Time taken : ~10mins
This interview shines the spotlight on the dynamic medium of printmaking and the potential collaborative printmaking has in facilitating creative expression and exploration. Artist and printmaker Chen Shitong, founder of Pulp Editions, shares his insights on working collaboratively with artists and the importance of creating space to support these dialogues. Pulp Editions is a printmaking workshop dedicated to making fine art prints with Singaporean artists using traditional printmaking methods such as lithography, etching, relief printing and monotype.
What got you interested in printmaking?
I enrolled in a one-year printmaking course which changed my view and got me interested in this medium. I have been primarily working with printmaking ever since then. There is a diversity of approaches like relief, intaglio, planography and screen printing and each approach offers a different experience. It requires me to solve problems while offering a breadth of possibilities. Printmaking is labour intensive and calls for a different sort of engagement. Unlike painting where I normally stand or sit down on a chair to look at the painting, printmaking requires me to move around the workshop, prepare plates, clean, process, experiment and print.
What inspired or led you to start Pulp Editions?
In 2017, I participated in Tamarind Institute’s Professional Printer Training Program in the USA. I wanted to learn a new set of skills with the hope of reviving this disappearing craft in Singapore. During this period, I did not just acquire lithography skills but also learned what it meant to be a collaborative printer. I worked with and learnt from various artists and used what I know to solve problems. There is a lack of spaces in Singapore that are adequately equipped and available for artists to make prints. Therefore, I decided to start Pulp Editions, a printmaking workshop that gives artists the freedom to make prints with the help of a printer. We have been running for two years and I am grateful for the friendships we have built with artists.
Could you share more on how the collaborations with artists unfold or develop?
I have a list of artists whom I wish to work with each year. I will research the artist’s practice and visualise what Pulp Editions can offer that could be helpful in their artistic development. Two to three weeks before the residency begins, there will be studio visits, testing of different materials to see how an artist feels and responds to each material as well as understanding how they work so that I can try to complement their working styles. During the residency, we will explore different methods of printing, and test colours, papers and ways of layering to achieve what the artist wants.
Has the experience of working with these artists challenged or changed your understanding of the possibilities of printmaking?
Each artist brings his or her own set of artistic challenges to the process. I need to be mindful to not impose my ideas on their works and to give them space to develop their ideas. I would often have to try out things that were not taught. During my collaboration with Oh Chai Hoo, we experimented with his collection of papers for Chinese ink painting, and various methods like etching, lithography and monoprints. I am inspired by how he sees possibilities in everything, even prints which have been rejected. As a collaborative printer, it is important to be open-minded and explore different ways of creating a print. I am just a guide in the process. It is ultimately my aim that the artist can achieve what they want and understand what is possible with printmaking.
Are there any new directions you would like to head towards or explore in future collaborations through Pulp Editions?
We recently moved into a new workshop and are gradually purchasing equipment and expanding the capacity of what can be done in the space. We hope to offer a comprehensive open-access workshop focusing on collaborations with Singaporean and international artists while also serving the needs of the local art community through exhibitions and public programmes.
The artists whose prints are showcased in the exhibition Intersections at Jendela (Visual Arts Space) reflect on their experimentations with printmaking during their residencies with Pulp Editions and how the process catalysed the exploration of new frontiers in their practice.
Chiew Sien Kuan
Printmaking allows for happy accidents and elements of surprise to occur during the artmaking process. The process creates room for experimentation and allows for unexpected outcomes.
Chua Chon Hee
Lithography is a technique that I was not familiar with and had always wanted to experiment with. The residency provided a rare opportunity for me to create art using lithography.
I took the opportunity to explore boundaries in the capabilities of printmaking. The lithography process gave me a new understanding of layers that is different from the type of layering found in painting and moving images. I wanted to familiarise myself with how I could achieve the fluidity of painting—whether in relation to its visceral or physical capabilities—in lithography.
I have consistently aimed to formulate through an autonomous process, a visceral and intuitive treatment of painting in my studio practice. The idea of layers in printmaking is about breaking down form and colour into layers, which is similar to CMYK or RGB in digital printing. The idea of layering in printmaking gave me the opportunity to embrace spontaneity and accidental forms. It influences how shapes and space can be established when layers come together. Printmaking has reconfigured my expectations of the outcome.
Unpredictability is a significant aspect of this process. I find the difficulty of anticipating the printed outcome exciting. At this point, I am not sure how I can bring this strategy to my painting practice. I want to spend more time working with lithography, discover more possibilities in pursuing this idea of layers and be acquainted with how this concept could be adopted for my creative processes in the future.
Izzad Radzali Shah
Printmaking has always been a medium I was fascinated with as I was introduced to screen printing way before I entered art school. I really enjoyed the process as it reminded me of painting except that it is more thorough and careful and has an impact on the speed of my workflow.
When I paint, I usually collect stuff, throw them onto the table and arrange them to create one big picture. With printmaking, I have to constantly check what I place on the table, as this would directly affect the layers below. Printmaking is similar to painting but it definitely makes me more careful with how I navigate spaces in my artmaking process.
Lim Soo Ngee
The printmaking process is similar to that of creating sculptures. It is time consuming and the artist has to follow certain technical requirements.
The entire residency process felt fresh. Exposing myself to a new form of craft is always interesting and exciting. It was also my first time dealing with printmaking. The entire process has humbled me and made me respect the medium as an external form and a means of expression, and my ability to fuse them together while building a healthy relationship with Shitong.
One of the biggest challenges was to think in layers while working towards the end product. I am trained as a painter. The working methods for painting are very direct and changes could be made and seen in a short time. Working with printmaking made me realise that I have to take a step back and look at my artwork in layers—in terms of separation or dimensions with various possibilities.
Oh Chai Hoo
This series of works brings together the concepts behind traditional Eastern texts, art, seals and printmaking. Seal carving is an ancient miniature form of printing. Seals contain a lot of meaning and functions. They can be used repeatedly and it is worthwhile to research into this craft. During the residency, I wanted to use calligraphy as a medium to introduce poetry into contemporary images, to create space for imagination and allow new creative sparks to emerge.
Unless stated otherwise, all images courtesy of Pulp Editions.