THE MEANING OF THE MATRIX
This exhibition features a selection of prints alongside the plates, blocks, or stones from which they were generated. Although it is uncommon to reveal the source or plate when exhibiting prints, such a strategy can be illuminating, as demonstrated by the recent Chuck Close: Prints, Process and Collaboration (2015) exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney.
Terminology related to the art of printmaking can be arcane and inherently ambiguous. For example, the term ‘print’ is commonly used to refer to both the collective sense of an edition and the individual examples that comprise it. In printmaking, what secures this notion of a work of art with multiple instances or manifestations is the expectation that the prints are produced by the same author using the same process type; that is, a plate or matrix.3 Today, the generic term ‘matrix’ is often used to refer to the plate, block, stone, screen, negative, or stencil that generates the printed image. Interestingly, this term has not yet been adopted for the memory cards or data files that carry the binary code for digital prints, despite the fact that the mathematical definition of ‘matrix’ as a numeric array would seem a perfect descriptive fit.