Its Art Fair time in Hong Kong again.
Of course I love the idea that lots of people aspire to own real art. Part of the reason I am passionate about print making is because I like the democracy of multiple images meaning prices can be lower and more accessible to buyers. However Fine Art printmakers get all hot under the apron when they see galleries selling Fine Art Prints, all convincingly signed and numbered, which are not true originals but reproductions. It may be difficult for the uninitiated to understand the difference especially when galleries themselves are keen to blur the distinctions, and in some cases the people working there are quite uncertain themselves.
Here is my cents worth;
To make a lino print, I draw directly onto my sheet of lino ( my plate) then I carve or cut the plate, or plates. I roll ink onto the surface using a brayer. I place a sheet of paper on top of the inked surface. I burnish (rub) the back of the paper with a spoon, or a barren, and this transfers the image to the paper. The first completed image that I consider finished is called an Artists Proof (AP) and there may be a few of these as I tweak the final details. Essentially the Artists Proof is the standard that the rest of the edition will follow. Some artists sell APs and sometimes they attract a premium price.
I decide how big my edition will be – as few as five to as many as 100 or more for some artists who sell well. The edition size is the artist’s promise that only that number of prints will be produced. Printing the same plate in very different colours can be a new edition or be marked EV (Edition Variable).
I keep my editions very small so I may repeat the process of inking and burnishing the image about 5 times and certainly less than ten times. The prints that make the grade are numbered and signed in sequence 1/5, 2/5, 3/5 etc, with the edition size being the second number. This, with variations in the process, is what makes an Original Fine Art Print; lino cut, wood cut or engraving, etching or silkscreen. The hand of the artist (or their assistant, but in any case, a human) is involved in the production of the image.
A digital print designed on a computer and then printed through a printer also counts as an original work of art- the original being in the computer doesn’t exist elsewhere in a different medium. The process that changes all this to a reproduction is where an artist producing a painting or a drawing (the original) then has the work photographed or scanned and printed using an inkjet printer. This is a giclée print (French for ‘to spray’ which is what the jet in ‘inkjet’ printing does). Essentially it is a high quality photocopy.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong in a giclée print – there is a place for posters and all levels of consumable image but a giclée is not an original, numbering and signing doesn’t change things and this should be reflected in the price with galleries making buyers aware of what they are purchasing. It is important to realise that if the art work, once photographed, were to be manipulated significantly in the computer to look very different from the original and then printed on the inkjet it becomes an original digital print again.
The question the potential buyer needs to keep asking is ‘where is the original?’ If you can point to the identical image in a different medium the chances are the print is not a Fine Art print.