It’s no surprise that the art of printmaking has its time in Malaysia.
Since the pandemic hit last year, there has been a resurgence of interest in printed art among a younger population. Every home office or study room needs one or two prints to liven up the space, and the prints are affordable.
Platforms such as the online store Outlet KL have been instrumental in creating a buzz for fine art prints, while many independent artists, designers and illustrators have gradually built an online profile with their printmaking work.
“We had conversations with friends where they talked about how quite difficult it is to buy or even search for fine art prints here.
“When we were researching ourselves for (art) prints to buy, we would usually find ourselves on Instagram, looking at artist profiles to see if they were selling their art in a (print) form. We then put ourselves in the shoes of our potential clients, and then we thought, “why not create a platform where we can sell a variety of works by different artists? »Explains Dana Kaarina Zainal Abidin, co-founder of Outlet KL.
Outlet KL started in October last year and operates on Instagram. It now presents five young artists (between 20 and 30 years old).
They are illustrator / engraver Ika Sharom, multimedia artist Afi Sulaiman, graphic designer Sherwan Rozan, artist / designer Shan Shan Lim and Mexican photographer / illustrator based in KL Jousi Fabiola. Other collaborations with local and international artists are underway.
Outlet KL offers prints in various styles, such as digital prints, screen prints and lino prints. Artworks sold at this one-stop shop range from RM20 to RM200, depending on the size and medium.
“We believe that the fine art prints here need more impetus to create demand and we believe that in order to sell or create that demand for prints, we need our brand to be as inviting as possible,” Elina Zainal suggests. Abidin, the other from the platform. co-founder.
Trendy and dynamic
“We are aware that the younger generation is very influenced by what they see on social media, which is why we also prioritize the content we offer so that it is visually appealing, engaging and relevant to our audience,” explains 31-year-old Dana.
It’s also something that the in-house curator of independent art space Hom Art Trans, Elizabeth Low, did during the print studio run by the artist. Chetak 12the annual print fair called 3rd edition: Love song in February of this year.
“What I found special about the show was that we spent time creating content on our ‘Daily Stories’ feature, educating our audience with educational messages.
“And because we used these interactive features on Instagram, we got to see our audience engaging with our educational content, which means they listened, read and absorbed,” Low offers.
She agrees that more and more people are becoming aware of the medium through exposure to social media. And for this reason, printed works are now easier to locate and collect, making them “more accessible and attractive”.
“This is because a large number of printed works are in editions, which allows more than one person to own a copy, unlike paintings and sculptures, where the works are in most cases not. made to be reproduced, ”Low explains. .
What’s important now, Low says, is to maintain interest, especially when art galleries start to reopen.
At Hom Art Trans, the artists / printmakers mostly have a fine art background, with names like Samsudin Wahab, Bayu Utomo Radjikin, and Faizal Suhif already known to art collectors.
But there is a young generation of printmakers coming, many of them giving these Chetak 12 shows, residencies and collaborations a new audience.
“This pandemic has allowed us to focus on building an online audience – this can only help rather than hurt the art scene, so there is no reason to focus again on presenting it alone.” physically. Why not both? ”Bas said.
Indeed, building a new market for printed works is as much the responsibility of galleries as it is of online platforms.
With this new awareness and curiosity for printed works among Malaysians, Liza Ho, founder of The Back Room KL, believes that art galleries should push for more prints of art exhibitions as well.
Last year, The back room KL hosted the Wall of wonders group exhibition presenting various types of printed works by 12 artists. It also sold limited edition prints online last Christmas, with works by CC Kua and Pangrok Sulap on board. The gallery hosted another print (online) group exhibition in June titled Copy, paste, move with works by Amanda Gayle, No-To-Scale * and Studio Karya.
“Limited edition fine art prints have never been popular in our country, and maybe this is because they are works of art on paper and the humidity in Malaysia is a problem. important factor when it comes to collecting works of art on paper, ”says Ho.
But she believes platforms like Outlet KL are definitely changing the narrative.
“It’s a good alternative platform to promote limited edition prints and make them more accessible to a larger and new audience who otherwise wouldn’t be looking at art,” she adds.
Woodcuts with a message
Sabahan Pangrok Sulap’s art collective has kept printmaking in the spotlight for over 10 years now. From rural community events to international art exhibitions, this group of artists / activists / musicians based in Ranau and Kota Kinabalu has given woodcuts a strong presence on the local art scene.
Whether exhibits at the National Art Gallery or the Ilham Gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Pangrok Sulap’s woodcuts are now easily recognizable. They have found a loyal following, with themes such as cultural identity, environmental issues, and corruption that strike a chord with the masses.
During the pandemic, Pangrok Sulap also launched its new website to expand its reach.
“We have continued to work with galleries and boutiques because these collaborations are very important for the continuity and sustainability of the arts. Galleries often feature our great works and they are the link with collectors who are interested in our work.
“And thanks to the website, we can reach everyday art lovers who are looking for affordable artwork and products,” says Rizo Leong, one of the founding members of Pangrok Sulap.
The website helps with archival content, particularly with a series of iconic Pangrok Sulap prints such as Di Belakang Saya Ada Orang Kampung, Di Belakang Orang Kampung Ada Saya and Pearls not dead made available online.
It’s a kind of one-stop-shop: a place where Pangrok Sulap lists all available artwork (RM 60 woodblock posters). Some of the works sold are part of her fundraising campaign for community and charitable projects during the pandemic.
Community building has always been part of Pangrok Sulap’s mission, as evidenced by the works of art carved on wood.
“But community engagement during a pandemic has to take a different form. Where in the past we could meet people at festivals, exhibitions and workshops, this is not possible during a pandemic.
“Instead, we focused on online methods and doubled our efforts on engagement and virtual activities,” says Bam Hizal, another member of Pangrok Sulap, who sees the group continuing with the support for woodcut because of its affordability and accessibility.