Graphics and graphic artists.
Written by Jes Wind Andersen as contribution on conference
at Kaliningrad National Gallary sept. 2005.
As a member of the international jury representing Denmark this year and in 2002, as well as being a working artist and a member of the association of Danish Graphics, it's my intention to speak about some issues related to the graphics artscene.
You should regard this as a number of personal points of view, based on my daily work in the danish graphics scene.
My claim is, the graphics artscene to a curtain degree is cutting itself off from the otherwise so vibrant scene of contemporary art.
There are a number of reasons for this, that I shall explain. Later today we shall focus on the influene held by the curators, and their great responsibilities. But before that I would like to draw some focus on the the graphics itself and the graphic artists.
We graphic artists are proud of our media. We can all agee, that it distinguishes itself from other media as f.ex. painting. That is what we proudly celebrate today by opening the 8th biennial of Graphic Art of the Baltic States. This is an event that very much underlines the importance and influence of international cooperation as well as showing a very high level of ambition in exposure of the graphic arts.
The professional expertise – the level of craftmanship combined with the often very demanding and timeconsuming technical work – are important and necessary elements in every graphic artists' work. They should be natural tools with which the graphic artist brings out the important – the piece. My claim is however, that this often very laborous proces, much too often takes the centerstage instead of the artistic statement.
To put it another way: the long proces can pull the work in a direction, where the means to achieve something (the technicalities) also becomes the goal itself.
This derives the work of its ”freshness” and ”spontaneity”. In the worst circumstances, the work will be only form with less- or no artistic content.
This happens at a time, when ”freshness and ”spontaneity” is exactly the defining qualities, of large parts of the contemporary arts scene. This is especially true for painting, sculpture and photography.
Maybe here I should point out, that I regard photography as a graphic medium equal to the other graphic print techniques. I am of the opinion, that we should be much more open in our definitions of graphics, to avoid painting ourselves into a corner. Unfortunately there is a tendency towards this kind of isolation. Graphic artists typically exhibit their works with other graphic artists, and they often talk more about technical issues than art.
One of my favourite objects for despise is, when a great painter in an anarchistic mood makes graphics (f.eks. lithography) where he paints on stones or whatever. Then there are suddenly a lot of focus on graphics. I will be the first to wellcome the energy and anarchy of painting into graphics, but the problem is, that graphics this way is reduced to a media of multiplication - a cheaper way to aquire a work by a famous artist - and not an artistic media in itself.
We must actively work to redo that image f.ex. by more actively taking part in the rest of the artscene and make the right conditions for our media there.
For inspiration it might prove usefull to look at a project, that has had a tremendous importance for the danish film business. The ”wow of chastity” by the dogma brothers including internationally acclaimed instructors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg.
The vow of chastity is a set of conditions under which the now world-famous ”dogma”-films must be produced. You can see them here.
Instructors and film companies can now promote their films simply by telling, that it is a dogma movie.
Now you might ask, of what concern is this to us. In my opinion the abidance to these rules have for ten years and 50 film productions maked the danish audience once again tune into danish film. It has won the insructors a great amount of international prizes – not to mention economic independence - and it has inspired filmmakers from USA, France, Mexico, Argentina, Korea and other countries around the world to follow in their footsteps.
I read the vow of chastify as a means of distancing yourself from Hollywood and the values represented there. It is an attempt to make more honest films, that are closer to reality, by letting the making of films be closer to reality. Though of course truth and reality are principally at odds with fiction movie.
The vows – as you see – are about eliminating movie sets, banning the addition of ambience through later added music, drastically down-sizing the amount of equipment etc. To put it shortly: to cut to the bone. Dogma films are distinguished by a feeling of ”realness”, great acting and good plots. And the video-format don´t allow for beautiful scenery and stunning special effects that could be accused of being empty aesthetics.
By mentioning the dogma films, I do not wish to say, that we all should do figurative linocut. What I am saying is, that sometimes a little extra thought about where we put our effort might be needed. Do we spend most of our time on the artistic content or do we spend it on form?
As graphic artists we need to get of the chair. To get out of the studio. We need to mix with the rest of the contemporary art. We need to loosen up the definitions that today only inhibit the effective working area of graphic art. We need to remember, that the reason we print on paper and paint on canvas is mostly practical – it makes our work easy to carry around. But you can print and paint on everything if only you are willing to break the traditions. And of course if your artistic intention is strong enough.