This paper continues to build upon my previous observations of where creative thinking lays within the social and individual layers of print production in relation to ceramics and glass media. I will aim here to extend that thinking towards a discussion of how printmaking technology, in combination with ceramic and glass materials, has a determining influence on visual language and how artists have paid attention to and embraced these factors to form their own visual grammar.
There are many approaches to practice within the ceramics and glass disciplines. Perhaps the most commonly appealing public perception is of those techniques where intuitive, tacit knowledge and experience is more directly affected between materials and artists, such as blowing glass or throwing pots. A very different strand of ceramics and glass practice than that of the blower and thrower is the choice to combine and integrate these materials with printmaking approaches. Printmaking as a practice requires an artist to operate at various removes (1), completing a number of pre-press stages prior to observing the end result. In addition, ceramics and glass are vitreous materials, inherently transformative and when integrated with printmaking remain active far beyond making the impression, through the act of kiln or furnace firing. Alongside the requirement to also adapt thinking to accommodate a three-dimensional substrate, these conditions extend the artist’s ‘removes’ to further extremes.
These conditions necessitate the artist who is making printed vitreous work, to perform a complex cognitive juggling act where ideas for an image, within the originator’s mind, have to be filtered through mediating conditions. This process of interpretative mediation (2) requires an acquired prescience of the determining effect of the interactions of transformative materials, technology and complex forms upon a visual printed image. This idea of acknowledging a technology’s contribution to the resulting works can be understood as an aspect of Technological Determinism. (3) In this instance rather than the Marxist reading, where technology determines social conditions, it instead relates to the determining syntax (4) of visual language.
To understand this in the context of vitreous printmaking, I will explore some examples, first from the practice of others, then observations from my own research, and beginning with three technologies, that all have a direct relationship with ceramic materials.
(1) Getlein, Frank, Getlein, Dorothy. (1964) The Bite of the Print – Satire and Irony in Woodcuts, Engravings, Etchings, Lithographs and Serigraphs. London. Herbert Jenkins
(2) Chapter, ‘The Role of Interpretative Mediation Within Ceramics and Print Production’, p77 Brown, Steve, The Physicality of Print (2011) PhD thesis – https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1134
(3) Ed. Smith, Merritt Roe & Marx, Leo. Does Technology Drive History: The Dilemma of Technological Determinism. (1994) MIT Press
(4) Ivins, William, M. Prints and Visual Communication. (1953) London.
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