine nature. In this lecture, Professor Scheer introduced the evolution of digital printmaking in various aspects in the past 30 years, showed the application of different technologies and techniques in art works, discussed how printmaking should be in its current position under the change of technical and artistic concepts, and explored possibilities in its future development. Over 100 teachers and students from major art colleges across China participated in this online lecture and actively interacted with Professor Scheer.
This lecture is aimed at promoting digital prints and discussing the creation and teaching of printmaking. Online lectures provide a convenient platform for artists and young students from various regions. They can learn something, exchange ideas, discuss the development of digital printmaking, promote the use of digital media as a means to develop printmaking, increase the academic world’s recognition of traditional prints and digital prints, and enhance printmaking’s influence in the art world.
Professor Zhou Jirong, the host of this lecture
At the beginning of the lecture, Professor Scheer shared an early work made by him. He showed a thousand-year-old tree with a film video recorder, and combined the "three-tone" technique with woodcut and photolithography techniques.
Then, professor Scheer introduced his continuous attempts to use new equipment with the development of techniques. He mixed materials with different media, finished lithographic printing, and finally made a book of digital works.
This work is from a scanning series made by Professor Scheer in 2019. These images are based on a kind of moths from Changbai Mountains.
Professor Scheer introduced a common printmaking technique in American Academy of Art. This technique transfers graphic designs onto fabric by means of plant printing, thermal transfer, etc.
Afterwards, Professor Scheer introduced the artists he had worked with in the institute of Alfred.
Kiki Smith likes to use images of birds in art works. This work is her digital printmaking experiment based on her knowledge about computer technologies, and it is also her first digital printmaking work.
Ann Hamiton ：
Ann Hamiton is famous in the United States mainly for her installation works, which contain sculptural elements, including human bodies and human shapes. Images of people in her works are always people at work.
Works that Xu Bing made by Iris Printer
This is a Japanese performing artist and dancer. In Alfred, an immersive gallery shows projected 4K camera videos. Eiko Otake showed his video works in this gallery to provide visitors an immersive experience from sight to hearing.
This is a very high-definition work from Argentina and Mexico, which includes shoots of different species.
This is Elisabeth Pellathy. She is engraving works on paper with lasers. Her works are very large. After laser engraving on paper, she also engraves works on plexiglass.
Professor Scheer believes that laser engraving is a very good tool that can grasp a lot of details. Michael Kempson is an Australian artist. He created this series of doll images by carving on wood with lasers and presenting them in a form of block printing.
Gary Hill’s works are large. He used wood and rice paper at the same time to show different waveforms.
This is a work made by Nancy Blum. It is an eight-color woodcut printed on three-layer rice paper. The grain of wood is combined with clouds, which is also a combination of digital elements and nature.
The cactus in this work is from Argentina. Such a work can show many kinds of materials and textures, as well as many details.
When visiting Anhui, China many years ago, the artist found three-layer rice paper more conducive to digital printmaking.
Professor Scheer keeps exploring traditional Chinese art forms. He created a series of scroll works and used materials like rice paper and silk in the printing process of these works.
This is an image work produced by Chen Xiaowen. He printed pictures from 4K videos in slow motion. Looking at his works, we can think how videos change digital printmaking. Media artists use different materials to create different prints, which provides new perspectives for our current understanding of printmaking.
Professor Scheer shared his views on digital prints from the perspective of silk screen printing, and listed the works by two artists, Nancy Blum and David Smith. By discussing the relationship between manual processing and computer processing, he explored digital printmaking.
This is a digital print named "Save the Seed" by Nathan Meltz. Silk screen printing is superimposed on inkjet printing, and the final presentation includes elements of digital prints.
There are works that David Smith made by printing images on fabric by means of inkjet printing.
Digital printmaking can change its media during the production process. Artists not only print images on paper but also try different materials, such as metal, fabric, plexiglass, etc. Some artists even print on rocks. So far we have broadened the definition of digital printmaking and silk screen printing.
This is a work by LoVid. He printed digital prints on fabric or clothing by means of inkjet printing. The photos show Lovid's artistic creation of printing images on bamboo paper.
Artist Michele uses sound in artistic creation. He placed toner on paper and used speakers to control its movement. The movement and shape of sound waves can be felt in his works. The images formed by toner on paper were photographed and input into a computer. Then, they became digital prints.
Artist Pamela Joseph from Colorado transferred his prints onto plexiglass. The picture is his latest series "Wall of Shame".
Artist Sara Turner uses lights and shadows to show the texture of her works. Her creation is done on transparent glass.
Artist DiZhu was a photographer before. In this work, he discusses how to convert videos into digital prints and how to convert digital prints into videos.
Artist Andrew Deutsch uses the most advanced 4K shooting technology to produce video works.
Grane Zhu makes digital prints by scanning 4k high-definition videos with 3D technologies and printing images on bamboo pulp paper.
Artist Stephen Radiey combines digital prints with projection. He projected one digital print onto another. These two media interweaved and produced different effects.
Jonathan Hopp uses lasers to melt glazes with digital images on them. The color and shape of a glaze will change when it is heated. He also uses different glazes to create colors and images.
Artist Eric Souther also uses glazing techniques. He processes images by software, makes layers overlap each other, separates them into colors, then melts and cuts glazes with lasers. Finally, complex pictures can be presented.
At the end of the lecture, Professor Scheer discussed the future direction of digital printmaking. He believes that today's artists will all be influenced by new techniques and need to learn and use new tools, new techniques and new kinds of software. Digital artists are also looking for new ways of communication and expression through social media and smart phones. This may also change the future of digital printmaking.
NFT has changed everyone's fixed perception of the art market. Artist can sell a printed work as a paper print or keep the pure digital file as NFT. NFT owners can decide how to deal with the NFT work. This leads to the following thought. Are paper or other kinds of media necessary for future digital prints? Or, is it possible to circulate and spread digital prints through social media or NFT?
Many other artists, like Kiki Smith, are trying to create NFC art. We believe that NFC can be a way for us to convey artistic information.
·The first question: After Professor Scheer's work of moths from Changbai Mountains. How are the images processed and printed after they are scanned?
After scanning complete images of the moths with a scanner, process files with PS. After processing, import the files into a digital printer for printing. In the process of printing, try different media, such as different kinds of paper, or handmade paper and fabric, etc.
·Question 2: Are there any national exhibitions or competitions dedicated to printmaking in the United States?
There are various printmaking exhibitions and competitions in the United States. Among them, SGI (Southern Image International Conference) and Medimelica Prime are the two largest printmaking conferences. Many international artists discuss the future of printmaking and new techniques at the two conferences, but they have been suspended for two years because of COVID-19.
·Question 3: How do you define printmaking? How can we define the difference between digital printmaking and NFT?
To answer this question, we need to review the history of printmaking. Printmaking is not a separated production process. We learn from some literature that the earliest silk screen print appeared in China, even before the appearance of woodcuts. The emergence of etchings in the Middle Ages, the emergence of lithographs in the 18th century, and the emergence of automated printing in modern times all indicate that printmaking is a helpful artistic way of using the latest technology to create images. For example, etchings involve the use of various acidic reagents and different processes.
As for the aspect of digital printmaking, we also use a variety of complicated materials. Of course, this also removes some previous barriers between different kinds of media. When boundaries between different media are gradually disappearing, we find that many things have changed. For example, we often use photographic art as a tool to create more prints that involve all kinds of materials. Therefore, it is not so important anymore for us to discuss boundaries or definitions. Everything is changing.
·The fourth question is about the art form of NFT. Is NFT an extension of art? Or, is it just a game of capital? In addition, how might it develop in the future?
I think there must be someone behind NFT, who is using it and exploiting it. Now NFT is very complicated. I think it’s revolutionary to the future development of the entire industry, but I am not sure about the scope and degree of this revolution.
·There are two specific questions. Would you like to introduce specific techniques of digital printmaking? Besides, they want to know detailed production methods of woodcut engraving and printing that you just mentioned. Would you like to talk about it?
Most of the works I showed were made in the studio in Alfred. In fact, the creative process is a process of exploring different possibilities of different techniques. Some artists combine woodcut with digital printing. I think it is very good to have a combination of different media and methods. Successful artists can always find the best form of integration and adjustment.
·This is the last question. Would you like to talk about the artistry of digital prints?
Some digital prints are very artistic. For example, the moth series of my digital prints are of high quality and quite overwhelming. As long as a digital print can arouse viewers’ curiosity and make everyone willing to appreciate it with its high quality and standard, we can say this is a successful and artistic work.