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“The humble white t-shirt has come a long way since the days of Brando, Dean and Wayne. It has been controversial, sexy, political, ironic and just plain cool. Who knows where it’s going to go next?
– David Sinclair, Exhibition Curator
The T-Shirt has certainly been on a journey throughout the years, from its early guise as a man’s under garment, it has been re-imagined and redeveloped to the point whereby this often taken for granted item has played a role in many of the most significant cultural changes that have taken place.
However, rather than a biographical account of the history of everyone’s go-to garment for all occasions, the exhibition will navigate a timeline of selected milestones in the life of the T-shirt. Featuring more than 100 items spanning 50 years, the experience is laid out into twelve sections where we see its evolution from early production and design techniques, to today’s wearable tech. There’s also a look at the T as a canvas for art, its place within pop culture and it’s role in subverting gender norms.
One of the newest types of art in the West, screen printing (screenprinting, silkscreen, or serigraphy - from sericum, Latin for silk) is a twentieth century intaglio printmaking technique derived from traditional stencilling, itself one of the earliest forms of graphic art duplication.
Usually, screen printing involves placing a fine mesh screen, which is stretched tightly over a wooden frame, above a piece of paper. Then colour is forced through the screen with a rubber blade called a squeegee. Usually the screen is made of silk, hence the name silk screen printing. However, as cotton, nylon or metal can also be used, the more inclusive term is screen printing. Some professional artists prefer to use the term serigraphy to differentiate between artistic screen printing and that of commercial printing.
A Brief History of Screen Printing
Screen printing is based on the technique of using stencils, which is one of the oldest techniques of artist expression. In the prehistorical cave paintings, images of stencilled hands have been found, the contours of which were sprayed on the wall with the help of blowpipes.
A style of screen printing first appeared in China during the era of Song Dynasty Art (960-1279). Some of the earliest applications can be found in Medieval Japan. Both in China and Japan, the use of stencil was popular for decorating cloth. The Japanese improved this technique, and their use of fabric dyeing stencils, called katagami, was very similar to the screen printing technique of today.
In 1907 Samuel Simon patented screen-printing in England. At first, the process was used to print interesting colours and patterns on wall paper and fabrics and then by advertisers. Eventually however it was adopted by artists as a convenient and reliable way of reproducing their works. In todays contemporary world screen printing is used by fine artists, and along with commercial printers who use graphic screen printing to place images on t-shirts, DVDs, glass, paper, metal and wood. In the 1930s a group of artists, who wanted to differentiate what they did from the commercial world, formed the National Serigraphic Society. In doing so, they linked the word Serigraphy with fine arts and screen printing. 'Seri' is Latin for silk and 'graphein' is Greek for to write or draw.