International exhibition-contests dedicated to the art of printmaking and its techniques have first been organized in the second half of the 20th century: Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts (1955), Krakow Print Triennial (1966), Tallinn Print Triennial (1968), or the International Triennial of Small Forms of Graphic Art, Poland – Lodz (1979) for instance were initiated in those years. Nowadays, they are considered to rank among the most famous events representing this branch of Fine Arts. But also today, new initiatives are founded, for example the Print Biennial Lodz (2016) which now exists next to the Triennial of Small Forms of graphics in Lodz (Poland). Globally speaking, there are about 50 exhibition-contests of this kind which are currently organized in countries such as the Baltic States, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Spain, and many more.
Printmaking is not the privilege of graphic artists alone, because all artists including painters, sculptors and even potters deal with various forms of graphic and printing techniques in the course of their professional education and activity in one way or another. Artists such as Raphael, Dürer, Rembrandt, Goya, Monet, Renoir, Picasso and many others used various printing techniques. Consequently, art works shown at those events have not been created only by graphic artists and thus present a broad and varied panorama of artistic ideas. This way, current trends in this branch of Fine Arts can be observed more comprehensively and thanks to its biennial or triennial reoccurrence, information is updated regularly. Additionally, those events contribute significantly to cultural integration and artistic diversity which could be the reason for the constantly increasing number of graphic forums and participating artists.
During the Soviet era, the art of printmaking was actually put on a solid basis in some of the Soviet republics, nowadays Belarus, the Ukraine, the Baltic States and of course Russia itself. As a result, this branch of Fine Arts became very popular in those countries, and their artists and the local audience pay a great amount of attention to the art and its development even today. Unfortunately, Armenia did not have the chance to participate in the development of the trends in this field of art in the 20th century. This is the reason why only few masters of graphic art live and work in Armenia today. Remarkably enough, those masters belong to the generation of middle-aged but also young artists and their great curiosity and excellent education in the field of art enables them to produce works of very high quality. This way, they are awarded prizes at numerous international exhibitions and contests, and they are invited to present their work in solo exhibitions in many European countries bringing fame and reputation to Armenian art and to the contemporary art scene. Most artists in Armenia however, are unaware of global current trends and developments in the field of printmaking because only a limited number of artists have access to global events due to the political and geographical situation of their country.
In order to provide Armenian artists with information regarding those trends, some private organizations started initiatives to change this situation for the better. The first of them was the international exhibition of Printmaking “Estamp 2007” organized by the creative team “Art GROUP” at premises of the National Gallery of Armenia in 2007. This event featured a wide range of artists and presented a large choice of graphic works of high quality. Master classes and lectures were given by foreign and also Armenian specialists throughout the course of the exhibition and were met with great interest by a large number of students, artists and visitors. This exhibition was to become a significant event for the cultural life and artistic scene of the Armenian capital. Unfortunately though, this initiative remained a unique event and was not continued.
Since 2013, Foundation KulturDialog Armenien has taken important steps to promote the development of printmaking and its artists. The most prominent ones being the participation of KulturDialog Armenien’s aritsts Tigran Sahakyan, Arman Vahanyan, Tigran Kirakosyan and Ashot Grigoryan in “Cultural Mission Armenia-Estonia” at the Artists’ Association of Estonia in Tallinn in June 2013.
As the result of this successful cooperation and thanks to the sponsorship of Foundation KulturDialog Armenien, the artists Tigran Sahakyan, Arman Vahanyan and Tigran Kirakosyan were invited to work as artists-in-residence at the offset lithography studios for traditional printmaking techniques at the Estonian Association of Graphic Artists and at the studios of “Albatross Editions” in Tallinn during March and April 2014. This project was rounded off by the exhibition “Striding Imprints. Tigran Sahakyan, Arman Vahanyan and Tigran Kirakosyan in Tallinn” at the National Library of Estonia which presented graphic works (offset lithography, etchings and monotypes) the Armenian artists created during their stay in Tallinn. Later that year, this very exhibition was also held at the United Nations’ Office in Armenia.
In cooperation with the Fine Arts Museum Moritzburg (County Museum of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany) in Halle (Saale) and the cultural office of the city of Halle, KulturDialog Armenien launched an ‘artist-in-residence’ project in 2015. It provided a selected artist with the opportunity to work at the studios (painting; graphic works) of the Academy of Fine Arts of the city of Halle “Burg Giebichenstein” for a period of ten weeks. The program’s first artist, Tigran Kirakosyan, had his solo exhibition, dedicated to the 100th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide “Tigran Kirakosyan: Voices of the Past” at the Fine Arts Museum Moritzburg (Halle) in May 2015 presenting a choice of 19 large-size monotypes of a total of 30 created during the artist’s stay in Halle.
The large scale exhibition “The Surprised Eye” a broad panorama of Estonian graphic works held at the Artists’ Union of Armenia in June 2015 was the result of the close cooperation between Foundation KulturDialog Armenien and the Estonian Association of Graphic Artists. The works shown at the exhibition included among other graphic works the 30 most excellent examples of Estonian illustrated books of the year 2014, thus showcasing current trends in the field of Estonian contemporary typography. In the context of the exhibition’s side program, Inga Heamegi, Head of the Estonian Association of Graphic Artists presented her n extensive report “The Estonian Art Printing. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, and a master class dedicated to the technique of woodcutting (xylography) was organized and held by the Estonian artist Tarrvi Laamann.
In April 2016, KulturDialog Armenien presented a different choice of monotypes and one dry point etching, created by Tigran Kirakosyan in Halle and in Estonia at “Kurfürstliches Gärtnerhaus” Gallery in Bonn, Germany, in the artist’s second solo exhibition “Tigran Kirakosyan: Returning to the Present”.
Given the number and variety of exhibition-contests dedicated to printmaking and its techniques globally but particularly in Europe during the last decades, a rising interest in printmaking and its various techniques can be observed among artists just as well as among a constantly growing audience. As far as Armenia is concerned, the awareness for prints and graphic works and the artists working in this field of art has increased noticeably during the last 7 – 10 years thanks to the initiatives dedicated to printmaking and graphic techniques. Today, a growing number of young Armenian artists work in different types of printing techniques and they have achieved an outstanding quality. Consequently, Armenian galleries more often present those works to an initiated audience.
Foundation KulturDialog Armenien contributed to this development in Armenia with numerous initiatives and projects, providing Armenian artists with the possibility to grow, to develop their skills and to get in contact with current, international trends and its representatives. Printmaking played a significant role within the course of Armenian art, and today it is of great importance for artists working in this field. For these reasons, Foundation KulturDialog Armenien deems the time right to bring together the artists’ potential, their achievements, their experience with the various steps which have been taken so far in Armenia, ten years after the first International exhibition “Estamp 2007” and the international trends and representatives active in printmaking all over Europe.
With the “First International Print Biennale Yerevan 2017” initiated by Foundation KulturDialog Armenien, we would like to establish a link between the first attempts of 2007 and the active art scene of today. We would like to start an international dialogue between artists, professionals and a large audience fascinated by printmaking and its techniques and the latest international trends. The “First International Print Biennale Yerevan 2017” will enable Armenian and foreign artists to present their works to an international jury and to the Armenian public. With its exhibition, its contest, and a varied side program and its new focus on Armenia, it will open up new perspectives and create a unique intercultural exchange for all participants and visitors alike.