Print making now part of Indian artscape

art culture, indian news paper melbourne

An original print by top Indian print maker Vijay Bagodi

New Delhi: Buying art is no longer the same. Spiralling inflation and shooting prices are forcing Indian buyers and collectors to settle for the humble print that strains the wallet a little less.

Prints art, unlike an artist’s original one-time creation, can be replicated in multiple editions. It reaches out to a wider section of buyers with a price band that can be as cheap as Rs.60,000 to Rs.70,000 compared to the five-digit prices leading artists command in the market.

“Works of masters like Picasso, Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol are available as machine made-prints now. The limited edition original prints of their works are difficult to procure. The machine prints, most of which are unsigned, cost much less,” artist Jai Jarotia, a veteran print-maker and artist said.

Original prints are those made manually in early 20th century either by the artists themselves or supervised by the artists and signed in pencil by them.

According to Jarotia, “with more artists becoming popular, there is scope for print makers to make new works by using print-making as a technique and replicate it”.

“In fact galleries are commissioning original prints by artists – sometimes even of their own work. I have a commission to make a plate to reproduce a graphic work of mine. So does veteran print maker from Vadodara (Baroda) Jyotindra Bhatt,” Jarotia said.

People often confuse reproduction art with print, veteran artist and leading print maker Jyotindra (Jyoti) Bhatt said.

Hence the reluctance to buy prints.

“Reproduction means copying a work that already exists. It is faithful to the original.

“A print is an original work – a creative process in which an artist can play around with the colour tones and tints to produce a totally new effect. It is, however, made by using techniques of reproduction,” Bhatt, 75, said.

The artist, an alumnus of Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara, added: “The problem is selling the prints. Several talented print makers have given up prints for painting – because it makes more money.

“But print makers do not understand that those who can afford art can afford prints too.”

Artist Sobha Broota, who recently returned to her print-making roots, feels it involves more work than painting.

“I got the opportunity to go back to print making and realised nothing much has changed except the money (which is not enough). Print making is more tedious and time consuming – you get more involved in prints,” Broota said.

According to Vijay Bagodi, a noted print-maker and artist from M.S. University in Vadodara, “the younger lot of print makers use it in combination with multi-media art as a means of survival.”

“We concentrated on print making as students,” he said.

Rajan Shripad Fulari, who is in charge of the print making section at the Lalit Kala Akademi, regretted that “galleries in India do not make an attempt to sell original Indian prints – unless they are prints of works by Raja Ravi Varma or some established artist”.

His claim rings true.

A Mayur Vihar-based collector of Salvador Dali’s prints said he orders his prints from the Dali Foundation.

Agrees Gaurav Assomull, CEO of Mumbai-based Marigold Art: “Famous prints are collectors’ items.”

“We have a collection of eight hand-signed lithographs of Salvador Dali priced Rs.6 lakh each. We sold two last year,” Assomull said.

According to Saffronart, India’s largest online art auction house, contemporary print-making came to India in the mid-16th century.

Initially, it was used for duplication and reproduction of art; but in the 17th and 18th centuries, several East India Company painters – mostly European chroniclers- printed mass editions of their Indian landscape drawings for sale back home.

The most famous among them were the brothers William and Thomas Daniell, whose works, “Oriental Scenery” – a collection of 73 aquatints (a print technique) – were exhibited in the national capital in March.

Traditionally print making involves three broad manual categories – intaglio method, relief method and planographic method.

The methods include engraving, dry-point etching, mezzotint, aquatint, woodcuts, linoleum cut, lithograph and serigraph.

Of late, several digital print-making formats have given the genre a cutting edge. By Madhusree Chatterjee

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