August 2010

Silk Screen or "Serigraphy"

Like relief printing methods, silk screening started in China. It was an art form used in collaboration with the woodcuts in the 1500s. The process came west when silk material was being imported.

Like lithography, it is a confusing term for prints. It is a way to create fine art prints and an inexpensive way to decorate in a commercial aspect. During the 20th century, the name serigraph (drawing in silk) was declared as the correct name for the fine art form, leaving screen print as the method for commercial printing.

Silk material (now polyester, nylon or metal mesh) is stretched over a frame. Stencils are created to block the flow of ink through the mesh onto the paper or material being printed. The stencil can be made of paper or plastic with the positive areas cut out or created by using an emulsion that hardens and creates a block.

The matrix (material being printed upon) is laid on a flat surface. The screen is laid onto the matrix and a thick ink is placed onto the screen. A squeegee type tool is used to push the pigment through the screen mesh in the positive areas evenly onto the material. Each color used in a print requires a separate screen and application of ink. To keep the colors in their correct placement, registration marks are used to align each screen.

Serigraphs are recognized by the areas of flat color. Each color used and colors created by the layering of pigments will create complex imagery. As each color is printed, the stencil erodes due to the friction caused by the squeegee. Usually less than 200 prints can be pulled in an edition. Each will be slightly different because of the hand process of pulling each print and intentional variation by the artist. The fine art print is signed and numbered in pencil.

When Andy Warhol created his Marilyn Monroe series as serigraphs, it challenged the concept of artistic originality. Each print was of a different color and deliberately out of registration or with an overlapping of the stencils. Collectors consider serigraphs a good investment as they are originals and because the artist prints the images in less time and expense, the prints can be offered at more affordable prices than individually painted pieces of art. Serigraphs not hand-pulled or numbering more than 200 are typically not considered as good investments.

Suzanne Snider, August 2010

Mujer y luna, Enar Cruz, 1996
(Woman and Moon)
serigraph in 14 colors
19" x 28"

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