Printmaking is almost unknown in Cyprus during the whole period of foreign domination, i.e. since the 12th century. While foreign prints, first religious and cartographic (from the 15th to the 17th century), and subsequently with archaeological, folkloric and historical content (from the 17th to the 19th century) are created for Cyprus, and carved wooden matrices are printed traditionally on bread (“typarka”) and fabric, for stamped scarfs, there are no printmakers in the artistic sense of the word.
In World War II, Telemachos Kanthos, following his studies in Athens where he studies printmaking at G. Kefallinos’ workshop, starts creating prints, mainly woodcuts, printing by hand. Since then, he is inspired by his country. He depicts landscapes and ordinary people of Cyprus, scenes from the traditional rural life, while the tragic modern history of the island, especially the invasion in 1974, gives to his woodcuts a dramatic nature through the simple expressiveness of his printmaking language.
Both self-learning and educated artists from the same generation of Kanthos but also from the next generation are experimenting with various printmaking techniques, mainly woodcutting and linocutting. In the 70s, Stelios Votsis and Stass Paraskos, important painters and “revolutionary” artists in Cyprus, who have both studied in London, are marginally engaged in screen printing that enables them to use their painting language in printmaking. Since, other artists, with knowledge acquired through their artistic experience abroad, create – among other art works – prints using various techniques.
Young self-taught painter and printmaker, Hambis, meets with A. Tassos who gives him his first printmaking lessons. After his studies in Moscow, he dedicates all of his life in printmaking, creating woodcuts, lithographs, etchings but mainly linocuts and screen prints. Almost his whole printed work testifies his deep love for Cyprus. His works, in direct connection with the events experienced by his country and himself, as a refugee, give an account on the «disasters of the war», the sorrow of up-rooted people. He also depicts landscapes, traditional elements of architecture and art from antiquity, and customs. Much of his work comprises illustrations of Cypriot folk tales. Series or compositions including text and illustration, just like in the ancient block-books, his illustrations are always prints. The production of the modern book follows.
Linocut is the preferred mean of expression for painter Frixos Papantoniou when he is engaged in printmaking. With a very personal language, he combines in his linocuts the traditional printmaking with lino cutters and “etched” surfaces.
Painter Panayiotis Larkos, in most of his linocuts – often colour prints – praises in a lyrical language the beauties of Cypriot landscapes, its eternity, or laments with symbolism and hardness the tragedy of his country and condemns the invader.
Modern Cypriot artists – painters, sculptors etc., as well as exclusively printmakers – adopt all techniques and methods of printmaking in their printed graphic work. In particular, the young ones are experimenting, combining techniques, creating 3D prints and prints-objects. Of course, the collection of Hambis Printmaking Museum has also works of Turkish Cypriot printmakers who, as modern artists, follow the same trends.