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Shina, cherry, pine, birch, basswood; all familiar species for printmakers who are passionate about the woodcut process. This exhibition, aptly entitled, ‘Sustained Ingrain’, is an international, cultural exchange project consisting of a portfolio of contemporary woodcut prints from artists in China and North America, co-curated by Scott Ludwig, Professor of Art (Printmaking) at Appalachian State University (USA) and Liu Jing, Professor of Art (Printmaking) at Changsha Normal University (China). The represented artists exemplify a diversity of creative vision, innovative process and aesthetic appeal, with each working extensively in the wild and wonderful medium of woodcut.
For many, a simple block of wood, long associated with craft traditions in both the East and West, emerges as the ultimate, natural antithesis to ‘hi-tech’ methodologies that seem to negate the hand. It is the ingrained, natural beauty and sensual materiality that so perfectly lends itself to the meditative act of cutting and carving—material that is so inherently connected to the environs of planet Earth.
Historically, the printmaking medium has sustained itself through innovation, yet in this era of hybrid studio practices, the woodcut is a traditional standout, with Eastern methods of printing adapting the first ‘environmentally friendly’ process with its traditional use of dispersive, water-based pigments.
This exhibition examines such questions as why has this antiquated process, with a wide range of cultural and historical antecedents dating back millennia, sustained itself over time? Is it still artistically viable in early twenty-first century printmaking, with a plethora of immensely seductive, digital technologies available to artists? The answer is emphatically, YES! And this portfolio and exhibition of marvellous prints underscore the point.