RISD Students Investigate Traditional Printmaking Techniques in Europe 

a hand painting with sumi ink

Senior Adrian Jackson 23 PR (pictured painting above) was one of 15 students learning to work with sumi ink during Assistant Professor Daniel Heyman’s globe-trotting Wintersession Printmaking class Berlin and Utrecht: Paper, Print, Sumi Drawing. “There are lessons to be learned in European cities about the devastation of war, the fragile promise of peace and the role of visual culture in both building and tearing down societies,” says Heyman. 

Utrecht's Oudegracht at night
Utrecht’s Oudegracht at night with cast iron caryatides (female figures serving as support columns) dating back to the 1830s.

The class concentrates on traditional techniques—ink drawing, papermaking and printmaking—and examines how modern and contemporary artists are using them to explore global issues in visual terms. The students began their journey in Utrecht, the Netherlands with an intensive sumi ink workshop led by Dutch artist Nel Pak, who provided historical context for the art form and even showed students how to make gradations of black and gray inks from ink sticks, a tradition dating back thousands of years. 

“There are lessons to be learned in European cities about the devastation of war, the fragile promise of peace and the role of visual culture in both building and tearing down societies.”

Assistant Professor Daniel Heyman

Before leaving the Netherlands, the class explored sustainable papermaking at Papiermakerij de Hoop and visited the Depot Boijmans in Rotterdam, the Joods Historisch Museum and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, where students were able to see important ink paintings by South African artist Marlene Dumas.

RISD students work with work with papermaker Marieke de Hoop

collaborating on a large-format sumi ink drawing
Above, Molly Stark, Adrian Jackson and Anik Levcovici work with papermaker Marieke de Hoop; below, Pai Liu and Dylan Fan collaborate on a large-format sumi ink drawing during a workshop with Dutch artist Nel Pak.

After heading east to Berlin, they participated in a cotton, hemp, abaca and denim papermaking workshop with renowned papermaker Gangolf Ulrich; visited the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe; saw Puccini’s opera Tosca at the Deutsche Oper Berlin; and were welcomed into the studios of printmaker Eva Pietzcker and Keystone Editions

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

students making paper by hand
Above, Germany’s 18th-century Brandenburg Gate; below, Adrian Jackson, Kate Walker and Ariana Padovano pull paper sheets during Gangolf Ulbricht’s papermaking workshop.

“We also traveled by train to Leipzig, which was formerly part of East Germany,” says Heyman. “Leipzig native and linocut artist Harald Alff introduced us to the arts community there, which is very active, and spoke about what life was like for artists under the Communist regime.” Modern-day Leipzig, he adds, has a huge impact on the international art world via the New Leipzig School, which is centered around the studio spaces and galleries of the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei.

papermaker Gangolf Ulbricht works with students
Papermaker Gangolf Ulbricht shares tricks of the trade with RISD students.

“With images of the war in Ukraine flooding our cultural consciousness, the global influence of what happens in Europe is undeniable,” says Heyman.

—Simone Solondz / photos by Daniel Heyman

February 7, 2023

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