The graphic arts technique of the woodcut is simply printing an image carved in plywood on paper. To make a print you place the carved wood in a mould with a backstop at right angles and apply the first colour with an ink roller. Then you line up a sheet of high-quality paper, cover that with a piece of cardboard and roll the inked woodcut through a hand press. After this first printing, you carve out more of the wood. The new cuts do not take up ink so that in these areas the paper retains the colour applied earlier. The final image emerges gradually, layer by layer, through many printings. Finally there is little wood left which is why this technique is sometimes called the reduction woodcut. The French aptly call it ‘bois perdu’, or ‘lost wood’. This method inherently produces a limited edition – the number of prints has to be decided beforehand. It is impossible to print additional copies afterwards because the wood used for the earlier printings has been cut away.
Antje likes to explore her subject matter in depth – she can work for many months or even years on a single theme. But that does not mean she has difficulty in finding new ground; over the years she has learned that new stories have a way of presenting themselves of their own accord. New themes may be found for instance in a forgotten picture postcard as was the case with her series of prints on Etruscan dancers. An ordinary holiday trip often sparks off new ways to develop familiar themes. As long as there is continuity in her work, there will always be enough inspiration. In a way, every print or painting already carries in it her next work of art. Antje feels very privileged to be able to do what she loves best.
Traditional woodcut printing techniques are valued more highly in the many countries of Eastern Europe and Asia than in the Netherlands. Every two to three years Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Poland, Bulgaria, among other countries, organise major exhibitions that focus intensely on graphic arts from all over the world. In 2004 I was invited to participate in the 13th Seoul Space International Print Biennale in Korea. I was not only lucky enough to be selected to take part, but also awarded a prize. You never know when the time is right to submit your work. The time for crossing borders may have already come – and you didn’t even know it. Everything happens in its own time.