What is “Fine Art Print” or “Art Print” or “Archival Pigment Print” or “Museum Print” as referred to in our country?
It is best to respond to this question, initially, with another term, not questioned any longer by anyone, with a clear definition although still problematic in terms of perception in our country; It would be correct to start with the term "original print". First of all, it is important to examine each word individually here.
"Original" according to its dictionary definition can be equated to the original (work) having a unique quality, authentic, the result of an invention, differentiated from and superior to its counterparts in terms of its qualities, or one which is not an interpretation or rendering.
“Print” as a matter of definition here, is meant to express the quality as it relates to the production technique of a unique work. We use the definition of "print" to indicate the techniques associated with the purpose of the producing a work of art.
What are these printmaking techniques?
Although the history of traditional printing techniques, of which broader definitions can be found above, spans back in time quite significantly, their first use is not exactly in the context of art printing. However, as the necessity for depiction and documentation disappeared with the invention of photography, this created a basis for these techniques to be used only for artistic production over time.
Prints, the best examples of which we have seen in the past from the works of artists such as Durer, Rembrandt and Goya, are among the choice of many artists for production in the modern period. The etchings and lithographs of Picasso and Matisse are among the most sought after works in art markets today.
The first works that come to mind for art viewers regarding prints are more often etchings. Printmaking techniques; intaglio printing (in which molds are formed by etching on plates such as metal or plexi), relief printing (where molds are prepared using elevated sections by obtaining a gap on plates such as linoleum or wood), stencil printing (made with the assistance of chemicals to create paint permeable and non-permeable surface areas yielding a mold applied to silk or similar materials), monotype, monoprint, lithography (stone, zinc or suitable surfaces prepared by applying the pattern with special solutions and paints) can be mentioned in this context.
After a brief expression of these concepts, we can clarify the comprehension of "original prints" with this etymological infrastructure in our minds. The production process of the work of an artist, on paper, canvas, or on any surface they prefer, includes the process of utilizing a medium of choice - acrylic, lead, oil, tile, watercolor, ink, etc. for example- and transferring the image using brush, pencil and/or another tool. And this has entirely to do with the artist’s inclination in terms of realizing the embodiment of the image they want to achieve.
Therefore, this instrumentality is not a quality or quantity that determines the originality and value of a work. In other words, it is not the fact that a work was produced using a particular printing technique that determines the value and worth of the work. However, an important detail here is this: The intermediate mold prepared to create an original print often allows the artist to obtain the same image more than once. However, contrary to the misperception of many, this is possible only by the artist repeating the entire process of production on that mold each and every time. Therefore, the procedure of preparing a mold once and then continuing a printing process is not valid for the original printmaking techniques that are mentioned.
In light of all this information, we can say that while "original printmaking" techniques actually aim to "produce a work", they also enable the production of enumerated prints, as an additional dimension. How, in what amount and in what way the artist will use or not use this opportunity is a matter that exists entirely within scope of the will and preference of the artist. However, as this opportunity is a factor that also determines the value of the work, it is also an opportunity for the art viewer and buyer in terms of accessibility (affordability). If the artist wishes, this instrumentality can be used to benefit purely from the production possibilities of original printmaking, and ultimately produce just a single work. Therefore, it is not the technique here that determines the worth and value of the work. It is only the amount of production, which is much more limited in our country compared to world standards. Today, in many countries of the world, original prints are produced in multiples of hundreds, whereas in our country these numbers are low enough to be expressed in tens.
Apart from all of this, a very important issue involves the ethical values and technical competencies in the application of these techniques. At this point, of course, the qualifications of the studio where the work was produced appears before us as an extremely striking element. The qualifications of the artists who produce original prints in the studio, the technical equipment used in the production of these works, the production process within the framework of the ethical principles of the studio, the determination and follow-up of the quality standard of the works, the numbering and signing by the artist within the framework of mutual oversight with the studio, and then the destruction of the mold so that it will not be produced again, are the foremost of these qualities.
The studio should have these qualities at the highest level, and then the processes of storing and presenting the produced works should be kept in an established order. Only those institutional structures ensuring the provision of such conditions can be accredited in international markets and safeguard the retention of value of collections against time in the market.
With consideration for all of the aforementioned circumstances, it may be possible for us to position the concept of “fine art print”, or “art print” as it is also known.
There are two different stages of the process in production of original prints. The first stage is the process that the artist must execute personally. The artist prepares the mold of the work with different tools consistent with the technique to be used, and then, based on their level of satisfaction with the result, selects those prints deemed appropriate as color and print trials to be signed as E/A (epreuve d’artiste) or A.P. (artist proof), and prepares the mold based on the number of enumerated prints they determine shall be made. At this stage, the artist selects up to 10 satisfactory and appropriate prints as a final result, then signs and numbers them as trial prints. If there are additional prints, those are destroyed.
After this stage, the act of producing enumerated prints from the template which has been prepared from the mold is for ready printing in determined editions and can be executed by the artist themselves or by a technical staff member assisted by the artist in accredited studio conditions.
As a result, the works produced are selected, numbered, signed by the artist consistent with predetermined editions, and if there are any remaining works, those are destroyed under the supervision of the studio, while the original mold is also destroyed such that it cannot be used again.
At the point of destruction of the mold; If there are molds prepared in the past by great artists themselves on durable metals, and if those molds were not destroyed in time but retained by authorized institutions – those institutions which were usually kept alive by the heirs of the artist's studio after the artist’s passing, or transformed into museums in the public sphere- then it is possible for works of the artist to continue to exist by way of reproduction from these molds and their enumeration within the same ethical criteria aforementioned. These are works that are generally presented to museum collections throughout the world as "art prints" or "museum prints". The best examples of such works are prints of artists such as Rembrandt, Goya and Picasso.
While living artists work with new technologies, just as they do with traditional techniques, before the production of enumerated prints similar to their undertaking throughout the E.A. or A.P. printing process, they work on their own pieces, making them suitable for reproduction. Then, once again in authorized and accredited studios, utilizing the new possibilities offered by technology, the production material can be executed on high quality (printing inks used in new technologies, containing special dye pigments of long-lasting and 'museum print' quality) and handmade natural cotton papers, as is the case in traditional printing techniques. These prints are produced as works that are classified under the concept of “art print” with consideration for the final results of the prints by the artists themselves, and their personal enumeration and signing.
In other words; the first mold or piece constituting the basis of production which is ready for the process of enumerated printing, that which was prepared by the artist themselves, with their oversight and approval, with subsequent execution by the studio of the production of enumerated prints utilizing new technological possibilities, and ultimately enumerated and signed by the artist are referred to as “fine art print” or “artist print”.
Therefore, those works expressed under the concept of "art print" are also original works that are classified under the attribute of "original prints", distinguished by name due to the difference in their production process, and with their ultimate result being equivalent in terms of artistic and physical quality.
The factor that determines the value of a work of art is not how and by what means a visual entity, which has not yet acquired a substantive presence in the creation process was formed, but its production of a quality to the degree that the artist is satisfied with the ultimate result, deeming it worthy of the artist’s signature. Therefore, regardless of the techniques and means by which this result is achieved by the artist, the factor that determines its value is not the means by which the artist conveys that image to the viewer, but the main purpose of the work; the creation of the piece enabled by its source within the artist.