The 4th IAPA Biennale Symposium Speech ⅩIV Guo Jianwen



On November 13, 2022, the two-day academic seminar of “The Fourth IAPA Printmaking Biennale” was concluded in Kunming. The theme of this seminar is “Tomorrow's Printmaking”, exploring the future development of printmaking in the post-pandemic era. Yin Jinan, a well-known art theorist and professor of the Central Academy of Fine Arts,and Guan Yuda, a professor of Yunnan University, co-hosted this seminar. There will be 17 domestic and international guests made keynote speeches, including Joseph Scheer, Alicia Candiai, Peter Bosteels, Zhang Lian, Song Guangzhi, Kong Guoqiao, Yang Feng, etc. This seminar employed a mix of online and offline methods. Some domestic experts will discuss and speak on the spot, providing a brand-new communication and exhibition platform for Chinese and international artists in a special period. They plan the future development of printmaking by gathering printmaking leaders and elites from around the world. This is a speech by Guo Jianwen , Diretor and Professor of the Pintmaking Department, Tianjin Academy of  Fine Arts .



Guo Jianwen: Dear colleagues, good evening! I am very honored to attend the fourth IAPA Printmaking Biennale and Seminar. I sincerely appreciate the all-out efforts made by IAPA and Yunnan Arts University for the biennale. I also thank Dean Guo Hao, professor Wang Huaxiang and professor Zhou Jirong for their hard work and commitments.

After I had received professor Zhou’s invitation, I started to ruminate on the four issues of “Tomorrow’s Printmaking”. In light of relevant issues and my printmaking practice in recent years, I wrote a speech titled The Expansion and Integration of Contemporary Printmaking Language: A Case Study of the Creation of Lush Green Wetland. Let me now illustrate my thoughts with slides.



 The Expansion and Integration of Contemporary Printmaking Language: A Case Study of the Creation of Lush Green Wetland

1.Contemporary Printmaking Under the Social Context of Diverse Aesthetic Needs

Compared with its significant role in China’s modernization, the social influence of printmaking art now increasingly focuses on aesthetics in the era of information and digital media. This change is a practical example in which social needs decide on artistic creation. Its nature can not be simplified as the demise of printmaking. Conversely, the aesthetic needs in society bring a new development opportunity for printmaking art. From the historical perspective, while traditional printmaking epitomizes the folk customs and culture of a certain region, modern printmaking aims to foster a type of culture that fits with modern society. Whereas contemporary printmaking, by serving diverse aesthetic needs of the public, highlights its artistic beauty per se. Therefore, the so-called demise of printmaking is merely a facade, shadowing its practical needs to return to the artistic noumenon.

To understand contemporary printmaking and seek new breakthroughs in its creation, we should re-examine printmaking art itself on the basis of discussions on diverse aesthetics.

2.The Core of Contemporary Aesthetic Diversification Is the Individuation of Aesthetic Subjects

Today, as the wide application of digital technologies has profoundly changed people’s lifestyle and reading habits, the appreciation of original artworks has become one of the few ways to see printmaking despite digital media. This is the present situation in which we highlight ways of seeing. That being said, who sees what? How to see? These questions should be thought over by artists throughout their artistic creation.





It’s without doubt that the primary audience of contemporary Chinese art is the people, which is derived from ”the masses” in modern Western civilization. In the Chinese-style modernization, the people represents the majority of the society, their material and cultural needs, as well as responsibilities and obligations to meet their needs and promote social development. Therefore, it’s the responsibility of contemporary Chinese artists in this era to address people’s needs to see. With pluralistic social development, people, as aesthetic subjects, have individualized aesthetically in specific activities of artistic appreciation due to different occupational fields and natures. This leaves much room for the social acceptance of contemporary printmaking art.




3.Visualization in Public Aesthetics

Traditional printmaking often reveals a holistic style when reflecting folk customs or local culture of a certain region. Therefore, it is characterized by distinctive concepts. The new year painting, once popular all over China, best represents traditional printmaking. The folk customs and concepts it embodies are the core and objects of intangible culture studies. While modern printmaking is deeply evolved in social changes, printmakers create their works in order to meet the requirements of social transformation. In another word, their styles and artistic pursuits are also premised on these requirements. For instance, today’s academic community of art history mainly studies the narrative of new woodcut artworks rather than their artistic styles and techniques.




The individuation of contemporary aesthetic subjects is built upon freer and more convenient self-expression in the information era, which also contributes to more convenience and freedom in social acceptance. As spiritual experiences and feelings are always constrained by numerous conditions in art appreciation, it’s obviously hard to achieve two-way convenience and freedom in expression and acceptance. That’s why public aesthetics has seen more direct visualization. While contemporary printmaking is gradually losing its plural feature via “media convergence”, its indirect feature is more likely to satisfy the need of aesthetic visualization.




Based on such understanding, the main direction for my artistic creation in these years is to explore how to make further advances on the basis of printmaking’s indirect feature so as to successfully match the aesthetic visualization of contemporary culture and the people.





4.Vision and Life on the Silkscreen: Lush Green Wetland

Qilihai Wetland at the ancient seacoast in Ninghe district of Tianjin is where marine and terrestrial organisms converge. A variety of species blend together with glamour, creating a colorful natural painting. A large amount of historical, geographical and natural iconic images intrigued me and awakened my desire for expression. Therefore, my purpose this time was to experiment on printmaking creating patterns in order to bridge the gap in public and people-to-people relations against the backdrop of convergence media.



I began to paint from life and collect materials about the classic landscape of Qilihai Wetland, hoping to reflect its geographical and cultural changes from the past to the present. To enhance the visual effects of silkscreen printmaking, I chose a series of images of marine life and other flora and fauna which existed in the history or inhabit in Qilihai now. Having generated the expected design sketches with my computer, I selected the integrated silkscreen printmaking Lush Green Wetland which consists of ten works.

Among several design sketches, I found that in terms of time, space and color, realistic images of marine life and other flora and fauna can not effectively interact with their background, namely, colorful drawings from life. They even visually constrain each other, resulting in a lack of visual entirety on theme expression as ten paintings are made into one. Meanwhile, the planar form of silkscreen printmaking language severely limits the visual hierarchy and tension of Lush Green Wetland. Then I began to think about the temporal, spatial and visual expansion in my work.



For me, Qilihai Wetland is neither a concept nor a combination of serial images. Instead, it’s preserved as a historical and vibrant ecological painting that is composed of a community of various species and numerous ecological specimens and relics. Thus, it has to appear in front of people with humanistic spirits and ways. Burred vision caused by media convergence and expansion aims to free the natural ecology made up of specimens and living things from the concrete, so as to embody the abstract philosophy and concept of man and nature living in harmony.




When I was creating Lush Green Wetland, COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t broken out. Not a single person could predict that humanity would have suffered from the catastrophe ever since 2020. As we extract natural resources ceaselessly, species in the natural world are constantly changing their ways to survive. Many of them mutate or simply go extinct. Human beings are also subject to various kinds of epidemics, natural disasters, obscure seasonal changes and global warming, etc. Disharmony between man and nature affects humanity’s living conditions, which is clearly not our original aspiration for development. The natural world is a “big family”. Just as marine and terrestrial organisms intertwine and coexist in history and ecology, the coexistence and interaction among different species also demonstrate the value and meaning of each other. There’s no exception for human beings as we are also members of the “big family”.

Covered by the carved PMMA panel, the image seems to pierce through time and space with stronger visual features.





The development of printmaking art is based upon science and culture. Its social values are fully realized due to its close connection with the people for hundreds of years. Enhancing the visual power of printmaking images is one of my experiments when faced with aesthetic visualization of the public. Whether it’s successful or not depends on people’s seeing and exploration. Before that, it still can’t be seen as my experience. I am very delighted to share my creative process with you. I also hope more people will see printmaking with me. Thank you!