Serigraphy is the artist’s term used to describe the art of silk-screening, an adaptation of the ancient method of duplicating an image by stenciling. The stencil method is one of the oldest and easiest forms of printing. A design is cut out of a piece of paper or other material and paint or ink is brushed or daubed over the cutout area to print the design. The hand was used as a stencil in prehistoric paintings that were found alongside cave paintings of animals in the Magdalenian caves of the French Pyrenees Mountains. With some variations of materials and technique, the simple stencil has been used for centuries to apply decorative forms to textiles, wallpaper, furniture and many other items. More complicated stenciling was found in the decorations of Egyptian tombs, while the ancient Romans advertised coming events at their games by stenciling letters on wooden signs. Among the stencil’s most simple, yet ubiquitous applications, everyone is familiar with lettering on packages and crates. Today’s serigraph represents the highest evolution, and most complex manifestation of what is the simple process of stenciling.
The development of screenprinting was an evolutionary process shared by numerous unknown artisans in the past. One who is known was Samuel Simson, who applied for, and was granted a patent in England for a process of painting designs on silk. It was very much like the method used in the Middle Ages, but this process used a glue-like substance that filled the spaces in the fabric, creating a fixed stencil. The printing inks were forced through the uncoated areas with a stiff brush. In the 1920’s, the squeegee, a flat, rigid board with a flexible rubber edge was designed to force the printing ink through the fabric with more efficiency and uniformity than was attainable with stiff brushes.
Technology continued to improve, as in virtually every other field of endeavor, and the process of screenprinting became, with artist’s application of the printing medium, serigraphy. In 1940, The National Serigraph Society was founded in the U.S. to exhibit and promote screenprinting throughout the world. Carl Zigrosser, then curator of the prestigious Philadelphia Museum of Art, coined the expression “serigraph” from the Latin word for “silk”, seri, and the Greek word for “to write”, graphos. It took two more significant developmental and creative pushes before serigraphy was considered a legitimate fine art printing medium.
The first push was provided in the 1950’s by Lutpold Domberger in Stuttgart, Germany. He offered his print studio to prominent artists associated with the Op Art movement. Respected artists like Josef Albers and Victor Vasarely combined their artistic visions with Domberger’s relentless pursuit of perfection as a screenprinter. They created superior, finely executed serigraphs which were sought by art galleries and collectors around the world. These efforts, combined with the experimentation of such artists as Jackson Pollack helped to keep the screenprint medium in the forefront of printmaking. This sparked an explosion of creativity in the field, which followed in the 1960’s, with the next great creative push. The Pop Art movement, and Andy Warhol in particular, gave the medium it’s ultimate legitimacy in the fine arts.
With the advent of improved inks, registration systems, varnishes and of substrates on which to print, today’s serigraphs are as similar to their stencil predecessors as a bicycle is to a Rolls Royce automobile. The marriage of artisan and artist, together with the use of the remarkable advances in technology, has led to the creation of serigraphs which are not only technological marvels but exquisite works of fine art. Serigraphs are produced in limited editions in order to control their rarity and the screens are destroyed once an edition is completed. Each print is signed by the artist and numbered. An additional attribute of a serigraph is that, each print may vary slightly because it is printed by hand, and thus is considered to be a unique itself.
The translation of the paintings of Spanish master Royo, with their original brilliance and texture, into a graphic medium would have been impossible until now. Only with the most advanced methods of today’s serigraphy could one hope to capture the luminosity and feel of Royo’s work. Royo’s publisher and his agents, along with the artist, work very closely with their serigraphic atelier, whom they consider to be among the finest screenprinters in the world. They literally act as the artist’s hands in creating his serigraphs. The production of each graphic may involve more than one hundred screens, and a team of 5 to 6 printers, working for between 3 and 6 months. Each application of ink through a screen onto a surface is achieved by hand. Royo’s serigraphs are among the most complex prints ever created by a major artist and studio.
The final prints have been able to capture the vibrancy, luminosity, texture and strength of the original painting, and yet they are a new and unique art form in and of themselves. Corrections of colors and details have been under the personal direction of the artist in order to assure the integrity of the final serigraph. The signature of the artist indicates his individual inspection and approval of each graphic work.