In a somewhat questionable marketing endeavour, the Eastern Cape Region has been sign posted, ‘Frontier Country’ and indeed this is what it is. Historically it is the site of the 9 Frontier Wars and much brutal conflict and living here presently can still seem the edge of nowhere by comparison to many major South African metropols. With Grahamstown at the heart of it, it is also a cosmopolitan space not without vestiges of past pain but - like many colonial outposts in a post-colonial time - it is no longer a satellite to an absent motherland, a mere microcosm of elsewhere, but also a world unto itself.

A potential space of intellectual, debate rather than military conflict – geographically isolated from metropolitan trends – a melting pot of many places, a crucible. In more recent history, this frontier space has been a site of culture, of experiment. Home to an annual arts festival, how is it that Grahamstown with a population of just under 140 000 can command so much creative imagination in novels, plays, poetry and art? Frontier, Border, at the end of the world but not about to fall off – merely at a vantage point to observe a view to come.
- Rat Western

DISCHARGE 2012             COLOUR COLLOQUIUM 2010             SYNTHETIC DIRT 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dominic Thorburn: Dirty hands or hands-off? – the printmatrix in a mediated milieu.

As with language the printed image is never static but constantly evolving. Printmedia by their very nature have always been in flux, ever changing in their technologies and thus latent expressive powers and reach. This perpetual shift remains its forte and has ensured the survival of printerly images within our visual psyche.

Since the first images were made by dipping hands in natural pigment and pressing them on cave walls in Lascaux and Altamira artists have been getting their hands dirty to make their mark. The making of multiple images today though can be a more hands-off affair to ‘do the dirty’ (so to speak), often harnessing new media and utilising digital imaging and technical collaboration.

In the past boundaries which defined the activities of printmaking were limited to technical categories – most often the traditional techniques or mediums used to make prints. The print was defined as the map and not the territory the map describes. Contemporary print may stake claim to new creative territory which goes beyond any map; the meaning of the images and interventions produced by printmedia now often become the expanded terrain of the exploration, the border crossings in a larger picture.

Print today is not a technique, a category, or even an art object - it is a mediating matrix, a theoretical idiom for developing ideas and dialogue. In the same manner as language cannot be defined as alphabets, words, or grammar, contemporary printmedia cannot be defined merely as a series of technical activities. It is more appropriately defined by its function, its philosophical approach, and the conception and evolution of concepts and images it generates and synthesises.

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