Invocations to the Plate, the title of a new exhibition and book presenting the work of Deborah Bell, makes bold claims about the power of printmaking: if an artist is offering prayers and incantations at the altar of the printing plate, something supernatural is under way. Artists working in printing studios are not simply humble supplicants at the mercy of a whimsical deity, however much one might affirm that the joy of printmaking lies precisely in those elements that cannot be controlled in the transfer of an image onto paper. The highly specialised techniques involved and the almost arcane knowledge they require make the printers more like priests; they are intercessor between the chemical, or alchemical, gods and the viewer. As Jacqueline Flint affirms, a visual artwork — and a print in particular — is like a poem in that, although it "lives many lives and endures much drafting", there is "no real evidence of the massive undertaking in the final product", which "appears effort...

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