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Beauty of reduction

Artists revolutionize woodblock printing and provide a lifeline for their village, Hou Chenchen and Li Yingqing report in Pu'er.

By Hou Chenchen and Li Yingqing | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-25 10:55
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University students from New Zealand get hands-on experience of woodblock printing at a studio in Pu'er, Yunnan province, in 2017. [Photo provided to China Daily]

In his exploration of the art he eschewed multiple blocks in favor of a single block that he continuously carved into while pigmenting and printing the evolving images. This dynamic process of carving and deconstructing gave birth to what we now know as destructed print, or reduction print.

Leng Guangmian, chief of the reduction woodblock print studio and the teaching base of Pu'er University's fine art students, says he first encountered the technique at Pu'er University in 2003.

"I had experimented with various painting techniques such as oil painting, wash painting and watercolor sketching outdoors," he said. "However, I ultimately returned to reduction woodblocks because its artistic language resonates most with my expression."

A reduction woodblock print is characterized by three things, he says: its unique layered texture; harmonious color blending; and the unpredictability of the production process.

In contrast to traditional woodblock printing, in which colors are sequentially pressed onto paper from different boards, resulting in defined color edges, reduction woodblock are printed and simultaneously cut into the boards.

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