CULTURE

Engravers join forces to promote a neglected art

Engraving and other related techniques are seldom shown in galleries of contemporary art, at least not in this county. The longstanding and deep-rooted prejudice that compared to painting, engraving is a lesser form of art – probably because engravings come in multiples and lack the uniqueness of a painting – still seems to hold sway. Strangely enough, this has not affected the reception of photography. But it has created problems for those artists who mainly work with engravings, cutting their work off from public exposure. Envisioning a better future for artist-engravers, the late Vassilis Charos set out to amend this situation by asking engravers to join forces and found their own association. This was back in the late 1980s. Since then, more than 60 artists have joined together to create the so-called Greek Engravers Association. They took the initiative of establishing their own center (on Makriyianni Street) and holding exhibitions of contemporary engravings on the premises. The project is essentially self-funded (with some money coming from the Ministry of Culture) and the venue is non-commercial. There is no guild or trade-union mentality. The venue’s sole concern is to help promote contemporary engraving, thus also helping artists in the field to continue their practice. Those artists have willingly responded. So have collectors of engravings, people that formerly had nowhere to turn to but have now found a venue that specializes in what they collect. Besides the few collectors, students from the School of Fine Arts are also regular visitors. The Greek Engravers Association has no permanent collection, but over the years it has managed to form an archive of work by Greek engravers. Besides holding exhibitions, it also initiates other projects: A limited-edition album with original engravings on the theme of the Olympic Games is its most recent venture. In their effort to familiarize the public with engraving – both the traditional form and the new techniques – members of the association have also issued a video that explains the art of engraving and goes over the various techniques. They have also worked with other centers, mainly municipal ones in various parts of Greece (for example, Corfu, Xanthi and Thessaloniki), on organizing exhibitions. It is likely that the Greek Engravers Association will expand even further. There are, for example, plans for the establishment of a permanent engraving workshop somewhere in the Cyclades. This may help to invigorate what appears to be a dwindling art form. Apparently, the number of artists who work exclusively with engraving are fewer than they once were. In part, this may be because engraving as an art form lacks support. But it may also be because the divisions that traditionally separated different media and pigeonholed artists accordingly no longer obtain. There are no longer clear dividing lines between engraving and painting, but crossovers and hybrid art forms that often produce innovative results. The Greek Engravers Association hopes to bring out something of this innovativeness. Not anchored in traditional engraving, it wishes to reveal the scope of experimentation that is taking place in the field. The use of new techniques and materials in printing are among them. (The association has organized a series of lectures on engraving’s new techniques next Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the National Research Foundation, 46 Vassileos Constantinou.) Like any other medium, engraving depends on its use if it is to have interesting and novel results. The Greek Engravers Association is trying to put this message across, thus ensuring the continuity of a centuries-old art into the future. The Greek Engravers Association Exhibition Hall is at 4 Lembesi & Makriyianni (tel 210.922.8370).