Contemporary prints have taken more of a focus in South Africa today. Contemporary prints refer to prints that have been made during our time. Contemporary prints are up-to-date and made during what we refer to as the modern age. Thus a print made by Van Gogh or by Durer would not be considered contemporary prints. Its not surprising that contemporary prints in South Africa are so exciting, a relection of the exciting changes that have taken place in South Africa.
Contemporary prints come in a vast array of formats and types and are as varied as the contemporary art scene is. Contemporary prints in some countries are quite traditional and follow the way things have been done in that particular country. For example many contemporary prints made in Japan pay homage to that countries tradition of fine wood block printing. A lot of contemporary prints in the USA follow a different kind of tradition, that of abstract expressionism. Contemporary prints utilise a number of different techniques but can be placed in the abstract expressionism tradition.
Contemporary prints and printmaking have been stimulated by the deliberate setting up of tertiary printmaking departments in an effort to stop certain techniques from dying out. Institutions such as the Tamarind Institute and Rutgers University in the USA have ensured that contemporary prints include a healthy dose of lithography. These organisations have not only benefited contemporary prints in the USA but have also reached out across the globe and have resulted, through the training of master printers, in the establishment of a number contemporary print workshops such as The Artists' Press in South Africa and Taller de Artes Visuales in Chile.
Contemporary prints often combine different print techniques and elements in ways that were not done in the past. Thus a print by Toon Verhoef (Netherlands) will include collage elements that have been printed on separately and Erika Hibbert and Joachim Schonveldt (South Africa) will include aspects of embossing in their work which adds detail and texture to the contemporary prints.
With the vast array of contemporary prints that are available one needs to do some research before investing in work. The main criteria should be whether you like the image and whether it is in fact a genuine hand printed limited edition print. If you are not sure of what you are looking at ask for a documentation sheet and ask for details of how the print was made. If you are still not sure ask a reputable contemporary prints dealer for advice.