“The first wave of the pandemic got buried in the catastrophe of the lockdown…….As an organisation that works towards an arts and cultural ecosystem we were left floundering with the sheer magnitude that an already beleaguered system would need to overcome. In the first wave we did two things – crowdfunding to support 37 artists left marooned during the lockdown, and then we launched a multi-layered documentation with the support of our curator Helen Frederick – newsletters, webinars and an open instagram handle called ‘The Environmental Situation Room’ to host contextual artworks from across genres of arts and artists.
And then came the brutal second wave. This is when Dr. Paula Sengupta and we spoke on how printmaking should participate in creating a reflection of the time – a virtual and physical archive that could reflect the anguish of humanity and the systemic breakdown of structures we all depend on…………The campaign was planned and launched on 12th May 2021 amidst a raging pandemic”
The Second Wave, MAY 2021
OUR FIRST OPEN CALL TO JOIN THE INITIATIVE
CURATOR’S THOUGHT ON EXTENDING THE DEADLINE CONSIDERING THE SITUATION.
AS WE WAITED FOR SUBMISSIONS TO COME IN, WE DECIDED TO CREATE INSTAGRAM STORIES TO INSPIRE AND APPRISE THE COMMUNITY ABOUT BLACK AND WHITE RELIEF PRINTMAKING PRACTICE WORLDWIDE.
In the last quarter of the 19th century, Germany witnessed a boom in industrial development. The immediate consequences were the emergence of the capitalists on the one hand, and the working-class on the other. This socio-economic hierarchy lead to financial speculation and vast disparities in wealth. As a result, the urban working class suffered from mental health issues, as well as illnesses such as tuberculosis and bronchitis.
Edvard Munch(1863-1944) was born into an economically deprived family, and witnessed the death of many siblings. This had a lasting impression on his work. Munch was very experimental in his approach towards woodcut, preferring to employ the tactile quality of the surface in his prints.
The ‘Angst’ is a black and white woodcut print. The working classes are delineated with powerful, expressive gouging in white against a black mysterious landscape. The portraits are non-representational, becoming the central point of attraction because of their expressive eyes. He was a true predecessor of the German Expressionists.
Woodcut on Japanese paper
In the first quarter of the 20th century, Europe was ascending towards modernism, politically, culturally, and in warfare. A number of creative movements emerged in Europe, the German Expressionist movement being one amongst them. It ushered in a new perspective in art through printmaking. Relief printmaking became the most important mode of expression for them. The German Expressionist movement initiated different ideologies to challenge the role of art in daily life, rejected the classical style, and accepted simplified, real-life distorted forms and subjects to express different shades of human emotion.
Käthe Kollwitz lost her son in the First World War. Being a mother, the pain she experienced led her to portray the mourning of women and the working classes. She is best known for her figurative black and white woodcuts. Some of her prints were also used in posters to protest against different social issues.
‘Widow II’ is from the famous woodcut portfolio Krieg (War), comprised of a total of seven prints. It is about those who lost their loved ones in the war. A corpse-like female figure with a baby on her chest is delineated in stark contrasts of white against black, creating a sensation of doom. Käthe shows distinct skill in gouging, creating networks of lines to achieve details in the limbs. This print is the apocalyptic imagery of the consequences of war on mankind.
widow II, 1922.
Woodcut on paper
30 X 53 cm
Printmaking as a form of visual art emerged from early printing technology. Possibilities of mechanical reproduction in printmaking have enhanced the power of the print as a functional object or tool that shapes or affects public view and discourse. Originating in China in 220 AD, woodblock printing became the popular Chinese art form for more than a millennium. However, it was considered craftsmanship rather than art. The reason perhaps was the divide between the designers and blockmakers.
The introduction of Marxism to China in the 20th century brought new possibilities and hope to Chinese society, that paved the way to a cultural revolution. To reach the masses, Chinese artists reappropriated woodcut, as it was inexpensive and easily reproducible. Chinese progressive artists adopted the Western aesthetic of the ‘original print’ in woodcut to arouse revolutionary fervour amongst the illiterate Chinese people. During the 20th-century several woodcut groups were formed, such as MK Research Society, Peking-Tianjin Woodcut Research Society, etc.
‘Celebrate the Surrender of Japan and the Victory of China’ is a black & white woodcut print by Li Hua. The entire composition is delineated with the sharp contrast of theatrical light and shadow. The artist employed a simplified consolidated outline and expressive gouging, rejecting the traditional line drawing commonly seen in Chinese woodcut illustrations.
‘Celebrate the Surrender of Japan and the Victory of China’, 1946.
Woodcut on paper
20 X 27 cm
Taiwan had a prosperous social economy throughout Japan’s colonial epoch. In the
aftermath of World War II, Japan turned over the administrative authority of Taiwan to the
government of the Republic of China in 1945. On 28th February 1947, governor Chen Yi
committed a heinous genocide in Taiwan during a civil protest, also marked as the “228
incident” in history. Over 25,000 innocent civilians were brutally murdered. It was considered
the first step towards Taiwan’s independence movement.
Huang Rong-can (1920-1952) was born in China, later migrating to Taiwan. During his
studies at Kunming National College of Arts in China, he came across the New Woodcut
Movement. Inspired by Lu Xun’s ideology, he responded to the ‘228 incidents’ in woodcut.
He is regarded as the first revolutionary printmaker in Taiwan.
In ‘The Horrifying Inspection’, the artist attempts to capture a fragment of the ‘228 incident’,
portraying the army’s brutal killings of innocent civilians in a black and white woodcut. As a
means to depict the forcefulness of the moment, Huang rendered the civilians thrust against
speedily ripped horizontal lines, enlivening their petrified reaction to the incident. The
shadows and highlights are contrasted in wonderful silhouettes against white spaces.
‘The Horrifying Inspection’, 1947.
In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi launched the nonviolent Satyagraha movement with the march to Dandi. It was to significantly protest against the crushing salt taxes imposed on the Indian people by the British Government.
The Artist and the Art
Nandalal Bose, regarded as the father of modern Indian printmaking, produced this linocut print ‘Bapuji’ to mark this moment in history. The iconic black and white linocut is the archetypal example of the relief printmaking process, where Bapuji is rendered in white lines against a black background. His firm muscles represent the strength of his convictions, and his dynamic stride the hope of a nation. To achieve a solid black he chose lino rather than wood.
Linocut on paper
29.2 × 17.8 cm
“How many miles must we march…How many miles must we march…”Thousands of migrant workers walking hundreds of kilometers in the scorching heat to return to their villages. India witnessed this catastrophic phenomenon when the first lockdown was declared by the Government on 24th March 2020 at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of them could not survive the hardship and suffered tragic deaths en route to home. Though this occurred in India, this defining image of grief, anguish, and mortality of the proletariat is universal.
Born and brought up in Santiniketan, Suranjan Basu graduated from Kala Bhavana and went on to MSU, Vadodara for postgraduate studies. He returned to his roots at Kala Bhavana, where he taught for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, he died very young. Taking inspiration from Käthe Kollwitz and Somnath Hore’s works, he was conceptually deeply rooted in the realism of social classification and policies.
Labourers eating on the sidewalk is often seen across urban and periurban areas in India. Basu tries to portray this social inequality in his art, especially in large-scale woodcuts. The ‘Lunchbreak’ is an example of the same. Three mournful human figures are rendered against a construction site. His formal approach towards human figures is delineated with the substantial musculature of the limbs, representing the working classes. There is no stark contrast of black and white. Rather, the entire composition is circumambient in a gloomy middle tone. Basu achieved this by gouging networks of lines, dots, and by employing the tactile quality of wood in his print.
26 x 24 inches.
STARTED RECEIVING PHYSICAL SUBMISSIONS
AS THE LOCKDOWN EXTENDED PARTIALLY ACROSS THE COUNTRY, WE DECIDED TO EXTEND THE DEADLINE FURTHER.
FINALLY, WE HAVE 124 VIRTUAL AND 120 + PHYSICAL SUBMISSIONS
LAUNCHING THE PROJECT
THE 105 PHYSICAL WORKS IN THE LIVING A DARK NIGHT PROJECT ARE IN THE PERMANENT COLLECTION OF MUSEUM OF ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY, BANGALORE