Serigraph — another term for silkscreen — is a time consuming form of art-making. Using layer upon layer of colour, with carefully cut or outlined images, means that even if a serigraph has an edition of a few hundred, each one is technically unique in how the colours and the layers line up. And while the screen process is often done by a professional, an artist will generally oversee the printing of each layer to ensure that the each is reproduced to exacting specifications.
Watch this short youtube video of artist Montoya describing serigraph printmaking.
Following is an excellent description of serigraphy from an internationally-renowned printmaker in the Caribbean.
Serigraphy in short:
• The Artist hand paints each color
• The Master Printer puts ink on screen
• Ink pressed thru screen onto canvas or paper
• Each color is printed separately to edition limit
Brief History of the Serigraph
The oldest form of printing... Serigraphy (or silkscreen printing) is the romantic island in the big sea of fine art reproduction. Serigraph is a combination of the Latin word for “silk”, seri, and the Greek word for “to write”, graphos...
This ancient method of duplicating an original painting is one of the oldest forms of printing. Serigraphy can be traced as far back as 9000 BC, when stencils were used to decorate Egyptian tombs and Greek mosaics. From 221-618 AD stencils were used in China for production of images of Buddha. Japanese artists turned Serigraphy into a complex art by developing an intricate process wherein a piece of silk was stretched across a frame to serve as the carrier of hand cut stencils. Serigraphy found its way to the west in the 15th century.
Serigraphy took on the status of art in the 1930s when a group of artists experimented with the technique and subsequently began making "fine art" silk-screen prints and devised the term "Serigraph" to distinguish fine art from commercial screen printing. In the 1950s Lutpold Domberger in Stuttgart, Germany offered his print studio to artists associated with the Op Art movement. Respected artists like Victor Vasarely and Josef Albers combined their artistic visions with Domberger’s relentless pursuit of perfection as a screen-printer. They created superior, finely executed serigraphs which were sought by art galleries and collectors around the world. These efforts, combined with the experimentation of such artists as Jackson Pollack helped to keep the serigraph medium in the forefront of printmaking.
This sparked an explosion of creativity in the field, which followed in the 1960s, with the next great creative push. The Pop Art movement, and Andy Warhol in particular, gave the medium it's ultimate legitimacy in the fine arts. Other great artists of the 20th century who pioneered serigraphy are: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Erte, Roy Lichtenstein and more.
Serigraphy is a time honoured technique... This classic method involves labor- and material-intensive processes based on stenciling, for creating prints by hand. It is expensive!
It begins by determining how many colours are represented in the original painting. The print studio makes a separate screen for each colour to be printed. If there are 70 colours printed, there must be 70 screens prepared created by a chromist (hand colour separator artist) they are embedded into the fabric, and ink is passed through a squeegee on the canvas creating a texture on the surface.
Each hand mixed colour is printed with water-based inks (base and pigments) then laid on large printing racks to dry. After approximately two to three hours, next colour can be printed.
The print grows with every printing, becoming richer and more complete, until the artist is satisfied. On an average day, 1 to 2 colours can be printed. At the finishing stage a texture varnish applied to simulate one-to-one the brush stroke of the artist. An edition of 300, with 70 colours can take anywhere from 2 to 4 months to complete.
Serigraphs are truly "Limited Editions"... They are produced in limited editions in order to control their rarity once an edition is completed the drawings are destroyed, as are the screens. Also, each print is slightly different, as each screen is hand pulled, adding to the rarity enhances the collector value and owning a serigraph print is a good art purchasing decision!