Review: Frank Stella

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Frank Stella, Star of Persia II 1967, from the ‘Star of Persia’ series 1967
lithograph, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Purchased 1973

Frank Stella: The Kenneth Tyler Print Collection,

National Galley of Australia, Canberra (until July)

Reviewer: Peter Haynes

This exhibition highlights a selection of works from 1967 to 2000 created by artist Frank Stella and master printmaker Kenneth Tyler and drawn from the NGA’s incredibly rich collection of international prints.

While the overall hang is essentially chronological there has been some play with this in the initial section of the exhibition. Works from a number of series from the 1960s and early 1970s are placed variously but relationally around the walls as one enters the exhibition. The works from the 1960s (the Black series (1967); the Star of Persia series (1967); the V series (1968); and the Copper series (1970) are each characterised by a particularly singular elegant minimalism. The simple geometries (reinforced by the deliberately limited palettes) of the forms belie the expressive depth held in each graphic iteration. Stella’s highly effective use of the positive and negative spatial configurations on the paper prefigures the exuberant yet simultaneously controlled dynamism of the later works. The artist’s use of serial imagery, his signature repetition, does not signify “sameness”. Rather it announces the individuality of each print while concurrently asserting and celebrating familial similarity throughout each series.

As we progress into the 1970s colour begins to become more dominant and varied, yet it still remains constrained by the geometric forms in which it sits. Here this is beautifully exemplified in the Newfoundland series of 1971. Arcs, squares, rectangles and elliptical forms populate overall square matrices. The layered combination of forms invested with an equally varied colour palette imbues each work with a wonderful sense of immanence, a feeling that the forms and colours will explode from the paper as indeed they will as one moves through the exhibition. The flat (though bright) colours of the above are exchanged for a more explicitly graphic delineation in the works from the Eccentric series (1974).  The forms are almost “coloured in” with networks of singly coloured lines contained within each. Forms overlay and abut in combinations that speak of the eccentricities of the series’ title. Stella’s extraordinary aesthetic inventiveness is clearly evinced in the curator’s selection of early work and is for me a highlight of the exhibition.

The implied spatial dynamism of the above is liberated into exuberant expression in the early 1980s. A particularly seductive piece is Pergusa three double from the Circuits series (1982-84). This is a visual tour de force full of surface vitality and rhythmical spatial patternings. Its myriad colours aligned with graphic marks and sinuous arabesque forms presents a celebratory sensuousness that is visually enveloping and intellectually engaging. The selection from the Swan Engravings (1982-85) exquisitely highlights Stella’s and his printer’s consummate understanding of the medium (viz. etching) and the strength of aesthetic limitation. The use of black (in varying shades) is beautifully appropriate and creates a dense and rich confection. The artist’s versatility is further underscored by the inclusion of Had Gadya (1984). There is an almost explosive collision of forms that allied with a considered use of blue tones imbues that marvellous sense of immanence that becomes a given in Stella’s aesthetic treasury.

Moving into the 1990s the artist wholeheartedly embraces a Baroque lyricism and energy where harmonious combinations of colour, line and swirling (almost centrifugal) forms speak of the painterly possibilities of the graphic media. Stella does not ever feel limited by his technical choices. He is able to draw from whatever medium he chooses the most expressive content to suit his aesthetic and thematic ends. Works from the Moby Dick series (1991 and 1992) clearly illustrate this. The Moby Dick domes series (1992) remain however for me an aberrant inclusion – just too tricky. You don’t need to be too literal in signifying (unstated) possibilities! Understatement is so much more persuasive.

This is a really good exhibition exemplifying within a limited selection the great versatility, brilliance and talent of Frank Stella. It also celebrates the unlimited possibilities innate in print media and how the coming together of one individual’s aesthetic genius with another’s astute understanding of his various media moves art beyond its materials and techniques into great expressive moments.

The book accompanying the exhibition is highly recommended.

Peter Haynes is a curator, art historian and art writer. He is currently a critic for The Canberra Times. In September 2016 his monographic study on printmaker and painter Helen Geier was published by 2B in Canberra.

Postcard: Katy Mutton at ArtSpace, Sydney

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Clockwise from top: Exploring stitching; visiting Cicada Press;
                                                                                                            investigating laser press effects; and, below, some new ideas.

In June 2016 I received an email from the Print Council of Australia to advise that I had been awarded an ArtSpace residency for my commission screen print The Stack. Coincidently it was my birthday and I would have been hard pressed to think of a nicer present. I haven’t spent much time in Sydney so it was very exciting when in October, I found myself in the heart of the city, occupying a spacious self-contained studio at ArtSpace. I remember, having moved all my materials into the studio, I sat down on the sofa, taking in the silence and pondering the remarkable opportunity I had been presented with.

The spaces are fantastic, with high ceilings and large floor areas, exposed brickwork and big timber beams. The building, known as The Gunnery was built about 1900 and was used at one time by the Australian Navy as a gunnery and training facility. The Australian Navy is still present with their fleet base just nearby. In fact the view from my studio window looked directly out to some of these huge naval ships.  Given my practice has focused so much on the machines of war and our relationship with them, it seemed so fitting that I should be occupying such a space.

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ArtSpace is in Woolloomooloo; the suburb is a surreal mix of creeping gentrification and remaining public-housing stock.  The wealth that exists in the area emanates from Finger Wharf where multi-million dollar apartments sit above fine-dining restaurants. Just a few blocks back is a very different world where the homeless gather their day’s pickings behind boarded-up terrace houses. Just a five-minute walk in the opposite direction is the Royal Botanic Garden where groups of children gather on the lawns, eating sandwiches on their school excursions. Turn back nearer the city and you can retreat into the Art Gallery of New South Wales or walk further on to the State Library of NSW. It’s an exceptional environment to take time to wander and think.

An artist residency is as much about thinking as making and having the space to experiment. In residence my days lose their structure as I am consumed by practice. I work till 3am, sleep till 9am, work till 4pm, gather food and return to work through the night.  I used my time while undertaking this residency mainly to draw and plan for future works. I also spent a lot of time stitching on paper and mark-making. These are elements of my practice, which help me to work through ideas and allow me to absorb myself completely in process.

In addition to being in residence at ArtSpace I was also given access to the UNSW Art and Design department workshops where I was given a generous tour of their facilities. They showed me through several studios, Cicada Press and their ‘Maker Space’.  I was particularly keen to learn more about their collaborative making area where they foster an interdisciplinary environment for learning and sharing through technology. I was able to develop samples using their laser-engraving machine, which I hope will be the foundation for further experimentation with different substrate materials for printmaking. The ArtSpace staff were very welcoming, especially Lola Pinder who took time to take me over to UNSW and gave me lots of useful information about the area.

Late in the residency I held an open studio, prior to the Hungry Eyes Symposium at the Art Gallery of NSW. I enjoyed being able to discuss my practice with the group, which included members of the Print Council, ArtSpace staff and some of the other ArtSpace residents. I’m very grateful to the Print Council of Australia for providing me with this opportunity and to ArtSpace for being so supportive and accommodating. The experience has left me with plenty of new ideas and direction and I’m looking forward to spending more time in Sydney in the future. – KATY MUTTON

Katy Mutton is an interdisciplinary visual artist based in Canberra, Australia, working across drawing, painting, print and installation.

The journeys of Stephen Spurrier’s curious mind

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Journeys of a Curious Mind: The art & lives of Stephen Spurrier 

and Ugg Boot Press: It’s a long story

Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, 29 October-18 December

Reviewer: Jan Davis

An exhibition which honours a fifty-year career couldn’t be a better way to draw the Print Council of Australia’s fiftieth birthday celebrations to a close. Journeys of a Curious Mind: The art & lives of Stephen Spurrier celebrates an extraordinary Australian printmaker, relentless producer and inspiring teacher, possessed of unmatched curiosity, wit and generosity.

When writing about Spurrier it is impossible to divorce the work from the life. This artist moves through the world in a most imaginative way, awake to all manner of curiosities and contradictions from studying the miniature in the natural world to imagining the broadest cosmos, examining the human condition from the psychological to the physiological.

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Stephen Spurrier’s Cosmos #3  (2014 -16), hand-coloured multi plate etching and screenprint on paper, 40 x 29.5cm

Spurrier’s earliest etchings made during and immediately after his studies at RMIT in Melbourne, such as Man cloud II (1969), reveal his early concerns with psychological space and our interactions with the world. These concerns thread their way continuously through his practice and remain evident in current work such as Cosmos #3, (2014-16). His early screenprints show the influence of Japanese prints with their use of blended colour, and introduce mixed materials and collage, a hallmark of Spurrier’s future practice.

Journeys of a Curious Mind: Spurrier becomes an inveterate traveller, setting up temporary or semi-permanent studios away from his Melbourne base. A trip to Cape Tribulation yields scale and colour to Outside Biloela (1984); later an Ecuadorian trip gives edginess to the colour etching There’s a gunner on my tongue (1991). Paintings and drawings from journeys — to Barcelona, New Delhi and Bundanon — show his trademark use of mixed-media.

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Above: Stephen Spurrier’s Man cloud II  (1969) woodcut with screenprint on paper, 61 x 53cm. Above right: Ugg Boot Press: It’s a long story, installation view Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery

Ugg Boot Press: It’s a long story is dedicated to Spurrier’s artists’ books. This accompanying exhibition in the adjacent gallery space is curated by Mary Collins, Research Commissioner for Ugg Boot Press. ‘Mary Collins’ is another creation of Spurrier’s curious mind. She writes commentary and book introductions on Spurrier’s behalf, her voice bringing a steadiness and a seriousness of intent to counterbalance the artist’s frivolity. In the introduction to POSTCARD PUZZLES she observes ‘…that holiday travel is a luxury is sometimes forgotten by many of us. Other people in the world travel only for survival…’

Ugg Boot Press publications fill this second gallery space: concertina artists’ books tumble down the walls, series after series of books with titles such as Strangers in the Garden – Gymnophobia jostle for space in display cabinets, many produced through Spurrier’s highly original use of the colour photocopier. Here one also finds the collaborative artists’ books Stephen made after he left Melbourne in 1998 for a teaching position at University of Southern Queensland. These are really conversations with his now-distant colleagues: funny or elegant, sexy or dark.

Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery is to be commended for this ambitious exhibition that so sensitively encompasses the complexities of the fifty-year professional career of an enigmatic and curious man. The exhibition is supported by a full catalogue and lively public program.

Jan Davis is a Lismore-based artist and Adjunct Associate Professor at Southern Cross University.
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2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: Rujunko Pugh

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Rujunko Pugh

Why do you make art?

The art world is the best-suited field for how my brain is wired. I first tried to make a career out of science, but with that choice I found that I was continuously unfulfilled and unhappy. Initially, I went in the more analytical direction, because I thought it was the best way for me to give back to society. After being fully involved and invested in the arts now for many years, I have discovered that it could also be used as a tool to evoke questions about important issues.

Within the art world environment is where I feel the most comfortable. I remember when I took my first art-history, survey class after switching from science to art. When we covered biographies of some of the artists, it was the first time I could truly identify with others in a specific occupation. I knew then and there that art was for me.

Lastly, from a more romantic point of view, when I make art from start to finish, the process is effortless. When I am in the zone, space and time cease to exist. Ideas occur and materialize before my eyes. I love everything about it, like creating a composition, piecing together the signifiers, constructing a visual language, selecting the materials, prepping a screen, printing on paper, etc. It is so satisfying that I almost feel guilty and indulgent when I make art.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

I practiced photography for several years and printmaking seemed to be the natural progression. My main medium is screenprinting, and a lot of what I do is digital. I love the technical aspect on the computer, but the real pleasure is applying the ink onto paper. My obsessive-compulsive side comes in handy when it comes to registration. I have to say that I have only been screenprinting for about 5 years now, so I still have a lot to learn. I am slowly getting to know the printmaking community in Sydney and how incredibly generous they are with their time and knowledge. Recently, I learned a lot about etching from a talented printmaker, Janet Parker-Smith, who works at Sydney College of the Arts, and hope to utilize this new skill in some future work.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

Before I moved to Sydney, I lived in Washington, D.C., where I met Kristina Bilonick, the founder of Pleasant Plains Workshop, an art incubator and gallery. Pleasant Plains hosts a residency for artists, who all happen to be screenprinters. I was fortunate to become one of them after taking a screenprinting lesson taught by Kristina. Being part of the artists in residence group was a great experience. My colleagues all had good creative energy and strong printmaking skills. It was fun and motivating, and I learned a lot.

How did you approach making your submission for the PCA Print Commission?

I had already developed the graphic style of the kimono figures with the gas masks while enrolled at SCA in the Masters of Contemporary Art coursework program and chose the PCA Print Commission as an outlet to take it further. With the piece for the print commission, I experimented with the appropriation of decorative Japanese textile patterns from the 19th century and the use multiple layers of colours.

Whose work have you been enjoying lately?

I am loving are so many artists right now, but I’ll only mention a couple: Lorna Simpson’s new work in a solo show at Salon 94 Bowery in New York and Tony Albert’s Ashtray series. Both artists make smart use of imagery in their work to convey themes of identity and social politics that are so important and relevant today. For Simpson’s show, she uses multimedia including screenprinting to showcase her signature serial style to create works that poetically illustrate the tumultuousness of the black, human condition in America. Albert’s etchings for his Ashtray series are a disrupting commentary on the troubling portrayal of Aboriginal people in Australian history and society.

Where do you go for inspiration?

My Japanese and African-American heritage is a huge source of inspiration. It wasn’t a big topic in our household growing up, so I have had to do some self-investigation, which started at the beginning of my MFA research. There is so much new information out there about identity, which is currently being re-examined in terms of the art historical context from a global perspective. For example, Kobena Mercer just published Travel & See through Duke University Press about “black diaspora art practices since the 1980s”. His reinterpretations and analyses of black artists’ work from the past to present feeds into my own work and research.

I also find inspiration on social media and am a big Instagram fan. I follow museums, galleries, and art magazines and journals from around the world. Online museum databases are also great to peruse. It is incredible how much is publicly available and accessible. Additionally, going museums and gallery shows is extremely useful. To see the artwork in person and its materiality in context to my own work helps me with initiating ideas.

What are you working on now?

My next major effort will be toward finishing my MFA degree at Sydney College of the Arts at the end of February 2017. I am writing a research paper and developing work for my graduation exhibition. This is pretty much consuming my life at the moment.

To view the 2016 commission prints visit the PCA website

E-Flyer 2016 PCA Print Commission

2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: Senye Shen

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‘My work is my experience of “being-in-the-world” and my inspiration comes from the observation of the everyday environment.’

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Why do you make art?

My ongoing interest is to unveil the essence of things – what sustains the visible world that becomes the core of my practice. My work is anchored in nature; and it is through visual sensation of movement to invite viewers into communion with infinite things, and to raise consciousness of ever-changing flows all around us.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Installation, drawing and printmaking are part of my practice. Mostly, my drawings and prints are generated form my installations. It is about transferring an experience of installation from 3D into 2D, which often offers a different outlook that is quiet fascinating to me. And my work is realised in the space between representation and abstraction.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

Compare to drawing, printmaking has a great advantage on the notion of repetition and reproduce. Particularly, my print involves multiple plates; while variation can be achieved once few plates are completed. And my prints are very much emphasising this repetition of differences, it is a perfect medium for it.

How did you approach making your submission for the PCA Print Commission?

Trace IV is part of series that explore interference between lines and movements through different medium, instead of using copper plate or lino block, I chose woodcut this time, for the block already comes with embedded marks by the nature.

Whose work have you been enjoying lately?

Japanese visual artist Ryoji Ikeda’s work intersects science and nature by using data as material and theme, and to investigate the potential to perceive the invisible multi-data flow that is endlessly circulating in our mediated world. New York artist Julie Mehretu’s large-scale drawing-paintings reveal an ever-changing battlefield that signal a kinetic metaphor for a political world.

Where do you go for inspiration?

My work is my experience of “being-in-the-world” and my inspiration comes from the observation of the everyday environment, such as the circulation of air, the shifting of lights, and the whisper of the wind.

What are you working on now?

I have just posted two print installations (Drift 1 & Shifting Field) to London, as I am a finalist in the 2016 International Print Biennale in UK, which will be launched at Great North Museum at Newcastle University on 15th September. And as mentioned above, inspired by Julie Mehretu’s drawing-paintings, I consider returning to painting and making painting-installation one day, instead of making installation or print installation.

To view last year’s commission prints visit the PCA website

E-Flyer 2016 PCA Print Commission

Q&A with Rilka Oakley, Curator at the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery

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‘It is easy to put a bunch of art in a gallery but to tell a good story with artworks is the challenge. The marker of exceptional art is the impact on the viewer – when I am physically affected or emotionally moved by a piece of art I feel compelled to include it in an exhibition.’ 

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Rilka Oakley has been working in curatorial positions and arts administration since finishing her arts degree in Printmaking in the mid-1990s. She completed a Master of Art Administration from UNSW COFA in 1997 with an internship on the Australian exhibition fluent at the Venice Biennale. She worked at the Biennale of Sydney on the 1998 and 2000 editions in curatorial, venue management and catalogue management roles; she worked at Ivan Dougherty Gallery as Curator from 2000 until early 2009; and most recently at Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Katoomba as Curator since October 2012.

How did you become interested in art and prints in particular?

I have always loved art – colour, texture, form, line, image – I like the way things fit together, or not. I am really drawn to contemporary art and this includes printmaking.

With regard to prints in particular I majored in printmaking at uni – I had done some in high school but it wasn’t until uni that I really got to understand the beauty of printmaking. I love the depths of black you can achieve with etching. The layering. The repetition. The textures. The image reversal. I particularly liked monotypes.

By the time I finished my undergrad I really wanted to work with other people’s art as much as make my own so I studied art administration and began working first at the Biennale of Sydney and then as Curator at Ivan Dougherty Gallery in Paddington. I continued to do my own art making and completed a Masters in Printmaking in 2004.

How do you view the role of curator?

For me a curator’s role is to bring out the best of an artwork, and in some cases an artist. Often as a curator I am solving problems – finding solutions to making an exhibition look the best it can. This isn’t so obvious with many exhibitions but with installations or other unique approaches to art there isn’t always an easy way to display the work.

I enjoy curating group shows and creating a conversation between works. I find it is the same creative energy that goes into curating as goes into art production. There is an urge to bring things together to illustrate a theme. It is also an intuitive process – it needs time and contemplation to get it right. It is easy to put a bunch of art in a gallery but to tell a good story with artworks is the challenge. The marker of exceptional art is the impact on the viewer – when I am physically affected or emotionally moved by a piece of art I feel compelled to include it in an exhibition.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while working as a curator?

The most challenging thing for me is working between the requirements of an institution and the vision of an individual artist. It’s like being an interpreter at times – making an artist’s vision possible within the constraints of budget, safety and time.

Can you tell us a bit about what a working day looks like for you?

My days can vary greatly depending on the stage of exhibition development. At the moment I curate three to four exhibitions per year and assist on installs for the other exhibitions in the gallery, so at any given time I will be dealing with all stages of development at once.

If I am curating a show then I work from a theme, I chose the artists and the works and then take the whole exhibition through to completion. In the early stages of exhibition development I might be out visiting artist studios and looking at lots of work. At other stages I will be doing a lot of administration: preparing loan agreements, sending emails, organising freight, discussing logistics. If it is an install week then I am in the gallery: painting walls, unpacking crates, condition reporting and physically hanging artworks. So you can see there is a lot of variety.

Who are your role models?

Victoria Lynn was an early role model in the 1990s. I interned with her at the Art Gallery of NSW where she was the Curator of Contemporary Art and I then travelled to Venice with her, Brenda Croft and Hetti Perkins to help with the installation of the exhibition fluent in the 1997 Venice Biennale. All three are amazing women and exceptional curators. I find I refer back to their exhibitions/styles/insights/sensibilities a lot when I am making curatorial decisions.

The other person who significantly influenced my career is Nick Waterlow. I first felt moved and excited by contemporary art when I saw his 1986 Biennale. I never thought I would end up working with him, but as it turned out I spent a significant amount of my career with him both at the Biennale of Sydney in 1999-2000 and then at Ivan Dougherty Gallery in 2000-2009 where he was Director. One thing in particular I learnt from him was how to see the good in an artwork that you might not personally like. He could see the point of what an artists was trying to say even if he didn’t care for the style. He could get to the essence of an artwork – see the artist’s thought process. He had a brilliant way with artists.

Often with a group show (not curated but a prize for example) the curator has no control over the content, and yet we have to install the exhibition and make it look wonderful. Nick was able to do this effortlessly by engaging with the intent of the artist and not being shy about placing bold works together. He taught me to tackle an exhibition head on, to deal with and appreciate the many different styles of art, not just my personal preferences.

Can you tell us a bit about the process of putting together Tracing the Line?

Curating Tracing the Line was lots of fun. It has been a journey through fifty years of Australian printmaking history. I discovered that the Print Council of Australia’s commissioned prints reflect and document the changing trends within print processes from the mid-1960s to date. The inclusion of photo etching and screenprints in the 1970s, heat transfer and colour copies in the 1980s through to the use of laser and inkjet printing in the 1990s and digital prints in the 2000s, finishing with a print on steel in 2015. The collection traces the development and progress of printmaking techniques across the five decades since its inception.

It also struck me that there was always a continued presence of the more traditional print processes. The skill and commitment printmakers have for techniques such as lithography, etching, aquatint, mezzotint, linocut – the appropriation of new technologies and processes has not replaced the traditional print process – it has simply given printmakers more tools to choose from.

Tracing the Line, curated by Rilka Oakley, is an exhibition of fifty works selected from the Print Council of Australia’s collection of over 500 Australian prints. As part of the PCA’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations, it opens following the Hungry Eyes symposium (Art Gallery NSW) at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre on 22 October and will be on display until 4 December.

Obituary: Dorothy Herel, 19 October 1939 – 11 June 2016

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Images from top, left to right: Dorothy Herel, Wrap I, 1998, handmade paper, turps release; Fragmented Threads III, 1996, silk organza, linen, turps release, 120 x 220 cm; Fragmented threads I, 1996, silk organza, paper, turps release, 120 x 220 cm; Etcetera (detail), 1996, silk habutae and paper; Text Vest, 1991, linen fibre paper, silk, letterpress; Wrap II (detail), 1998, handmade paper, turps release; Text Dress Testament, 1997, silk satin, handmade paper, turps release.

A woman of unselfconscious elegance, impeccable taste and consummate style, Dorothy Herel, who died in Melbourne on June 11 this year, possessed a natural grace, warmth and an endearing lack of pretentiousness. Perhaps this latter quality can be attributed to a marvellous sense of humour and an entirely ‘grounded’, pragmatic and idiosyncratic way of being in the world – attributes which endeared her to her friends. Her laughter was infectious, her ‘eye’ infallible.

Mindful of both detail and ‘the big picture’, everything she laid her hands to – whether it was designing exquisite but bold garments for dance or exhibition, or fashioning individual garments and undertaking interior design work either commissioned or for herself and friends – she did with inventiveness, great practicality, accomplishment and perfection. And though she could chide one for some lapse in standards, we all knew her judgment was infallible. She acquired the status of an oracle: if one was in doubt it was to Dorothy we went for the final word.

Dorothy Catherine Herel (née Davis) was born in Melbourne in 1939. After a conventionally middle class childhood and adolescence, she studied Graphic Art and Design at Swinburne Institute of Technology, and, being something of a tear-away, encountered Melbourne’s Bohemian art world (including the Moras and the Heide circle). Seeking broader horizons than those of a largely white Anglo-Saxon Australian culture, like so many other talented young Australians in the late fifties and early sixties, she embarked for Europe at the age of twenty-one. Following a brief stint in London she travelled to Rome where she worked for two years before settling in Paris where she found work creating designs for tapestry weavers. Perhaps her life-long involvement with textiles found true inspiration there. Certainly her immersion in European life during this formative decade was seminal. France especially, with its cosmopolitanism, understated style and refined aesthetic cultivated those attributes in her; and, though she was to return to Australia with her Czech artist husband in 1973, she retained a very cultivated and European sensibility which resonated with that of her husband, the artist Petr Herel, whom she had met in Paris in 1970. French was their lingua franca– and has remained so within their family. Their marriage fostered a richly creative output from both of them.

Following the births in Melbourne of their daughters Sophie in 1974 and Emilie some sixteen months later, in 1976, the Herels returned to live in France. In Dijon, where Petr was teaching, they formed a strong friendship with Thierry Bouchard, a distinguished typographer and publisher of livres d’artiste , with whom Petr was later to form the Labyrinth Press. An offer to Petr to establish a department devoted to the production of artists’ books at the Canberra School of Art occasioned their permanent return to Australia in 1979. It was to prove the beginning of a highly creative evolution in Dorothy’s life. Working with the Canberra based dance companies, she designed costumes for the Human Veins Dance Theatre (Under the Skin, 1980, Illusions, and Maya, 1985) and then with the Meryl Tankard Company (Banshee, 1989).

Simultaneously, throughout the 1980s Dorothy Herel was also making exquisite and original clothing for many of her friends and for a number of public figures. While these much-acclaimed items existed in a realm between haute couture and nouvelle vague, her creativity found its most inventive expression in garments that transcend the boundaries between art and clothing. Collaborating with other Canberra-based textile artists and papermakers, in true European spirit, she made no distinction between the applied arts and so-called ‘pure art’.

Following numerous commissions for contemporary dance, often utilising moulded paper and sculptural in their articulation and adornment of the human body in motion, she was awarded an Australia Council Research Grant in 1991 to further explore papermaking in collaboration with the French papermaker Michel Guet. Working initially with typographer Thierry Bouchard in France, she produced a series of innovative and award winning ‘garments’ during the 1990s, beginning with the Text Vest – Jabberwocky, 1991, which was included in a number of both group and solo exhibitions in Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra. This initiated an imaginative body of work utilising paper and printed text (including transposed ancestral writings), transparent and opaque fabrics, stitching and riveting – all of which embody elements that simultaneously evoke ritual and ceremonial garments and create a resonant poetic intimacy. In 1997, she wrote of this search: ‘On the one hand I am interested in the idea of a universal garment – the concept of a truly modern garment, utilitarian and detached from the futile pursuit of fashion and slavery to consumerism. On the other, I am concerned with the loss of ritual in the art of dressing which reflects the celebration of life and acknowledges the continuity of generations.’

Her work has been exhibited in the National Gallery of Australia and is held in a number of collections, both public and private, including the National Library, Canberra. She leaves a substantial and distinctive body of work behind. Equally she will be remembered for her loyalty to her friends, which was enduring, as was her thoughtfulness and generosity. Dorothy was an entirely original and endearing individual. We will remember the courage, dignity and singular grace with which she faced her approaching death. She leaves a big gap in our lives. She is survived by her husband of 44 years, the distinguished artist Petr Herel, their daughters, Sophie and Emilie, and their husbands, Markus and Steven, and three grandchildren, Amy, Samuel and Jana.

 

Elizabeth Cross,
October 2016

Elizabeth Cross is an art historian, curator and writer. She is also a former editor of Imprint.

2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: Katy Mutton

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‘I am a terrible fiddler – I often end up with smaller editions than I intended because I feel compelled to play with the prints – draw and paint on them, cut them up and create collages.’

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Why do you make art?

I’ve always made art, it’s a compulsion. Art is everywhere and the process of making is integral to my understanding of the world. It’s literally kept me alive and enables endless new experiences.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

I love printmaking – the process and the reveal are magical to me but I enjoy working in many different ways. I am a terrible fiddler – I often end up with smaller editions than I intended because I feel compelled to play with the prints – draw and paint on them, cut them up and create collages.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I have always loved to draw and printmaking always felt like a natural extension of that practice. I made my first prints in high school, they were linocuts. I still remember how much I enjoyed making each mark and cutting back the surface. I loved them so much and still have those original linocut plates.

How did you approach making your submission for the PCA Print Commission?

In 2015 I was working on a series of acrylic paintings exploring tessellation techniques and pattern. I was really pleased with the final works, they were a true labour of love, I spent so much time working and reworking the layers. When the commission call-out came up I was talking with a friend and we both thought one in particular would work well as a screen-print. It was important to me that all eight colours were retained for the print edition as the transitioning colours, across geometric forms, add an illusory quality to the piece. The final version was eight layers but it was definitely worth the additional effort to keep those colour shifts.

Whose work have you been enjoying lately?

I admire many different artists for many different reasons.

I saw some fantastic linocuts by Ryan Presley on a recent trip to Darwin at MAGNT. I admire the work of Alison Alder who first taught me to screenprint at the ANU, Sally Smart, Michael Schlitz and Tony Albert. I probably relate to multi-disciplinary artists most particularly, as my work frequently transverses mediums.

Where do you go for inspiration?

My practice is heavily research based and I love to read. Living in Canberra I am fortunate to have access to many National Cultural Institutions who hold incredible collections. In the last year I’ve spent a lot of time researching at the National Library of Australia and had collection access at the Australian War Memorial – fantastically inspiring places to explore.

What are you working on now?

I have been working on a series of large screen-printed posters works, which portray contemporary military aviation in different contexts as a means to explore the politics behind Australia’s defence investments. I am also beginning to work on concepts for a series of lithographs and installation works, which I hope to develop over 2017.

Katy Mutton was the recipient of the Artspace Residency as part of the 2016 PCA Print Commission. Join us at Artspace before the Hungry Eyes symposium for drinks and a private viewing of the exhibition and studios on Thursday 20 October, 5.30–7 pm.

To view this year’s commission prints visit the PCA website, pick up a copy of the spring 2016 issue of Imprint (Vol. 51 No. 3), or visit one of the participating venue galleries listed below:

E-Flyer 2016 PCA Print Commission

Imagining Printmaking’s Future: Projecting from a Glass Half-Full Perspective

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Clockwise from top: Michael Kempson proofing Panda and Bamboo, 2016, a laser cut woodblock made in collaboration with Joseph Scheer from Alfred University, USA; One of four exhibition temples for the thirty-country exhibition International Academic Printmaking Alliance, 2016, Taimiao Art Gallery – Imperial Ancestral Temple, Working People’s Culture Palace, Tiananmen, Beijing, China; part of the Australian contribution to International Academic Printmaking Alliance, 2016, Taimiao Art Gallery – Imperial Ancestral Temple, Working People’s Culture Palace, Tiananmen, Beijing, China.

The following inspired address was delivered by master printer, artist and lecturer Michael Kempson at Australian Printmaking: Past and Present, a forum held at the National Gallery of Victoria on 8 October in celebration of the Print Council of Australia‘s fiftieth anniversary.

When I mentioned to a colleague, the Sydney-based etcher Bruce Latimer, that I was to offer some observations about printmaking’s future at this forum, his response was, ‘well it’s going to be a short talk then’. This droll glass half-empty reaction has developed in part from the irony inherent in the ongoing fascination for printmaking, which continues regardless of how depressing the outlook for it is in the world.

Some of the attitudes espoused by leading figures in the curatorial realm haven’t helped. Riva Castleman, a former Chief Curator of Prints at New York’s Museum of Modern Art wrote, ‘I don’t see printmaking – and never have – as a way of working out the basic problems of art. It’s too fraught with other technical problems.’[1] While her remarks reference the challenges that painters encounter in the interaction between print and painting modes of working, it did result in a horde of printmakers feeling considerably miffed.

Over its long history, printmaking has enjoyed periods of public and institutional acclaim, that compensate for the times when it falls out of favour. So, when printmakers gather rigorous debate will ensue: are we actually enjoying one of those phases of enthusiastic support, or suffering a period of neglect?

Trying to foresee printmaking’s positive cycles is as impossible as the folly of seeking to predict the future. I’m reminded of Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 dystopian fantasy Metropolis. As a vision of life in times to come it was bleakly entertaining, but in the course of even a few decades it proved to be fairly wide of the mark.

This is true of most futuristic depictions in literature and film. While it shouldn’t stop people trying, the limitation implicit is that every attempt to imagine the future is at heart an examination of the present. It’s as true for artists, in their conceptual prognostications, as it is for actuaries or technocrats who trade in forecasts and projections. Furthermore one just can’t foresee the subsequent ramifications of the unexpected shocks that change the world, a conceit embodied in the somewhat convoluted wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld, and his now infamous reference to ‘unknown unknowns’.[2]

The perennial promise of a Federal budget surplus means economists aren’t the great predictors they profess to be either, but they do understand statistics with great clarity. I approached one, Mark Cully, the Chief Economist in the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science in Canberra, to get some authoritative information. Coincidentally, he and I shared a common experience spending our developing years in Elizabeth during the 1960s and early 1970s. Elizabeth, situated in the industrial north of Adelaide, was a purpose built housing commission city for the future, and the first experiment in urban decentralisation in Australia. During this time, it was so mired with planning shortcomings that, with the subsequent social problems, it actually was a dystopian reality.

Imagine Australia when I was a child back in 1971. This was a period in our history when all but one in twenty people described their nationality as British and close to two in three women spent most of their time attending home duties. Among those who were formally employed, there were more priests and ministers of religion than lawyers, more metal trades workers than retail workers, more farmers than teachers. For those not continuing with school, the most common level completed was Year 8. Today, almost all secondary students complete Year 12 and there are around 4 million people with a degree, against 180,000 back in 1971. [3] One pertinent statistic in that year’s census was that 30,600 people identified themselves in the artist/entertainer/writer category; in 2011 the number was 75,800. In a population increase of 70% between 1971 and 2011, the growth in declared artists is 148%.[4]

Could anyone have predicted in the passage of those years such changed circumstances in the labour market or social and educational demographics? What then regarding the core challenges will we face in the future: from the diminishing supply of natural resources, food and water; the decline in the world’s natural habitats; the shifts in the world economy from west to east; an ageing population; and the connectivity immersing individuals, communities, governments and businesses at an ever increasing rate.[5]

The twentieth century ushered in the concept of human capital and the nuanced interplay between demand and supply, characterised in recent economic theory as a race between education and technology.[6] For technology to function a substantial skill-base is required for its development and application, which can only be met through the delivery of appropriate education. While a fiscal race, as an idea garnered in human experience, it can influence other contexts, as is the case in the world of cinema with the all too regular dire imaginings of dystopian scenarios if technology wins. But one can also argue that variants of these ideas have been used in shaping the development of art since the 1960s.

Canadian print artist and academic Walter Jule contributes thoughtfully on art education, particularly on its transformation over the middle and latter stages of the twentieth century. Changes, he says, that came in part as a response to the introduction of photo-mechanical means of reproduction and the subsequent range of influential theories that espouse such esoteric notions as the phenomenological critique and deconstructive post-modernism. He chronicles its effect, a realigning of the focus away from art grounded in a personal or privileged vision and by extension from craft-centred practice and technical virtuosity. Over time art schools began to restructure their programs to serve the paramount notion of the ‘idea’ that drives knowledge-based practice, the core focus of most contemporary visual art institutions in the world today. The resulting effects threatened resource intensive technologies with traditional associations, like printmaking departments, and proved to be detrimental to many of the students who inhabited them, particularly in the early 1980s when I went to art school.

Jule said, ‘The focus on critical theory at the expense of first-hand experience left students with a wealth of received ideas, but often short of the craft, technical skills and visual literacy to express these ideas convincingly in material form.’[7]

Think about the American painter Eric Fischl who peevishly recounts, ‘artists of my generation were not educated, we were not given the equipment for it was generally believed to be irrelevant. Drawing, hand eye co-ordination, art history – really relevant stuff – was considered unnecessary. We were made to feel from day one that we were, fully sprung from the womb, an artist. In fact, it’s incredibly disrespectful of the importance of history that we train people to be amateurs. I deeply resent the kind of flattery that replaced discipline. What experience has shown me is that it takes your life to become an artist.’[8]

Despite this, it is affirming that printmaking over the last fifty years has demonstrated a remarkable resilience. To quote Walter Jule, ‘it has resolutely refused to abandon its traditions and maintained the ability to reflect shifts in critical thought without resorting to extreme or reactionary positions.’[9] This is certainly debatable, for there are printmaking fundamentalists who deny progress by applying strict definitions, initially excluding offset prints and monotypes, and more recently digitally derived work from print exhibitions. While on the other hand there are those in academe and business who are so all encompassing in their definition of a print, or have exploited its nomenclature to such a degree, that it undermines the activity of making them.

While many hope this debate has well and truly moved on, in our changing educational market place – when a student begins to understand their ideas and working method, to explore options in what technology to deploy – their visual vocabulary will be reliant upon the experience and philosophy of their teachers and the resources of their host institution. Rather than just teaching what you know, an educator should be as equally passionate about the printmaking technology of seventh century China, or fifteenth century Europe, to complement the astounding potential to be discovered in the digital realm.

As we observe in the commercial world, Darwinian theory rules. Pressing deadlines mean it’s out with the old and in with the new for those required to maintain a competitive edge. But thankfully a more fluid sense of time reflects the contrary dynamic of the creative impulses found in artistic practice. In preparing students for the best way to communicate visually, individual choice dictates that for many state-of-the-art technology is the perfect vehicle for their ideas. So, with one eye on the future, why then should we bother with the hard physical graft of an arcane technology, when results are achieved with the click of a mouse?

One reason can be in the unique tactility recorded in traditional prints. The haptic manipulation of layering, scraping, cutting and polishing provides an experience of history, offered at an ideal mulling pace, so to best deal with the ‘basic problems of art’. When you work regularly, as I often do, with artists who have never made prints, there are preconceived ideas about what a print should be, but those assumptions change as they focus on the considerable challenge presented in this engagement. During this process, in each and every instance, artists end up inventing the medium anew, relative to their own inner predilections and in response to printmaking’s unique expressive range.[10]

Some however still question the place for traditional disciplines in research based institutions. Academic administrators, often captives to a balance sheet, have asked hard questions following successive cuts in federal funding. Their solutions have trickled down the chain of command, resulting in sporadic pruning of specific print mediums, or the complete removal of printmaking courses altogether from Australian universities. Even more stark is the axing of fine art faculties, as was the case in NSW with Western Sydney University nearly a decade ago, or the BFA program at the University of Newcastle at the beginning of the year, and as recently as a few months ago in the attempt to dismantle Sydney College of the Arts at the University of Sydney.

Despite this, there are structural adjustments slowly taking place in the print world where novel ways are being applied to re-balance the equilibrium and amplify a renewed interest. One benefit of cyberspace is the print networks established for the exchange of ideas and information that often lead to a transition from virtual to actual engagement in forums such as this. Allowing for the sharing of positive stories, such as those I have experienced in Australia and overseas, of people bringing to their teaching optimistic agendas, providing novice printmakers with the enthusiasm to unite material and concept, and sustain a practice into the future – thereby ensuring a future for our practice.

My own story at UNSW Art and Design started grimly in 2004 with a challenging meeting in the Dean’s office giving me a provisional year to prevent the closure of the printmaking department. Cicada Press was born as one way of rethinking the dynamic of personal and creative interaction, within and beyond the classroom. As a custom printing workshop it functions via an elective course, embedding crucial skills-based training in an open interaction with a diverse range of creative approaches offered by our invited artists. The collaborative relationship, inherent between an artist and custom printer, welcomes students into this art making process, who in turn contribute as an integral component in our creative partnership. Cicada Press coalesces dialogue, community, informal interactions and lived experience in learning and hopefully, through personal connection, a foundation for respect and mutual understanding is developed.

From a simple pedagogical experiment that sought to challenge ossified norms found in traditional printmaking instruction, Cicada Press has morphed into a research group at UNSW where the shared desire of its stakeholders is to pursue broader social and ethical goals. These have included: Annual Aboriginal Print Workshops that bring together a diverse range of early- and mid-career Indigenous artists to share and experiment in the dialogue of a new medium; projects aligning printmaking with environmental activism; international engagement that facilitates cross-cultural communication through print practice; and educational opportunities for artists with intellectual and physical disabilities that affirm the value of meaningful educational experiences, often out of reach for many in our society.

After a somewhat perilous beginning, Cicada Press is now a thriving, altruistic printmaking community, using a set of scenarios through the example of making to establish the foundations of a professional network. Combining diverse personalities and intergenerational experiences that nurture, and ultimately test, leadership potential, our students have a framework for life-long learning, so they ‘can deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world’.[11]

One significant prediction for the future, aligned with the race between technology and education, is manifest in the idea of the looming ‘post-work’ society.[12] An outcome, hinted at by futurists, that will see established industries decimated and hard-working, skilled people made unemployable, with the millions of manufacturing jobs that will be shed by technologies such as 3D printing. An antidote to this world requires a trait that is distinctly human – creativity. With secure jobs no longer assured, as more and more physical and mental tasks are commandeered by machines and software, why not actively encourage our future generations to go to art school, with the promise of a life of self-discovery? To create a world where we foster ideas to keep pace with technological advancements, by exercising the muscles of our imagination, ‘honing the skill that best ensures adaptability and resourcefulness during times of constant change’.[13]

We will always be heading into an unpredictable future so printmakers, like economists, should appreciate that there are valuable lessons to be learnt from history. To understand the phenomenal achievement of engineering found in the transition from traditional then photomechanical and now digital technologies, and in the science of how we combine pigment, oil, and water with paper, under pressure, to package and broadly circulate innovative ideas.

The incessant reminder of progress, apparent in a print studio, prepares us for the inevitability that things will and must change. However, in the same way that photography didn’t kill painting, despite the prediction of prophets as far back as the nineteenth century, many superseded print technologies continue to beguile; because the value isn’t in our ability to efficiently render images, but in the artist’s capacity, using all our six senses, to convey a unique viewpoint.

‘Most of us don’t actually see dead people but we do enjoy long enduring conversations with them through the products of culture. While it is true that artists learn as much from objects and the making of them as we do from people, we still need teachers in the studio because we must experience knowledge embodied in action.’[14] We all benefit from cherished mentors who have offered guidance and example at just the right time in our lives, but we should always remember that we are all both teachers and students depending upon the circumstances.

The best way to prepare the next generation to be informed and articulate contributors in this conversation is to teach them how to: understand history; find a mentor; build supportive networks; question current orthodoxy; be suspicious of prophets; believe in themselves; and be open to all the mediums of printmaking’s lexicon, within an expanded collegial structure for print education.

This includes all organisations dedicated to the exacting demands of nurturing an ongoing culture of connoisseurship for the print: from community studios and editioning workshops; museums and commercial galleries; the forums and symposia that set the agenda; the remaining print programs of our tertiary institutions; and most importantly, in its fiftieth year, our peak body, the Print Council of Australia.

To paraphrase that champion of rear-guard actions, the amateur painter Winston Churchill, ‘we shape our future, thereafter our future shapes us’. So instead of waiting dolefully for the next great print renaissance, let’s set aside fantasy. The time for action is now, and it is up to us to make it happen.

NOTES

[1] Riva Castleman, ‘New Prints of Worth: A Question of Taste’, The Print Collector’s Newsletter, Vol. 10, no. 4, 1979, p. 110.

[2] ‘Defense.gov News Transcript: DoD News Briefing – Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers, United States Department of Defense (defense.gov)‘.

[3] Mark Cully, ‘Industry and Workforce Futures’, CEDA – State of the Nation Conference address, 2015.

[4] 2011 Census Community Profiles, censusdata.abs.gov.au

[5] Stefan A Hajkowicz;Hannah Cook; Anna Littleboy, Our Future World: Global megatrends that will change the way we live, 2012, CSIRO, Australia.

[6] Claudia Goldin and Laurence Katz, The Race Between Education and Technology, 2008, Belknap Press.

[7] Walter Jule, ‘Survival tips for young artists in changing times’, 2015, keynote address for the Southern Graphics Council International, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.

[8] Eric Fischl in ‘Fischl’s Italian Hours’, Frederic Tuten, Art in America, November 1996, p. 79.

[9] Walter Jule, ‘Survival tips for young artists in changing times’, 2015, keynote address for the Southern Graphics Council International, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.

[10] From ideas linked to Walter Jule, ‘Survival tips for young artists in changing times’, 2015, keynote address for the Southern Graphics Council International, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.

[11] Richard Shaull, foreword to Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Thirtieth Anniversary Edition, 2005, Continuum, New York.

[12] Dustin Timbook, ‘If you want your children to survive the future, send them to art school’, Huffington Post, Feb 2, 2016.

[13] Dustin Timbook, ‘If you want your children to survive the future, send them to art school’, Huffington Post, Feb 2, 2016.

[14] Walter Jule, ‘Survival tips for young artists in changing times’, 2015, keynote address for the Southern Graphics Council International, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.

Michael Kempson is an artist and senior lecturer at UNSW Art and Design in Sydney. Since 2003, Kempson has initiated print-based research projects with over 200 artists at Cicada Press and curated over fifty exhibitions in the Asia-Pacific region. His upcoming solo exhibition Play Time will open at Flinders Street Gallery, Surry Hills, on 20 October, 6 pm.

2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: Gwen Scott

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‘I have spent years appreciating prints and printmaking and have collected a lot of Australian printmakers work but now it’s my turn to produce some of my own prints, I’m loving the deep and meaningful relationship I have with mixing up the inks, printing and getting surprised!’

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Why do you make art?

Creating and appreciating art has always been part of my life. The process of creating something brings a lot of joy, calm and relaxation. I use colour a lot because that’s what really attracts me. Mixing and splashing paint or ink around is a lot of fun. Losing all sense of time and concentrating on something so intensely (but more often obsessively) is something that I enjoy doing.

Raised by artistic parents I saw my parents spend long periods of time in their studios and so was influenced greatly by their lifestyle, creative processes and joy of art.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

I have spent years appreciating prints and printmaking and have collected a lot of Australian printmakers’ work but now it’s my turn to produce some of my own prints. I’m loving the deep and meaningful relationship I have with mixing up the inks, printing and getting surprised!

How did you get interested in printmaking?

Through books on Rembrandt and William Blake and seeing prints by Lionel Lindsay, Thea Proctor, Eric Thake, Margaret Preston and Barbara Hanrahan at the Art Gallery of NSW when I was a teenager. My appreciation of printmaking has been ongoing for decades but my practice of it is more recent.

My practice didn’t manifest itself until well after art school. I did the compulsory semester of printmaking but it didn’t inspire me, so I majored in painting and drawing and spent numerous years after art school practicing painting, drawing, needlepoint tapestry and mosaics. Over the years I did revisit my rudimentary printmaking skills through workshops and short courses. However, the dedication and time wasn’t there. It wasn’t until 2010 when I had the time to focus on doing more and playing around with colour that I got hooked.

After retiring from working as a librarian for over twenty-five years, the last two and a half years have been spent developing my skill with linocutting and the reduction technique. The problem-solving aspect, the use of colour and the surprise effect you get using the reduction technique fascinates me.

How did you approach making your submission for the PCA Print Commission?

I had been working on a new body of work on the theme of Pomona and just worked further on that for the PCA commission. All the prints in this new series are colour reduction prints, so my intention was to produce a reduction print if selected. Initially, I submitted three prints that I liked the best from my new series for the first round of judging. Then when I had to produce a bon a tirer (B.A.T.) I chose to do a detailed colour gouache on paper in the dimensions of the intended print. Along with the gouache I submitted a Pomona print that I had done previously to show evidence of my work. Finally, I set about completing the artist’s proofs and the edition together as this was the only way I could do my reduction print unless I wanted to do it twice!

Whose work have you been enjoying lately?

A trip to Sydney this year to see the Grayson Perry show was a treat but discovering the work of an African artist El Anatsui at Carriageworks was even more inspirational. His large-scale installations of repurposed materials are sublime and at the same time tragic, a commentary on human waste and resourcefulness.

Where do you go for inspiration?

My immediate environment provides a plethora of motifs to work from so it starts there and the simple act of walking a few kilometres provides a wealth of imaginative ideas. Also, art books, art galleries and museums, the internet, music and film. My favourite interests are: surrealism, english landscape painting, the arts and crafts movement, animal art, early european tapestries and roman and greek mosaics.

What are you working on now?

A small edition for the PCA Inaugural print exchange, an edition for Australian Print Workshop‘s Impressions show as well as a solo show at the Boulevard@ Montsalvat in November.

To view this year’s commission prints visit the PCA website, pick up a copy of the spring 2016 issue of Imprint (Vol. 51 No. 3), or visit one of the participating venue galleries listed below:

E-Flyer 2016 PCA Print Commission