Printmaking is an exciting and legitimate, artistic medium that can produce exceptionally
creative results. In Western art, virtually all the great painters were equally
great printmakers –Dürer was a master engraver was also known for woodcuts. Rembrandt
considered his etchings to be his greatest expressions of creativity and, during
his lifetime, was known for them rather than for his paintings. Van Dyck and Canaletto
were etchers and Goya did both etching and aquatints. In the 19th Century, Constable,
Turner, Corot, Daumier and Delacroix, amongst others, were all printmakers of repute.
The 20th Century is awash with even more obvious examples and even more experimentation.
Paul Gauguin and Edvard Munch were at the forefront of the revival of the woodcut.
Picasso - the quintessential printmaker - used many printmaking techniques, some
in conjunction with others, including dry point, aquatint and lino cut. He even
etched images on ceramics. Joan Miro, set up a print studio in the 1960’s and had
nearly twenty exhibitions exclusively of his prints. Andy Warhol combined serigraphy
and photography for his prints. Many other notable 20th Century artists utilized
the medium - Henri Matisse, Edward Hopper, Mark Rothko, Roy Lichtenstein, Wassily
Kandinsky, Jasper Johns, Lucian Freud and David Hockney to name but a few.
Printmaking in Pakistan: In Pakistan, Printmaking
is an undervalued artistic medium and the Pakistani art buyer has tended to approach
such works with a degree of wariness. One reason for this stems from the lack of
knowledge about the amount of creativity and labour involved in the making of a
print. More than this, perhaps, is the feeling that a print lacks the stamp of exclusivity
since more than one person can own it.
There are also constraints faced by printmakers themselves. Printmaking and ceramics
are two fields where artists ideally need workshops of their own, for sustained
access. Printing presses tend to be expensive and quality paper and inks are not
easily available. The medium is, thus, often out of reach for struggling artists
unless they are affiliated with an art school.
Then, there is the new-age issue of computer-assisted art, which, exciting though
it may be, has led to some questioning about the credibility and veracity of Printmaking
as a genre. Younger artists especially, have tended to veer towards an increasingly
experimental mixed-media form, where digitally produced images are worked upon and
amalgamated with other forms of painting and printmaking to create the final work.
All these reservations need to be sifted and properly understood to create a change
in attitude towards Printmaking. To truly appreciate the medium it is vital to consider
‘artistic intent’ and to realize that the artist-printmaker’s main focus lies more
in the medium’s inherently explorative nature rather than in its reproductive aspect.
In this context it is helpful to consider the difference between the ‘unique’ and
the ‘original’. A print may, or may not be, unique (as in the only one of its kind),
but, to qualify as art, it must be original. The originality rests with the single
artistic urge that prompts the making of the print. So, it may be said, that each
printmaking process produces an original result that stems from a unique artistic
urge. Furthermore, hand-printing adds to the charm and tactility of the work.
In reference to the use of new technologies, it is important to note that, in a
very real sense, technology has opened new worlds and new vehicles of communication
for artists everywhere. A Print needs no longer be confined to conventional surfaces
like paper. Neither does it have to conform to an established process. In the end
it is about the exercising of enlarged choices, which can but enrich.
Early efforts in Printmaking Pakistan’s post-colonial
graphic identity was not as rich as the one across the border, in India. This was
a geographical, rather than deliberate, divide. Art schools established by the British
in the 19th century like the one in Madras founded by Dr. Alexander Hunter in 1850,
The School of Industrial Arts in Calcutta, the Sir J.J. School of Arts in Bombay,
the Jeypore School of Industrial Art in Jaipur etc. all became part of the new state
of India. Indigenous art institutions that had sprung up, incentivised by the colonial
encouragement of arts and crafts, were similarly situated in those parts of the
sub-continent that remained with India.
The new state of Pakistan had only two institutions catering to the arts – both
situated in Lahore. The Mayo School of Art, now known as The National College of
Arts, was established in 1875 and by 1902; its photolithographic studios were already
functioning. A formal printmaking department was set up in the 1950’s, but, at this
time the concentration was on lithography, and Printmaking was not offered as a
The Department of Fine Arts of the Punjab University established, in 1940, by Ana
Molka Ahmed (1917-1994), also practiced Lithography and relief printing. It did
not however, have an etching press till 1964, when an intaglio press was introduced.
A few well-known artists of the time, like Abdur Rahman Chughtai, Anwar Jalal Shemza,
Ahmed Khan and Zahoor-ul-Akhlaq, did experiment with traditional forms of printmaking.
But, although these works form a valuable part of their repertoire and sell for
high prices today, they did not count as their main body of work.
The Rise of Printmaking in Pakistan: In 1985 an etching
press was donated to the National College of Arts (NCA), after which printmaking
started coming into its own. The three artists credited with this rise are Naazish
Ataullah, Afshar Malik and Anwar Saeed, all of whom returned from abroad with degrees
in printmaking and took up teaching posts at the college. Currently the printmaking
course at the NCA includes; all intaglio techniques such as dry point, etching,
engraving, photo-etching and aquatint on copper and zinc plates; planographic processes
such as offset and direct method lithography; relief printing processes such as
wood-cut and lino-cut, as well as silkscreen printing and calligraphy. An introduction
to qualities of paper and printing inks is also an integral part of the course.
In 2010 The British High Commission in Pakistan donated 2 high-end Print Rollers
to the printmaking department.
In 1989-90 The Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVSAA) started its printmaking
department in a make-shift studio in the garden of a house off main Shahreh-e-Faisal
Road in Karachi. Meher Afroz, a senior artist and printmaker, headed the new department.
Today, the IVSAA has an impressive campus with a vibrant and sophisticated printmaking
department, spearheaded by Usman Ghouri. Students are introduced to a wide range
of techniques that include etching, all intaglio processes, photo-etching, wood
cut, lino-cut and silkscreen. The printmaking studios are well equipped with modern
material and tools, and the department periodically upgrades through fundraisers.
There are a few other art schools and Institutions in Pakistan that offer Printmaking
either as a minor or as a major. The Karachi School of Art, The University of the
Punjab College of Arts and Design, Beaconhouse University’s School of Visual Arts
and Design, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi, etc. However, The National
College of Arts and The Indus Valley School remain standard bearers in the field.
Role of Workshops: Printmaking is, by nature, a collaborative
process, as the artist/printmaker needs access to facilities and equipment, which
in turn leads to artists sharing studio spaces. This creates opportunities for dialogue
and the exchange of ideas. It is also a field much given to innovation - both technical
and creative. The best way for these two aspects to come together continues to be
through workshops where a group of artists work together either as a co-operative
effort or independently under the tutelage of a visiting expert.
In Pakistan printmaking workshops have played a vital role in opening the field
to new technologies, processes, ideas and expertise. Indigenous printmakers like
Meher Afroz, Afshar Malik, Naiza H. Khan, Sabah Hussain, Atif Khan and Usman Ghouri
have worked hard to bring printmaking to the forefront by attending and conducting
printmaking workshops both nationally and internationally.
But it is the workshops conducted by visiting artists from abroad that have had
the profoundest effect on Pakistani printmaking. The first such workshop was held
as far back as 1967 at the American Cultural centre in Karachi, by Michael Ponce-de-Leon
from the Pratt Institute in New York. This was followed in 1986 by workshops with
Portugese printmaker Bartolomeu dos Santos, from the Slade Print Department in London
and, later, Peter Daglish also from the Slade. In 1992 American printmaker and photographer
Walter Crump conducted a Monoprint Workshop in Karachi, under the aegis of the Karachi
School of Art. He also taught for a year at the National College of Art, Lahore.
In 1996 Austrian lithographer Dieter Josef conducted a Lithography Workshop in Lahore.
In 1998 Spanish printmakers Fernando Bellver and Joaquin Capa conducted a printmaking
workshop in Lahore. The next year, fellow Spaniards Monir-ul-Islam and Anna Bellido
conducted an intaglio printmaking workshop at the NCA in Lahore.
More recently, in February 2010 Australian artist Damon Kowarsky taught a three-week
printmaking workshop in two-plate colour etching at the Indus Valley School of Art
and Architecture, in Karachi. Fellow Australian Michael Kempson also collaborated
with the printmaking department of the IVSAA. His workshop, conducted with 12 artists,
not all printmakers, was followed by an exhibition and a limited edition portfolio
“Out of the Box”, which featured works by all the attending artists.
Box Print Portfolios: Although Box Print Portfolios
are not a new phenomenon – indeed the NCA issued one in 1996 - the last two years
have seen a lot of activity in this quarter. 3 major limited edition print portfolios
were produced between 2009-2010 – two by the Indus Valley School and one by the
National College of Arts. These portfolios mostly evolved as by-products of printmaking
workshops and have contributed substantially in raising the level of appreciation
for the Printmaking genre.
In 2009, the Indus Valley School hosted “Different Drummer” showcasing the work
of 19 artists, to raise funds for the development of the Fine Arts Department at
the School. The participating artists were all important names in the contemporary
art scene and the portfolio did much to raise the level of appreciation for the
print genre and was an immense success. The project was spearheaded by Associate
Professor Usman Ghouri and co-ordinated by Lecturer Rabeya Jalil. The portfolio
was limited to 35 editions on quality Somerset England (300 grams) paper and was
accompanied by a catalogue with an introduction by Quddus Mirza. It was themed after
a quote from Henry David Thoreau “If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which
he hears, however measured or far away.’
The artists who contributed to the portfolio were: Adeela Suleman, Meher Afroz,
Afshar Malik, Mudassir Manzoor, Ali Kazim, Naiza H. Khan, Anwar Saeed, Naazish Ataullah,
Asma Hashmi, Quddus Mirza, Atif Khan, Rabeya Jalil, David Smith (USA), R. M. Naeem,
Imran Qureshi, Sylvat Aziz, Kimberly Chai (USA), Usman Ghouri and Laila Rehman.
The same year, the National College of Arts hosted its Box Print Portfolio 16. Important
contemporary artists contributed to this portfolio, namely, Naazish Atta-Ullah,
Jamil Baloch, Anwar Saeed, R M Naeem, Quddus Mirza, Laila Rehman, Afshar Malik,
Saba Manzoor, Nurayah Sheikh, Sarah Zahid, Bushra Obaid, Fatima Saeed, Imran Qurashi,
Aisha Khalid, Atif Khan and Sameera Khan.
In the spring of 2010, Usman Ghouri again initiated a fund-raising box print portfolio
for the Indus Valley School, entitled “Out of the Box”. The project followed a workshop
held during a visit to Pakistan by Michael Kempson, one of Australia’s leading printmakers.
This limited edition of 30, on Somerset England (250 grams) paper, was followed
by an exhibition of the same work at the IVS gallery in Karachi. Art critic and
independent curator Nafisa Rizvi wrote the text for the catalogue and Naiza H. Khan,
the well known visual artist and printmaker, contributed an essay entitled “A Transforming
Space: Printmaking in Pakistan.”
The project was designed to provide a platform for professional interaction between
artists and to strengthen bonds with other National and International Art Institutions
and artists. It also functioned as a fundraiser to buy a large-scale intaglio press
for the development of the printmaking facilities at the IVS, which they generously
share with other art institutions.
Participating artists were Michael Kempson, Meher Afroz, Romila Karim, Uzma Noor,
Shakeel Siddiqui, Sumaira Tazeen, Jabbar Gul, Moeen Farooqi, Adeel uz Zafar, Munawar
Ali, Naseer Bhurgari, Usman Ghouri and Rabeya Jalil.
Recent Print Exhibitions at Khaas Art:
Important Pioneers of Contemporary Printmaking: Meher Afroze,
Anwar Saeed, Afshar Malik,
Naazish Ataullah, Laila Rahman,
Naiza H. Khan,
Quddus Mirza, Jamal Shah, Sabah Husain,
Mohammed Kazim, Mansoora Hasan,
Mehboob Ali, Sabina Gillani, Naz Ikramullah.
Some Contemporary Printmakers:
Usman Ghouri, Atif Khan,
Sophiya Khwaja, Zunaira Sardar,
Bushra Obaid, Sameera Khan, Fatima Saeed,
Imran Ahmed, Hassnain Awais,
Mohsin Shafi, Hajra Haider, Sarah
Zahid, Wardah Alam, Munazzah Mahmood, Saba Raza Khan.