From the 13th of September to the 28th of October the exhibition ‘Time of the Mezzotint’ will showcase mezzotints by internationally established artists. The event will be hosted at the Creative Studio of the Arsenāls Exhibition Hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art.
Due to its velvety nature and time consuming process the mezzotint is regarded an elitist print technique. Born in the middle of seventeenth century as a unique kind of tonal expression at the time, mezzotint experienced its boom or the so called Golden Age a century later.
An interest in mezzotint for contemporary printmaking revived at the late twentieth century. The influence of the outstanding artists Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) and Yozo Hamaguchi (1909-2000) upon their followers should be noted, as well as the wave of particular popularity of mezzotint during the seventies of the last century, bound to the swollen interest in photorealism which this graphic technique was especially suitable.
Today the term ‘mezzotint’ has surpassed the boundaries of terminology used within the professional art environment. Maybe not every computer user among the millions of users in the contemporary world will know the mezzotint masterpieces created in the eighteenth century, but many of them will surely have heard at least about the filter mezzotint offered by the image processing software Adobe Photoshop.
Advancement of contemporary digital technologies in some respect has rekindled the interest of artists in classic techniques of printmaking, and mezzotint among them.
However today there aren’t many artists in the world who consequently work using mezzotint as their technique. A vital factor more than once precluding from applying this technique is time. Time required to create even a small format work sometimes can be several times bigger than that used to perform a work in some other technique. For this reason the idea to cooperate and to organise international joint exhibitions following the initiative from the artists themselves was conceived. The first exhibition will be showcased at the creative workshop of the exhibition hall ‘Arsenāls’ of the Latvian National Museum of Art.
The originators of the project are Christopher Nowicki, an American artist and professor of the Graphic arts department at the Art Academy of Wroclaw, and Guntars Sietiņš, Head of the Graphic Art Department at the Art Academy of Latvia. Exhibitors are 11 artists: Katsunori Hamanishi, (Japan), Masataka Kuroyanaga (Japan), Jukka Vänttinen (Sweden), Cristopher Nowicki (Poland), Antti Ratalahti (Finland), Ad Stijnman (the Netherland), Fan Min (China), (Majla Zeneli (Germany), Jarosław Jedrzejowski (Poland), Juris Petraškevičs (Latvia) and Guntars Sietiņš (Latvia). The majority of the works are exhibited in Latvia for the first time. Each author presents 3-4 art pieces. It is supposed that the project will be further in progress at Poland, the USA and China.
Katsunori Hamanishi (b. 1949), the famous Japanese artist, is an acknowledged classic of the contemporary graphic arts, and not without reason. Hamanishi studied painting and sculpture at the University of Tokai, but he retained an interest in the spaciousness in the series of black and white mezzotints at the 70-ties of the 20th century and coloured engravings of later time. The exhibition displays three mezzotints by Hamanishi from the series ‘Windows”, where we can view the traditional elements of Japanese architecture and gardens, the symbiosis of the classic Japanese aesthetics and traits of the Western art. The works by Hamanishi are included in the collections of the greatest museums of the world – The British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in The Library of Congress in Washington, The National Art Museum in Osaka and many other museums in Japan, United States and Europe. Hamanishi has repeatedly received Grand Prix at different world’s biennials and triennials.
Japanese artist Matasaka Kuroyanagi (b. 1961) has studied at the Tokai University. The author uses the technique as a mediator between documental precision and enigmatic narration with a reflection of sacral rituals.
The works by Fan Min (b. 1963), a Chinese artist from Tianjin, hitherto have been more exhibited in China, Korea and Japan. In his velvety black mezzotints the dependency of humans in situations of force majeure is revealed by puppet-like figures, which balance between political and magic activities. Fan Min has studied painting at the Ji Lin College of the Arts, and graphic arts at the School of Hong-ik University in Korea.
A favourite motif by Swedish artist Jukka Vänttinen (b. 1954) is the staircases of residential houses built at the origins of the last century, sinking in deep shadows and producing a whole succession of different associations for the viewer. Vänttinen has studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. His works are displayed at the national museums of Scandinavia, and at the British Museum in London.
Finnish painter and graphic artist Antti Ratalahti (b. 1964) has studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Helsinki and in 1991 received his master’s degree at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. Among the interests of the artist are volcanic eruptions and ship catastrophes. In Riga there are displayed four compositions from the series ‘Ruins’ (2010)
Christopher Nowicki (b. 1950) has studied at the Toledo Museum of Art School, the University of Toledo, Ohaio and at the University of Washington in Seattle, the USA. In his compositions from the series ‘Entropy’ somewhere next to the lonely machines abandoned by a man in a field and no longer needed to anybody, there sits a traveller in time – a black raven, which is a sacred symbol to the North American Indians. Could this traveller in time be Nowicki himself?
Ad Stijnman (b. 1957), Dutch artist and theoretic, constructs abstractions. Particularly pictorial atmosphere to his compositions is added by a chine-collé technique which is applied to the tonally nuanced rice paper he uses. Ad Sijnman has graduated from Royal Academy of Fine Art in Hague, and has given several solo shows, in New York and Tokyo among them. He has written several books on the history of the graphic art. Stijnman’s monograph ‘A History of Engraving and Etching Techniques: The Development of Manual Intaglio Printmaking Processes’ was published in 2012.
Jarosław Jedrzejowski (b. 1975), a Polish artist, has graduated from the Wroclaw Academy of Fine Art and design in Poland. Jedrzejowski is a representative of the school of classic realism; the precision of a reproduced object in fine details is a characteristic trait of his mezzotints.
Majla Zeneli (b. 1980) has studied at the Wroclaw Academy of Fine Art and design in Poland and at the University of Arts and Design in Halle, Germany. At the moment the artist of Albanian origin lives and works in Berlin. Zeneli in her coloured mezzotints forms an abstract space. Her works of rather small size are printed comprising several plates. She also experiments when repeatedly prints impressions of one plate in a composition thus achieving effect of print being multi-layered, saturation of colours and a new order of reality.
Juris Petraškevičs (b. 1953) and Guntars Sietiņš (b. 1962) both have graduated from the Art Academy of Latvia, and currently they are also professors there. While the changing spacetime addresses spectators from the works by Sietinsh in an optically balanced way, Petraškevičs looks for figural expressionism in the technique.
As a special treasure one has to mention all three mezzotints from Jānis Zuzāns’ collection by an acknowledged American artist of Latvian origin Vija Celmins (b. 1938), that add to the exhibition. Vija Celmins has studied at the John Herron Institute, and received her master’s degree from the University of California in Los Angeles. The artist has gained broader recognition by her monochromatic paintings and drawings. At the 90-ties of the 20th century Vija Celmins has created a series of mezzotints ‘Spider-web’. Such museums and galleries as the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American art in New York, the Washington National Gallery and the Centre Georges Pompidou house Vija Celmins’ works. The artist received Roswitha Haftmann Prize in 2009.
The exhibition is supported by the State Culture Capital Foundation.
Exhibition curator Guntars Sietiņš
Guntars Sietiņš, Head of the Department of Graphic Arts at the Art Academy of Latvia
Elita Ansone, Head of the 2nd half of the 20th century – 21st century collections’ and scientific research department of Arsenāls at LNMA
Phone: (+371) 67 357521, e-mail: Elita.Ansone@lnmm.lv
Vija Celmins. WEB #5. 2009. Mezzotint. Private collection. Photo: Jānis Pipars
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