Venetian Artisans: OI VOI VA

Robert Eric Shoemaker is a Chicago journalist traveling in Venice, Italy. This post is part of the series, “Venetian Artisans”, a project supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

ROMAN TCHERPAK is a photographer-turned-printmaker with a small shop in Venice, Italy (Visit the print shop on Facebook, or view Roman’s photography online). He works in what he calls a “new style” of printmaking; taking a Xerox print and turning it into a hand-pressed ink print using shellac, glue, water, and elbow grease. Roman’s planning on teaching the method to Venetians and resident artists through a series of classes. This style of Xerox lithography has existed for a while in the printing world, but isn’t as widespread in Venice.

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Roman’s little bottega in Castello, a neighborhood of Venezia, is an inky-smelling dig with exposed brick and a plant hanging from the ceiling on a plank of wood. Handprinted lithographs coated the walls the first time I visited. Most of these were of Venice: the Bridge of Sighs, gondole, San Marco. There was some variation.

The young woman assisting Roman in the print shop, named Jeva, showed me a large book, about two feet by one and a half feet, very thick, which was full of prints depicting photographs of women with writing on their bodies. “I’m chapter 56”, says Jeva as she walks away. I flip through the pages, but fail to find Jeva’s photograph before she beckons me to the “work table” where they make the Xerox lithographs.

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Roman is a photographer with a special interest in what he calls “at home” printmaking. Jeva explains that she “doesn’t know the chemical reaction” of it, but that Roman “has invented” a method of transforming plain-ole digital prints, from a computer printer onto Xerox paper, into lithographs. Xerox lithography hasn’t become widespread in Italy, or at least in the small artist communities of Venice. Jeva and Roman are excited to spread this process around and teach others how to “make prints at home.”

Jeva showed me, and it does turn out a beautiful piece of printmaking- a very normal lithographic print. The steps are easy- you can view them in a pictorial form at this link- and are doable with very few, mostly household, chemicals. Jeva smiles as she shows off the print. Did she smile like that in the Bible-photo-in-the-giant-book?

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Several days later, Oi Voi Va opened a gallery exhibition of posters designed by artists from around the world in support of Ukraine’s liberation from Russia. These posters ranged from very clear rhetoric telling the Russians how it is to subtleties: a bit of blood seeping from between the colors on the Ukrainian flag, adaptations of the Russian flag, and some more abstract expressions. The exhibition also featured an interactive graphic novel (advertised by the poster) which you could view seated in an old electric chair.

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I revisited the shop at this time, which was transfigured from a lovely inky mess into a centrally planned gallery. Jeva was there, sipping wine, and Roman was talking it up with a few guests. He proudly showed off his lithograph prints, hopefully to inspire others to begin “at home” printing.

-Robert Eric Shoemaker, 8/23/2014
, Venice, Italy
See more of Eric’s writing at artigianidivenezia.com or reshoemaker.com

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Categories: Artists, Interesting Printmaking


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