Serigraphs: An Exceptional Ancient Technique Revisited

By P Abigail Sadhana Rao

Germination by S H Rhaza
Germination by S H Rhaza

Art is a form of human expression and throughout history, artists have used various techniques and mediums to create sensational artworks. Serigraphs are one such medium that has been widely used by many artists. Each piece of art has a story, from its conception to its execution and finally, when you purchase it, you will be continuing the story, the history, and the journey of that artwork. Buying art can be a daunting experience for the inexperienced, nonetheless, it is an adventurous journey, one that is personal and emotional.

Original paintings by master artists like M.F. Hussain, S.H. Raza, and others can bring dynamic energy into your space like no other and are hard to come by. Now, how does one go about collecting art, where to start, and what to buy… a dilemma that most novice collectors struggle with. Serigraphs may just be it. You may be wondering what they are in the art world. It is important not to get lost in the jargon. 

What is Serigraphy

Serigraphs by Thota Vaikuntam
Woman in Blue by Thota Vaikuntam

Serigraphy, also known as silk-screen painting or screen printing, is an ancient technique of printmaking derived from traditional stencilling.  It involves affixing an ink-blocking stencil to a woven mesh cloth to recreate an image. Serigraphs were considered less valuable than original paintings in India, and it was considered ubiquitous as they can be mass-produced. Husain campaigned against this dichotomy; he intended to make his art accessible and affordable to all and sought to break down hierarchies that existed within the exclusive art community.

Origin of Serigraphs 

Kerala by M F Hussain
Kerala V by M F Hussain

Serigraphs have been used since the 10th century; they have deep roots in ancient history, particularly in the Orient. It is a stencil-based printing technique that forces ink through a silk fine screen onto the paper beneath. However, silk screen printing, as we know it, dates back to the 20th century and it rose to prominence in the 1960s. With the advent of Pop Art, artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Peter Max, saw the potential of using serigraphs as a medium and experimented with it. This further led to the artistic acceptance of the medium and garnered much attention, as they are fine artworks in their own right. 

Making of Serigraphs 

Yogini by Seema Kholi
Yogini 2 by Seema Kohli

The process of making a serigraph is extremely laborious and takes a long while to complete. The screen is stretched over a wood or aluminium frame, and then parts of the screen are stencilled. The screen is then placed on top of the paper, and ink is applied to it. The ink is spread uniformly across the screen with a rubber-bladed squeegee; allowing ink to travel through the open gaps onto the paper below. Each colour in the print is printed on a separate screen, resulting in a finished serigraph with excellent colour density and colour reproduction. 

Are Serigraphs Reproductions of the Original Artwork?

Untitled by  K. G. Subramanyan

Untitled by K. G. Subramanyan

Unlike reproduction prints, which are mere colour prints of existing artworks, serigraphs are original artworks. They are either created by the original artist or collaboratively by the original artist and a professional printer.

Serigraphs are high-quality limited edition fine art prints that are carefully examined, signed, titled, and numbered by the artist himself. The signature on the serigraph marks its authenticity. The printer is also an expert at his/her craft, precisely matches the colour of the original artwork, and painstakingly applies the colour evenly. Finally, to enhance the exclusivity of the artwork, the artist destroys all the screen.

Serigraphs, in the recent past, have become quite valuable, depending on the artist’s historical significance; their value can increase with time. Limited edition serigraphs by Indian master artists, like M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza, Thota Vaikuntam, Jatin Das, Jyoti Bhatt, and others are featured on Mojarto. It offers a great opportunity for novice collectors to begin collecting works by renowned artists at affordable prices.