Design in labors of love

Local | Bernard Charnwut Chan 21 Apr 2021

In celebration of the 20th anniversaries of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and the Hong Kong Open Printshop, the institutions have teamed up to coorganize two exhibitions entitled 20/20 Hong Kong Print Art and Between the Lines: The Legends of Hong Kong Printing.

The history of printing in Hong Kong is a storied one with more than 200 print shops open at one stage in Central and Sheung Wan. As international trading companies, shops, and other businesses opened and made the area an economic hub, print shops emerged to service their stationery needs.

Described as a labor of love, many of the younger generation may not be aware of how demanding letterpress printing was. It could take weeks or even months to painstakingly hand etch images on various surfaces to be pressed precisely on paper.

"Printmaking is really important in the whole [of] human history, not just in art history," is how featured artist David Clarke describes the business.

The 20/20 exhibition is structured around 20 questions related to print art, which are subsequently answered by 20 different sets of curated artworks. These pieces include prints by masters as well as budding young artists.

People can see how traditional print art can cross over into new media such as animation, 3D printing and augmented reality to create modern artworks like illustrations, zines and posters.

The Between the Lines exhibition also showcases traditional printing methods involving movable type and lithography.

With travel abroad difficult, what better time to explore Hong Kong's local culture and history?

These two exhibitions, offered at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum until July 26, showcase the lost art of traditional printing and introduce a new generation to reimagined printed products, reviving the treasured medium for a modern audience.

Bernard Charnwut Chan is chairman of Tai Kwun Culture & Arts Co Ltd.

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