Chaap-a stamp or impression

Walking down the memory lane we remember fine art prints being a private art form designed for connoisseurs and collectors, internationally. They were published in limited editions and hidden away in portfolios. From mid 20th century one saw the development of prints with affordable processes such as linocut, when editioned lithographs were made available for public. With major breakthroughs in creative statements, print possibly for the first time, shared the same stage with sculpture and painting(cited from Printmaking in the 21st century).

While in India, Raja Ravi Varma was the first artist who used printmaking, as a medium to reach the masses. He had set up his own lithographic press towards the end of the 19th century, known as the Ravi Varma Press in Ghatkopar, Bombay. Here he printed his religious and secular paintings as glossy oleographs-popularly known as Calendar Art.

Kolkata being the art pub for most of 18th, 19th and 20th centuries is where many creatives explored it. The first examples of lithographic illustrations were printed for a book, at the Government Lithographic press in Kolkata in 1824. As the demand for printed pictures for calendars, books and other publications grew in the 1870s, and as single sheet display prints (fine art prints) gained popularity, several art studios and printmaking presses flourished all over India.

The practice of printmaking as a fine art medium gained immense popularity with the establishment of Kala Bhavan founded by the Tagores in 1919. But only in 1990 was the Indian Printmakers Guild established formally. Few years later, for the benefit of many artists Chhaap (which literally means stamp or impression), a printmaking workshop in Baroda was formed on a cooperative basis in 1999.

Today many such collectives and spaces like Garhi and Lalit Kala studios in New Delhi, the Rashtriya Lalit Kala Studio in Lucknow, Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, the Print Studio and Academy of Fine Arts in Mumbai and The Kanoria Centre for Arts in Ahmedabad, provide infastructure for all mediums of printmaking since its an expensive art form(cited from The History of Printmaking in India).


Last Saturday, I met with a 32yr old Sonal Varshneya, who wants to only print throughout her life. Having done her Masters in Printmaking from Lalit Kala Sansthan, Agra University in 2007, this Generation X printmaker has come a long way, after winning several accolades both in India and abroad.

Her recent solo exhibitions have been Ambubachi at The Museum of Goa in 2016, The Heroine’s Last Dreams at Apparao Gallery, Chennai in 2015 and Etchings by Sonal Varshneya at the Triveni Art Gallery, New Delhi in 2014.

Belonging to a parochial family she has coyly employed iconography, inspired by Indian folklore, mythology and architecture to comment on contemporary society. And is seen particularly drawn to etching, because it allows the possibility of textures, subtle tonal gradations with sharp linear arrangements.

Her mother was her pillar of strength in the early days, as she too had graduated in Fine Arts and so was empathetic towards her career aspirations. After marriage Sonal shifted to Lucknow with her husband who is a painter.

She is now supported by Parked-At  Indian Printmakers Archive. This pop-up at Limon is infact their ongoing event series aimed to revive traditional Indian printmaking.

Etchings by Sonal Varshneya
at Limón studio till 11th December , 2016 
1/29 C Shanti Niketan, 2nd floor, New Delhi
+ 91 8826278883 | + 919810183427 (By Appointment)

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