The production of archivally stable fine art prints: The role of the master printer in the digital age
Thirkell, P. and Laidler, P. (2006) The production of archivally stable fine art prints: The role of the master printer in the digital age. In: Thompson, R., Manning, A. and Townsend, J., eds. (2006) Preservation and Conservation Issues Related to Digital Printing and Digital Photography. World Power Books. ISBN 9780955398407
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From a conference paper given at the Third International Conference: Preservation and Conservation Issues Related to Digital Printing and Digital Photography, 25th April 2006, Institute of Physics, London. For many blue chip artists the master printer has been essential to the realization of highly creative, innovative, museum quality prints. Besides offering bespoke printing services and techniques, one of the many concerns of the master printer - especially in the latter half of the 20th century- was to translate the artists creative intentions into print through fully preservable materials. A further offshoot of this work also, (in many cases) necessitated the actual documentation of the artists working approach and procedures in note form and progressive proofs to provide a unique insight into the creative process.This paper outlines some of the previous parameters and achievements in the field, looking at some of the worlds most prestigious print ateliers and examining the work produced for major artists under these terms. The paper will then investigate how the precedents of the master printer/atelier system have transferred into the field of digital printing for fine artists at the onset of the 21st century. For many, the current generation of digital inkjet printers (especially wide format printers) can be seen to have had a democratising effect on the art world. Where artists who formerly needed to access the master printers skills and technology to produce ambitious print works, can now with a computer and access to a wide format printer create similar results. Or can they? By giving an overview of the specialised print work produced by the University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research digital printing facility and a selection of other British Digital Printing Studios, the presentation will provide an overview of some of the advantages offered by the transfer of the master printer system to the digital arena, arguing the case for the production of prints aiming to maintain and transcend the high standards of individuality and permanence previously set by 20th century analogue print practice.