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by Henrik Bøegh

click for the latest review by Elisa Angelina


Henrik Boegh is an author and artist known in the printmaking world. Since he established Grafisk Eksperimentarium in Copenhagen in 1997 he has been working to spread the techniques of nontoxic intaglio across Europe.

When I received an email from my friend Friedhard Kiekeben telling me he had settled in America, my first thought was "what a pity for the European printmaking world". I read that he had set up a new website for the dissemination of research into non-toxic printmaking and I thought, in our global world where we are all communicating on the web, what does it matter where in the world you are living? If you have important things to communicate, they will get through. I felt very honoured when Friedhard asked me if I would be interested in writing an article for his website - and, well here it is:                         Henrik Boegh,
summer workshop,
Andalucia, Spain

Henrik Boegh's Website     

My Approach to Non-Toxic Printmaking
Since meeting Eli Poinsaing, Associate Professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, at the beginning of the 1990s, I have devoted a bigger part of my life to non-toxic intaglio printmaking. I have been working as a professional artist since 1977 especially with black and white photography, but also with traditional printmaking. However, I stopped intaglio printmaking because of the very toxic environment of printmaking studios.

When Poinsaing introduced me to his new and completely non-toxic discoveries using photopolymer plates (solarplates) for photogravures as well as vegetable oil for cleaning the plates, I certainly saw a new world opening which I could use in the production of my own fine art pieces. Eli Poinsaing had already introduced the new methods in Scandinavia and published a Danish/English book on what he called Photopolymergravure. A few years later I wrote a more hands-on manual on Photogravure which I published for fellow photographers in Denmark. At the same time I started conducting workshops
for individual photographers using this new medium in my own studio in Denmark.

   Henrik Bøegh, Angkhor Temple Cambodia, photogravure from copper plate, 2003

                      click below for more images of artwork and a full essay on Henrik Bøegh's work:

                           The Decisive Moment    The Art of Henrik Bøegh, by Friedhard Kiekeben

My visit to the Canadian School of Non-Toxic Printmaking in Alberta

During the mid 90s I heard about the experiments Keith Howard had begun with photopolymer film and acrylic etching grounds at the Canadian School of Non-Toxic Printmaking in Alberta; and also about a large printmaking studio in Edinburgh where they had completely changed all classic printmaking methods to the new non-toxic methods. Of course, I had to find out what was going on. With support from the Danish Ministry of Cultural Affairs I got the financial backing to make a trip to Canada, where I had the pleasure of participating in one of Keith Howard's summer workshops. What was going on there and what he had developed was nothing but a revolution to me. Of course everything at that time was at its very beginning, but I was not in doubt about the perspectives - it was simply a gift to the printmaking world, art schools, health and environment - yes everybody involved in printmaking as fine art. To me Keith was not only a sympathetic person with a lot of vision - he knew what he was dealing with and he was not afraid of communicating his ideas. My visit in Canada became not only a shot in the arm, but also the beginning of a close friendship with the man to whom the whole printmaking world can only be thankful.

My visit to the Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop in Scotland
Later the same year I had the pleasure to participate in a workshop at the Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop. Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop was as far as I know the first large-scale open access studio to take the message of Non-Toxic Printmaking seriously. Under the leadership of Robert Adam and with Friedhard Kiekeben as chief researcher in non-toxic materials and methods they had simply changed the workshop from a traditional printmaking studio to a completely non-toxic studio. The atmosphere as well as the level of fine art prints I saw there convinced me immediately - and I knew I had to introduce these techniques to the very closed world of Scandinavia printmakers, where people tended to keep their "secrets" to themselves and were also very sceptical of new ideas. I knew it would be difficult but, if it was introduced strategically "correctly" and with economic support, I knew it would be realistic.

The Foundation of Grafisk Eksperimentarium,
After six months of practicing with the new techniques in order to be completely sure about the strong and the weak points of the new system, I established Grafisk Eksperimentarium (The Printmakers Experimentarium) in Copenhagen and arranged a three-day conference in the historical Danish town of Elsinore with support from the Danish Ministry of Environmental Affairs. Here I invited Keith Howard and Friedhard Kiekeben to be the key speakers for an audience of about fifty important printmaking individuals (artists, teachers at art schools and fine arts academies from Sweden and Denmark) as well as The Danish Printmakers Society. At the conference everybody had the opportunity to see demonstrations by Keith and Friedhard of all the techniques involved in Non-Toxic Intaglio. The Danish Ministry of Environmental Affairs not only financed the conference but they also made it possible for me to get an assistant for further research in my studio, to send newsletters to artists and art schools in the whole of Scandinavia (before emails were common) and run a series of workshops.

The aims of Grafisk Experimentarium were and still are:
  • Testing and evaluating new printmaking techniques and materials based on acrylics and polymers
  • Imparting experience with such techniques and materials to art schools and creative artists
  • Arranging workshops, conferences and demonstrations of non-toxic printmaking
  • Advising schools and graphics workshops on establishing and equipping non-toxic studios


Shortly after the start of Grafisk Eksperimentarium I wrote a Danish version of my Handbook of Non-Toxic Intaglio and produced the DVD Non-Toxic Intaglio Step by Step.
The book is available in English; Dutch/Flemish; Spanish and French translations.


The Situation in Europe today
Throughout the period 1997-2004 I arranged workshops and conferences not only in Denmark but also in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Holland, Belgium and Germany. In 2005 I moved my studio to Spain where I had already had a small art school for the last 20 years, together with my wife, teaching fine art photography and painting. At this time most of Scandinavia and northern Europe has already changed to the new non-toxic techniques and other people have taken over the spreading of the message. I realised that France, Spain and Italy were left behind because all information about non-toxic printmaking until then has been communicated in English.

In 2005
, Eva Figueres, professor in printmaking at the University in Barcelona, arranged a conference on non-toxic intaglio where I had the pleasure of delivering lectures and demonstrations together with Friedhard Kiekeben. Most of the Spanish universities and many Spanish master printers were invited to the three-day event. Shortly after, Eva Figueres published a Spanish book outlining the findings of the conference. In addition, the University of Granada decided to translate (and publish) my book into Spanish with help from the well-known professor of printmaking, Juan Carlos Ramon Guadix, from the Facultad de Bellas Artes in Granada. The message was spread and well received, and since then we have seen huge interest in the new techniques among the universities and important studios in Spain. As I speak Spanish, I have taken an active part in this development by arranging workshops at universities, art foundations and art schools across Spain. In addition, I am kept busy running international workshops for professional artists in my own studio in Andalusia.

For further information; free newsletters (non-toxic updates) about the latest developments regarding Non-Toxic Intaglio; and workshop dates
you are welcome to visit my homepage

Henrik Boegh, Copenhagen

 a student shares the workshop experience:

“What a week ! The workshop with Henrik was even better than I imagined. A beautiful week in Capiliera; a stunning destination and a non-toxic etching course that was one of the most enriching experiences I have known. The multiple techniques that we were taught seem infinite in terms of possibilities. The superposition of images from different sources and the translation of texture and form into two dimensional prints seem endless sources of inspiration for future artistic endeavors. I believed the course would enable me to carry out traditional methods of etching in a non-toxic environment using safe products but everyday was a discovery of new, exciting ways to print and build bridges between different categories of images...
I left Capiliera with ‘wings’ and an urgent need to set up my own workshop...Thank you so much."



Non-toxic printing in Europe

by Elisa Angelina

Ever since its beginnings engraving has had a negative
and dangerous impact both on the environment and
on artists owing to its use of toxic chemicals and
materials. Chalcography, lithography and serigraphy are
the techniques that use the most polluting elements and their
processes remained the same since well into the 20th century.
Non-toxic engraving arose during the 80’s, with the first additions
of water acrylics and developed fully during the 90’s with the
goal of eliminating as far as possible all the varnishes, dissolvent,
resins and fumes which are toxic to the engravers.
Personalities such as Keith Howard or Friedhard Kiekeben
are considered to be the fathers of non-toxic printing and the
inspiration of Henrik Bøegh, creator of Grafisk Eksperimentarium,
subject of this article.

Henrik Bøegh, born in Copenhagen, specialist in black and white
photography, created his own non-toxic atelier in 1997, naming it
Grafisk Eksperimentarium. His goal was to teach and spread this
practice throughout Europe, especially in non-English speaking
countries such as Spain, France or Eastern European countries.
His connection with non-toxic printing started at the beginning of
the 90’s thanks to the associate lecturer of the Danish Fine Arts
Royal Academy, Eli Poinsaing, who introduced him to the use of
photopolymer plates or solar plates, as well as use of vegetable
oils to clean plates.

Once his interest in these new work methods was awakened
he discovered the research undertaken by Keith Howard in
Canada, where he had created a non-toxic print shop and
was experimenting with photopolymers and acrylic varnishes.
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, Friedhard Kiekeben had
created Edinburgh Printmakers where he replaced classic
techniques with non-toxic ones. Bøegh had the chance to attend
various workshops in both places and then created his studio,
firstly in Copenhagen and then in Granada.

Now Henrik Bøegh is one of the main promoters of nontoxic
engraving in Europe. His prolific activity is focused on
spreading these techniques throughout Denmark, where
Keith Howard or Friedhard Kiekeben are considered to be the fathers
of non-toxic printing and the inspiration of Henrik Bøegh,
creator of Grafisk Eksperimentarium.

Many artists have followed his steps, converting
to non-toxic printing and setting up their own studios along
the same lines. Since starting out in 1995 he has received
economic and educational support from both the Danish
Culture Ministry and the Environment Ministry, who have
contributed to spreading awareness of workshops and new
ideas proposed by Bøegh to printer associations, not only in
Denmark but also in Sweden and Norway. This way he became
the master of non-toxic printing throughout Scandinavia,
publishing for the first time his manual covering these
techniques in 1996 in Danish and later in English, French and

Bøegh’s activity is divided between his two studios and homes
in Copenhagen and Capileira in Granada. The courses and
workshops given in his home town focus on small groups of
professional photographers who he teaches about alternative
photoengraving and photographic processes. Special attention
is paid to offering advanced courses for creating negatives and
positives necessary for successful photography.

His connection to Spain started in 2003 when he came to give
a conference on “Non-toxic printmaking” in Barcelona, alongside
the already mentioned Friedhard Kiekeben. This conference took
place in the University of Barcelona over three days, under the
management of Eva Figueres, pioneer in the introduction of nontoxic
printmaking in Spain: It was attended by printmakers and
representatives of the country’s main universities. The Spanish
version of his manual “Non-toxic intaglio step by step” was
translated by Juan Carlos Ramos Guadix, lecturer in Printing
and Engraving at the University of Granada, resonating with that
conference cycle.

In addition, in 2004 he set up a model studio of what would be
an ideal non-toxic studio, linked to a workshop being developed
in Cuenca University’s Fine Arts Faculty. During 2005, Bøegh
continued to give classes and talks in cultural centres and
universities throughout Spain, especially Mallorca’s Pilar and
Joan Miró Foundation, Malaga’s Taller Gravura and Andorra’s
Centre Cultural La Llacuna, the Juan Lara Pringtshop in Madrid,
and the already mentioned Barcelona University and Cuenca

Its success lies on its international character which sets it apart from other
centres with a more local target audience.

                            samples of student work made during the summer workshops

His studio in Granada is located in an over 500-year old Moorish
house in Capileira in the Alpujarras, with views of Sierra Nevada,
where up to eight students stay together for a week. Those
courses take place from July to October so students can enjoy
eating and having classes in the garden or getting to know the
surrounding areas. These intensive workshops revolve around the
use of the acrylic printing system which includes Hard Grounds,
Soft Grounds, Spray-on Aquatint, Lift Ground and Direct Wash.
The photopolymer techniques include: Wash techniques, spitbite
techniques, different uses of photocopies for etchings,
digitally generated stencils, photopolymer gravure and genuine
photogravure (etched with photopolymer film used as resist).

Combinations of both systems are also taught and how to create
a perfect positive for photoengraving with Photoshop. At the end
of the 7-day workshop students leave with the necessary skills to
apply these concepts and to experiment freely with them.
The profile of these workshop participants is usually that of
professional artists or school or university teachers. Presence of
both is basic for the establishment of the practice of non-toxic
printing given that although studios and fine arts centres have the
necessary ventilation and equipment to use traditional engraving
techniques without harm, students when working alone will
probably not be able to count on the necessary means to have
work spaces with these conditions. By teaching this theoretical,
practical, sustainable and less toxic printing system, future artists
are ensured the possibility of opting to work in a less harmful
atmosphere while polluting the environment less.

Grafisk Ekspermentarium has grown over the years. Its success
lies on its international character which sets it apart from other
centres with a more local target; here participants have the
chance to enhance their networking and culture. Another aspect
to highlight is its economic Independence given that this centre is
self-financing in part thanks to its shop selling non-toxic products
and equipment and which benefits from the expert advice of
Henrik Bøegh himself.