Andrew Folan
National College of Art and Design
Dublin, Ireland

Paper: “Fetish or Firmament?”

The introduction of digital technology has marked a watershed in the practice of printmaking. It has brought both positive and negative effects.  Image manipulation through PhotoShop for example, uses a language already familiar to printmakers giving them an advantage with this leading technology. Manual printing is now of questionable value. Does labor intensive process contribute to the aesthetic or conceptual nature of an artwork? Just as photography once challenged painting, digital imaging challenges the rational for printmaking. In response to this many printmakers have re-evaluated their strategies, leading to a precisely targeted use of process and a strengthening of resolve to preserve their unique media.

A resurgence of interest in lithography at NCAD, Dublin coincides with the introduction of digital technology. Students choosing stone lithography are attracted by its low-tech nature. Conversely those who work digitally do so with a familiar ease. Gone is the hype of the nineties, when computers enabled a freedom of synthesis only previously dreamed of. Most current students did their school homework on computers and do not share this enthusiasm. They value the sophistication of the digital while seeking a tactile involvement in the process. Traditional print is preferred in a surprising number of cases. Students choose media, which seem mystical and even ritualistic in both method and effect. For them the digital is familiar while traditional methods have a fascination akin to that of alchemy. For many artists the tactile and sensory quality of image production fulfils a deeply rooted need. Visit any print studio to experience the "stuff" of image making. Tactile values are inherent in printing where a symbiotic relationship occurs between idea and process.

This paper will discuss the dichotomy resulting from the maintenance of both traditional and new technologies and the implication of this in the teaching and practice of printmaking.

ANDREW FOLAN is a lecturer in printmaking at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland. Since graduating from the Slade School of Fine Art, London in 1981 he has practiced in print, photography and sculpture. Recent works have combined digital processes with print and sculpture resulting in some highly original and hybrid productions. He is an active collaborator in art related projects in science, medicine and architecture and recently participated in the “Digital Surface Project” culminating with a presentation at Tate Britain in 2003. He has exhibited widely throughout Europe. His recent solo exhibition of layered printed sculptures “Arterial Ink” toured to a number of venues in Ireland as well as London, Paris and Stockholm (1991-2001). More recently his solo exhibition of digital lambda chromes “Stray Light” was shown at the Ashford Gallery, Dublin in 2002. He participated in a group exhibition Dead Bodies at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris in 2003. Andrew has been director of the Black Church Print Studio, Dublin (an open facility print workshop) for many years and was instrumental in its re-establishment in a custom built premises in Dublin's cultural centre in Temple Bar. He was elected a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 2002. In 1991 he organized and curated a pan-European exhibition “European Large Format Printmaking” with representation from all EU States. Since then he has curated a number of theme based print exhibitions in Ireland - most recently “The Disasters of War” a contemporary response to war in recognition of the Goya series of the same title. He will co-curate the Swedish Print Triennale in 2007. Andrew Folan published by Gandon Editions (2002) charts the development of his work. His web site gives a comprehensive insight into this artist's complex and varied productions.