The Daily Heller: Before NFTs, There Were FMONOPs (Fungible Monoprints)

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The art market differs from the design business in many obvious ways. A painter usually creates only one version of a painting, unless obsession or perfection takes over and more are made to “get it right.” Printmakers usually make limited editions (although there are limits to the concept of signed and limited) and one person owns the block or plate. Graphic designers, conversely, produce their work to be multiplied; even propriety forms, such as typeface designs, are assumed to be used by many, although owned by one individual or entity. Now, let’s look at the monoprint. Long before Web3, you could argue that MONOPs were the NFTs of their day.

Although often made in more than one version, each MONOP has some difference inherent in its production. One such is this suite of bespoke rubber stamps by Portuguese illustrator Bernardo Baghulho.

“This stamp collection started when I was in EINA—Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona in the class of Alexis Rom back in 2018,” he says. “There, we experimented with a good range of DIY printing techniques. That moment was a turning point on my approach to image-making. I kept experimenting to print with ‘unofficial’ materials after those classes, from foam sheets to PVC, industrial rubber, school rubber and anything that could hold and release the ink.”

This set of stamps is produced in a more mechanical way. Baghulho created a vector file, printed a photolith from it, then used the photolith to reveal a photosensitive rubber, normally those found in a usual print/stamp shop. “In the end, I cut and glued the stamps on small wood cubes. Using all the faces of the cube saves me space to transport all of them. As an ongoing project, I see it as an alphabet of forms; every time I play with them I feel the need to add more elements. This approach to image-making is very liberating and intuitive. It bridges shapes and meaning in a very delightful way.”

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