Shift Toward Digital Print in Future Art |
by Mamta B. Herland
There is a lot of discussion on the subject of so-called "giclée" and digital ink jet art and no little distress regarding its reality, its authenticity and its implications for the until now cozy and cosseted world of fine-art printmakers. A lot of people are expressing opinions, many of which show clearly that they don't actually know what they're talking about.
In the meantime, a young Indian woman, a fine-arts student at the Winchester (UK) School of Art, has been quietly doing her homework. Mamata Herland has taken the time to research the subject systematically, based on extensive correspondence with the players involved, and to write a well-documented, dispassionate dissertation on the subject. We welcome her effort and think you will, too.
|This is the first of a three-part series.|
Giclée and digital ink jet is little more than a decade old as a Fine Art print technology. The increasing number of applications made by artists in the last few years clearly demonstrates an impact on printmaking, photography and painting, resulting in an evolution of new ideas. As a consequence, there is a shift from the conventional techniques towards creation of concept-led digital art.
To be able to establish a discussion on the shift towards digital print, it was necessary to research whether this process has been accepted by leading museums and galleries. To witness such development, I made number of visits to leading galleries and museums in London exhibiting works using inkjet print technology. Based on the knowledge I gathered sets of questionnaires were prepared.
One type of questions were sent to selected artists, another set of questions to museums and galleries and a third set to printing studios and suppliers. Other sources responded, including authors, professors, lecturers and magazine editors, mainly in UK and USA, sending useful information and referring me to further supporting study materials. About two hundred and eighty letters and emails were sent during summer/autumn 2002, and around eighty of them responded. Without Internet and the World Wide Web I could not have done extensive research on this particular subject area.
and Digital Ink Jet
Commercial print companies saw an interesting market within the art segment. Entrepreneurial artists and print studios like Cone Editions, USA, were involved in the development, and the Iris printer was the first digital printer introduced for Fine Art, thereof the term 'Iris print'. Paul Jackson, being one of the first artists who employed Iris print technology states his reason:
The Iris printer was an answer to Hamilton's hard copy problem. The vibrant rich colours were appealing, but the dye-based ink of the Iris printer had no long-lasting, archival quality and therefore led to scepticism towards work of art produced by the digital process. In 1996 David Hockney wrote:
Dorothy Simpson Krause has the computer as her
primary art-making tool, and she has used inkjet, thermal, laser, lightjet, dye
sublimation and dot matrix printing techniques to take her images from the screen
to a fixed form, and she states:
The scanned image can be digitally manipulated and in many cases the artist co-operates with the printmaker to crop, size, adjust or manipulate all or selective parts of an image. To ensure quality, the image resolution, measured in dots per inch (d.p.i.), needs to be considered, since it affects the system's ability to create fine details. File size is important when it comes to calculating how large the final print can be.
Before printing an image, the hardware devices need to be calibrated to ensure colour matching. When data is transferred between different hardware devices, software application and printers, colour change is inevitable since they use different colour ranges. The monitor uses RGB (Red, Green and Blue) as the primary colours and is an 'additive' system. Printers, however, use CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK) that subtracts certain frequencies of light and reflects others. The conversion from RGB to CMYK is extremely difficult since CMYK has a smaller colour gamut. If the image is transferred from one platform to another, as when the artist is transferring the image to a print studio, the problem increases. There are software programs helping to reduce the colour management problem, but still manually evaluating and correcting proofs by the artist is crucial before accepting the BAT (Bon à Tirer) proof and printing the edition.
Supports, New Color Considerations
The Iris printer, for example, can only use dye-based inks in contrast to the ColorSpan Displaymaker Mach 12, which can have both dye and pigment based inks. Today there are number of manufacturers like Epson, Hewlett Packard, Roland, Mimaki, and ColorSpan with Giclée print quality. They all have, however, their benefits and drawbacks, e.g. ColorSpan Mach 12 can have 12 different inks including the original 4 CMYK colours. Other printers have 6 or 8 colours, and some have 4 different variations of black. Different printers more or less have problems with banding (a horizontal path on the image), metamerism (when colours change relative to on another in different light sources) and continuous tone (smooth tonal transitions).
the Artist's Intentions
Conservation plays an important role in preserving digital prints. The Museum of Modern Art, NY, explains that:
Dorothy Simpson Krause defines Giclée as "reproductions of work done originally in another medium. I make inkjet prints of original digital art," she adds.
Mr. Maklansky, assistant director at New Orleans Museum of Modern Art urges that the term "Giclée" should not be used, and Stephen Goddard informs us that "the curatorial world is likely to use the term 'inkjet print."
Nash Editions states that:
To have a consistent terminology I suggest that the term 'Giclée' should be applied to reproductions of artwork originally created by the use of another medium, and 'Digital ink jet' for artworks intended for, and finally created by the use of a computer and digital print technology.
Reproductions or Originals, the Possibilities
The quality of the final print depends on the artist's ability to combine the interactive elements where the final result is a combination of the original file or scan, printing machine, ink, substrate and protective top-coat. There are multiple combinations that give good results, but also many that do not work. To get the best results, one must experiment and test many combinations. A failure in any one area will cause the final product to likewise fail. The Fine Art Trade Guild confirms archival standard when using the right combination.
impact of Giclée
Extending the "Kitchen"
Printmaking has always been closely linked to technological development, since it is between the hand-made and mechanical reproduction, between the creative and the technical process, between art for its own sake and commercial possibilities. With digital printmaking the link to technology has become even stronger. Professional printmaking studios like Cone Editions Press and Nash Editions have collaborated with internationally-known artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine and Helena Chappelin Wilson. The artist's physical presence at the print studio is, however, no longer required since it is now possible to e-mail the image, discuss with the printmaker using Internet and post the proofs to be evaluated and approved.
The emerging practices in digital print technology are leading to a 'synthesis' of art, making it possible to incorporate a painting, drawing or photography into a print and allowing for further manipulation. The cultural shift this represents may blur, remove, or even reinforce boundaries commonly associated with the activity of printmaking. Digital printmaking offers the possibility of generating radically new physical, aesthetic and conceptual frameworks and process routes within printmaking.
Printmakers Hand vs. His or Her Brain
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