Wood based lithography | Subrat Kumar Behera
25 July 2017

It was during the enlightenment era that printmaking came into the realm of fine art practices. Artists like Mantegna, Raimondi, Durer, Rembrandt, Goya, Canaletto, and William Blake, made significant contributions to printmaking. However, in the larger discourses on aesthetics and visual arts, printmaking occupies a miniscule spot.

The perception of printmaking techniques being means of mechanical reproduction, or for commercial outputs is slowly changing. This change is largely due to the role of the young printmakers. Rather than approaching the medium for its benefit of taking multiples, they are approaching it for the formal qualities it possesses. Thus, the medium in ways becomes a means of expression and not just a means for reproduction or duplication. Since the medium is extremely technique intensive, one is more often than not caught in the technicality. What if it would become difficult to fetishize over the technique? What if the medium would not allow one the control that printmaking largely gives? What if the practitioner had no control over what the print would look like? What if the production of the ‘final work’ was based purely on the principles of chance?

The idea of having little or no control over the image is fascinating and nerve-racking at the same time. Further, what if the medium would not give the practitioner two same prints? What if the possibility of having the same print was completely nullified by the medium itself? It is with these questions that the wood based lithography or wood-graphy workshop was conceptualised. The purpose of the workshop was twofold,
1) to break away from the notions of technique intensiveness of printmaking, and
2) to approach the medium as that for expression as opposed to mass production.
This would entail to giving up on certain rigidities to open up the possibility for chance. Here chance would act as a means, which could possibly open up the space for further exploration of expression.

Woodgraphy or wood planography, the basic process of this medium is as equal as lithography. The basic principle of this medium is “water and oil does not mix”. The difference between woodgraphy and lithography is, we usually choose wood instead of limestone. Further, this process is non-toxic, as it does not use any harmful chemicals. When the surface of wood is approached with the technique/process of lithography, the oil and the pressure make the wood deteriorate/age/react faster. This leads to the resultant print(s), different from the other. Further, the wood reacts in notoriously unpredictable ways to the inks and the chemicals with each print.

As a part of CONA’s print studio endeavor, we invite print makers who are experimenting and pushing the barriers of existing techniques to bring forth innovations in their processes. Hence, Subrat was a natural choice. Having worked with this particular technique in the past, he could conduct these sessions with a deeper insight into the medium and the reason of working with the medium.

The workshop saw participation of students from various art schools in Mumbai. The workshop began with the participants sharing personal stories about various objects close to them. We had pre-prepared some chits with names of objects. The participants picked out chits at random and narrated a story, based on the object in the chit. This exercise translated in their work during the workshop as well. Most of the participants made work relating to the object. It was interesting to see how their personal stories were translated onto paper. Due to the enthusiasm the participants had, we had to extend the workshop to about 10 days from the original 7 day schedule. The workshop ended with a presentation of Subrat’s work followed by an intense session of discussion. It was quite an enticing discussion that lasted for about 2 hours where questions about dependency over medium, medium-style relationship, etc. were pondered upon.

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