ON HIRAETH

Above images l–r: Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune, Keepsake I, Keepsake II and Keepsake III, 2016, collagraph and etching, 50 x 37.5 cm.
Right: Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune, Hiraeth, 2016, etching, aquatint and lithography on somerset paper, unique state, 76 x 75 cm framed.

‘We stumbled across ‘hiraeth’ while working on the collaboration and it seemed to define some of the indescribable feelings we each try to capture in our work. The fact that there isn’t a clear-cut definition or translation in English made it even more intriguing and appropriate. ‘ 

An interview with Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune

by freelance writer Kate Ellis

In Hiraeth, a new collaborative series about to go on display at Port Jackson Press’s Little Window of Opportunity, printmakers Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune reflect on their shared experience of relocation.

The artists came across each other’s work in 2013. Despite obvious differences – Stephanie’s etchings being heavily detailed compared to the abstracted works that Danielle produces – they immediately recognised parallels between their landscape-influenced works on paper.

They also recognised that their lives mirror a much deeper connection of relocation. Both have lived abroad in various places – Danielle, originally from Australia, is now settled in Barcelona, and Stephanie, originally from England, lives in Melbourne.

Hiraeth (a Welsh word) does not translate easily to English. It describes a deep longing and nostalgia for home, a home that may not even exist; a yearning of spirit and imagination, though not necessarily a desire to return.

Through the prints in this show, each artist has explored their emotional relationship with their two homes.

Kate Ellis: Having both spent many years away from home, relocation has been a significant part of both of your lives – how has living abroad impacted your work?

Stephanie Jane Rampton: As I grow older I think I have become more sentimentally attached to my birthplace. While I don’t wish to return, there is always a sense of nostalgia. Perhaps memories become more important as we age. I believe my work explores, albeit subconsciously, the dichotomy of feeling an emotional connection to two ‘homes’. Often what begins as an Australian landscape takes on English characteristics. Memories of bare trees against a winter sky seem to encroach on everything I draw.

Danielle Creenaune: I also feel that there is a merging of place in my work. Often the works take on a hybrid form merging past memories of place and the present moment, which is what results in the spontaneous expression/representation.

KE: Why do you prefer the discipline of printmaking over other mediums and how has printmaking assisted in communicating your style and theme?

SJR: I had always drawn, particularly pen and ink drawings, so printmaking seemed a natural fit. Preparing plates allows time to consider what the final image is going to portray. Everything is a bit of a surprise; left-hand drawing becomes right-hand composition. You don’t really know what you’ve got until the very final moment and even then no two prints are the same. The result is a collaboration of artist and process – a synthesis of subject matter, emotion, materials, and techniques – that’s exciting.

DC: Printmaking allows me to ebb and flow through different techniques and means of expression. I work across lithography and intaglio, often concurrently, and find it’s the variation in marks, cause and effect, having control but leaving to chance, which enables me to communicate different emotional responses to landscape. I like the thrill of experimentation and feel there’s always something new to learn.

Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune, Traverse I, 2016, etching, aquatint and lithography on shikishi paper, unique state, 26 x 69 cm framed.

KE: Landscape is a recurring motif within both of your practices – what are the aesthetic qualities of nature and the environment that you find inspiring and what do they symbolise?

SJR: Perhaps it is the sense of solitude, calm, tranquility, and natural balance. Symbolically trees are representative of life. They grow, they reproduce and they die. Images vary depending on the state of mind: open spaces and distant horizons can convey a lightness of spirit; gnarled trunks and twisted roots may indicate the trials and tribulations that the trees have endured, or perhaps express their strength and connection to the earth. The choice is made on the basis of what is emotionally meaningful at that moment.

DC: Landscape represents a multitude of things for me. If I had to pinpoint a key aspect in my current work, it would be the significance of change and the evolving nature of landscape. It’s not static; it’s always in a state of change. I think it’s this state of flux that motivates me to create the type of images I do. The awe of that energy before me is possibly what drives me to try and emulate a similar kind of energy in the work. It also symbolises a connection to family, memory, place, history, present, and the co-existence of perfection and imperfection.

KE: Where did you first discover the term ‘hiraeth’ and why did its meaning become such a significant aspect of the project?

DC: We stumbled across ‘hiraeth’ while working on the collaboration and it seemed to define some of the indescribable feelings we each try to capture in our work. The fact that there isn’t a clear-cut definition or translation in English made it even more intriguing and appropriate. The more we researched, we realised it had everything to do with how one feels in and about place, home and longing.

Stephanie also came across a poem called ‘Hiraeth‘ by Tim Davis which we felt commented on the focus of our project. We made contact with the author who agreed to allow us to use it in conjunction with the works. The poem reads (in part)…

 

Hiraeth beckons with wordless call,
Hear, my soul, with heart enthrall’d.
Hiraeth whispers while earth I roam;
Here I wait the call “come home.”

Like seagull cry, like sea borne wind,
That speak with words beyond my ken,
A longing deep with words unsaid,
Calls a wanderer home instead.

Tim Davis, 2007

Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune, Traverse II, 2016, etching, aquatint and lithography on shikishi paper, unique state, 26 x 69 cm framed.

KE: Please explain your process when developing a new body of work. Do you take a sensory approach?

SJR: Sometimes it is a particular image that captures my attention; sometimes it is a process that I want to explore further. I work from sketches with photographs as references. During the process the original image almost always changes. One of the joys (although sometimes also a frustration) of printmaking is the process itself. The effect of materials on the image and the maker, and how accidental effects might change the experience and the outcome.

DC: I take a sensory approach, I guess. For me, it’s one continuous body of work exploring landscape and emotion developing over time. In a technical sense, I experiment, find new tricks that interest me and learn how to achieve different results, along with researching the place or subject. I feel a need to squeeze something new into each body of work both technically and subjectively as it motivates me to keep making.

I usually have a place in my mind at the time of creating the drawing on the matrix. I rarely use photographs as they contain too much detail for me. I prefer to work from quick line sketches. This allows me to recall the place but also to allow for chance, intuition and immediacy in creating the marks. The image comes from memory, drawings made in situ and the how I feel at the moment of laying down marks. I love the undergrowth and to draw I usually position myself right in the middle of the forest or surrounding. Here I witness nature’s energy through unordered forms and it gives me a lot of compositional ideas.

KE: When working on the project, were you aware of the distance between you and did you feel that you were mindful of each other’s style and technique?

DC: Through various visits and a lot of emails, a lot of mobile phone shots, and really interesting discussion about ideas and the significance of landscape, we have come together on this. We met a few times to pen down technical details, but due to smart phones and new technologies we’ve been able to go to-and-fro responding to each other’s work consciously along the way. It would’ve been nice to have a coffee and a meal together while doing it all but, hey, you can’t have everything.

KE: There are very obvious similarities between your work – how was the experience of working collaboratively and sharing these similarities different to working independently?

SJR: The main challenge for me is the sense of responsibility to an artist whose work I admire. I don’t think it’s changed how I work so much as how I see my own work, through trying to visualise from afar how our different styles can sit together in harmony. Although, I’ve recently begun working on some much larger pieces and they are sparser in detail compared to previous prints. Perhaps there has been a subconscious influence. Rather than fill every available part of the plate I have begun to explore negative space – it’s been liberating!

DC: I enjoy working collaboratively. It’s great to click with people creatively and see that things move with ease. I think a mutual admiration between collaborators is important. Stephanie’s work is so awe inspiring and I cannot fathom how she creates such detail. My work is somewhat contrary, but there are key things binding us and it goes further than style or visual similarities. The best thing for me has been the dialogue regarding what landscape symbolises for us, really getting down to the nitty gritty and asking ourselves what our work actually means. As collaborators, we have become friends who share some profound motivations driving our work. These connections add life and meaning to working each day alone in the workshop.

 

Hiraeth will be showing at Port Jackson Press Print Gallery’s Little Window of Opportunity, Collingwood, from 15 July to 5 August 2016.

Q&A with Jo Lankester and Hannah Murray

Above images clockwise from top: Jo Lankester and Hannah Murray, Forrest Green, 2016, collagraph and etching, 50 x 37.5 cm; Wallflower #1, 2016, collagraph and etching, 1/5, 101 x 60 cm; Field of Dreams #2, 2016, collagraph and etching, 1/1, 101 x 60 cm.

‘Every time I work with another artist I walk away with a deeper understanding of art as a whole. Together we realise work that couldn’t be created individually and inspire each other to think differently.’ 

Jo Lankester is a printmaker, collaborator and exhibition organiser based in Townsville, Queensland. She is a founding member of PressNorth Printmakers, and often collaborates with and editions the work of other artists. In her own practice, she creates large scale works inspired by the natural environment. Her works are represented in the National Gallery of Australia Print Collection, Artbank, as well as numerous public and private collections throughout Australia and overseas.

Hannah Murray is a Magnetic Island based artist who was born in Ayr, North Queensland. She has completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts (2002) from James Cook University, and a Graduate Diploma in Education (2003), The University of Melbourne. A part-time artist, arts worker and art teacher Hannah works across a variety of different mediums including printmaking, painting and illustration.

How did your collaboration begin?

Jo Lankester: I first collaborated with Hannah in 2011 for our exhibition Paper Bird, which was held at the Umbrella Studio of Contemporary Arts. Hints of both of our artistic styles showed through in all of the pieces that we worked on together; however, they were ultimately unique to anything we were able to make individually. The process of working with another artist, a first for both of us, had been an unexpectedly positive and inspiring experience. In 2014 we furthered this relationship by creating a suite of collaborative prints for the PressNorth Printmakers exhibition Wanderlust. This new work saw a shift in our imagery from birds to orchids, combining our distinctive styles to create unique state prints and variable editions with a unique aesthetic approach.

Can you tell me a bit more about the works you will be showing as part of Wallflower and how they developed?

Hannah Murray: Wallflower, as mentioned, is an extension of an ongoing print collaboration that explores the symbolic and aesthetic qualities of Jo’s abstracted patterns found on tree trunks and rock formations with my floral, orchid imagery. Conceptually it is both a play on words and also almost literal in meaning. As with any collaboration an unlikely relationship exists between two seemingly opposing forces. Trees and rocks, like a wall, share ideas of antiquity, enduring strength and protection. In contrast a flower is fragile and fleeting. The exhibition aims to bring these two elements together to present a resolved body of work.

My current body of work explores the aesthetic and symbolic qualities of flora, particularly orchids, as found in history, mythology and literature. My primary practice involves working directly onto reclaimed, vintage wallpaper in mixed media with the deliberate intention to exploit the tactile and distinctly ornate qualities of the wallpapers surface, pattern and colour. Naturally I find Jo’s beautifully rich, textural abstract work a nice extension of this, which I thought would complement my more illustrative imagery well.

Jo Lankester and Hannah Murray, Delicate #1, 2016, collagraph and etching, 50 x 37.5 cm,  1/1.

What do you view as the benefits of working with another artist (or other artists)?

JL: Every time I work with another artist I walk away with a deeper understanding of art as a whole. Together we realise work that couldn’t be created individually and inspire each other to think differently. I found that there was a large amount of experimentation in our collaboration and that both of our artistic styles worked together to create something entirely unique

HM: An artist by inclination spends a considerable amount of time working alone so any chance to make art in collaboration is a welcome and thoroughly enjoyable venture. I love the challenge of exploring and discovering visual solutions that respect and best complement each other’s respective imagery and mark making. It’s an exciting experience where the outcome is strangely familiar yet refreshingly original. I am not primarily a printmaker so I also greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn from more experienced and knowledgeable artists such as Jo. Akin to a master and apprentice, this hands-on sharing of skills and technique is incredibly valuable.

And the dangers?

HM: There are so many variables in printmaking and the pressure of not pulling a perfect print when someone else’s work is at stake can be unduly stressful.

JL: Every time you decide to collaborate with another artist professionally you are taking a risk, even if you have worked with that artist before. Any number of things could go wrong throughout the process due to miscommunication, difference in opinion, scheduling errors, and many other factors. However, this should not deter you from experimenting with collaboration.

How would you describe the mechanics of this collaboration?

JL: Hannah and I worked rather naturally together; we began by brainstorming a concept, number of works, scale, medium and subject matter for the exhibition. We decided to work primarily in intaglio to produce a suite of limited edition prints. However, towards the end of the project we shifted back to working with printmaking mediums that were in each other’s comfort zones using collagraph and relief printing to create the installation. We like to work together in the studio and being available to assist each other technically where required, although we also need a reasonable amount of time to work individually on separate aspects of the exhibition.

HM: The collaboration process seems to occur rather organically and with shared artistic trust and freedom. Depending on who is leading a print or image I think we both work rather instinctively and in a way that respectfully considers and complements each other’s imagery, aesthetic and mark making. Having said that I greatly appreciate and rely heavily on Jo’s technical advice and printmaking experience.

Jo Lankester and Hannah Murray, Wallpaper in studio, collagraph and relief, 100 x 1800 cm (installation).

You mention that either one of you might ‘lead’ depending on the piece – can you talk about these dynamics a bit more?

JL: I feel that Hannah and I were able to work both alongside and in tandem with each other easily due to our professional history. It was Hannah’s idea to work together on Wallflower – she realised that my abstract prints would go perfectly with her orchid illustrations and suggested that we collaborate. Throughout the process Hannah would often be scratching her etching plates while I was printing the backgrounds.

HM: I think we equally contribute to the development of an artwork once we have gained a shared understanding of each other’s imagery, ideas, colour palette and overall aesthetic. For the most part and with my key plate images in mind Jo would set about creating work that carefully considered the scale, composition, shape and line direction of the orchids. In support of this I would then respond in choice of colour for the final key plate. Alternatively some of the smaller prints were developed in reverse whereby I selected a key plate or image specifically with one of Jo’s prints in mind.

If you had to pass on one lesson from the experience, what would it be?

JL: Produce an exhibition that celebrates the strengths of both artists’ individual styles.

HM: Allow the collaboration process to develop slowly and naturally with lots of time to effectively experiment and explore ideas thoroughly. Coordinating collaborations and working to a deadline on individually busy schedules can create undue pressure – the more time the better.

What is next for each of you?

JL: I will be working to regain focus on my artistic practices for the foreseeable future. My mind is bursting with ideas that have been waiting patiently throughout the printing for Wallflower that I am excited to get down on paper.

HM: In between part-time teaching commitments I look forward to returning to my mixed media practice developing new work for a number of upcoming exhibition opportunities.

 

Wallflower will be on display at Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts in Townsville, Queensland, from 8 July to 14 August.

Q&A with Peter Lancaster of Lancaster Press

Top: installation view of Between a Rock and a Hard Place at Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop (29 June – 1 August); Wayne Viney, Winter Light.

‘Any time I open the drawers to look at past prints memories surface from fruition of a friendship or overcoming various technical problems. Making choices for this exhibition wasn’t easy. It’s not about big names, it’s about any artist having the courage to take up the challenge to translate their work into print – it’s rewarding to assist in orchestrating that.’

In May this year, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, an exhibition celebrating the work of Lancaster Press, was displayed at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery in Canberra.

In the lead up to Between a Rock and a Hard Place opening at Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop (29 June – 1 August), Lancaster answered some of our questions about his attraction to lithography, running a workshop and putting together the exhibition.

How do you explain what you do to strangers who may not be familiar with lithography and fine art printmaking traditions?

People often look a perplexed when I describe what I do! It doesn’t fit into any obvious category, drawing on Bavarian limestone. I do love introducing a stranger to the process of drawing on a test stone and then saying: Voila! You made a mark – we could print this!

What attracted you to printmaking as a profession, specifically lithography, and how did you start out?

I’ve always loved drawing. I tried to get into to drawing at the Prahran Technical School under Pam Hallandal and missed out. Printmaking was suggested – I then discovered lithography and the directness of drawing on stone. I was completely seduced by the process.

Tell us about the experience of selecting work for Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

Any time I open the drawers to look at past prints memories surface from fruition of a friendship or overcoming various technical problems. Making choices for this exhibition wasn’t easy. It’s not about big names, it’s about any artist having the courage to take up the challenge to translate their work into print – it’s rewarding to assist in orchestrating that.

What have been some of your favourite collaborations and why?

I have a core group of artists who keep coming back. It’s rewarding to see them taking control of the medium and pushing the boundaries.

Given your many years of experience as a master printer, are there still challenges for you in terms of printing projects and collaborations?

My attraction to lithography is its  directness to the mark. I still don’t feel like a master, things still go wrong, you can have a love–hate relationship with the process. It’s like being an artist, there’s always room for improvement, always challenges, but you can’t give it up!

What is next for you and Lancaster Press?

Where I go next is tricky, it’s always been a struggle financially and I’ve never had grants – it’s not in my make up. I’ve since had another printer Adrian Kellett working with me in the studio, we have a similar work ethic. It’s great having someone to discuss technical challenges that would bore most people to tears! We do talk of having a larger studio and combining our expertise so we could take on more ambitious projects together – this excites me! I’ve also set up a small litho access in my front studio for ex-students or established printmakers allowing after hours access, relaxed environment, a space to call your own!

Lou Tomlinson, The Arrival

Further notes:

Phil Day, founder of Mountains Brown Press and co-founder of the former Finlay Press, is currently putting together a book called Bedrock: 25 years with Lancaster Press. The following observations are from some notes about Lancaster Press that Day shared from his essay in Bedrock:

Recognition of the artist’s autonomy.

While looking through Peter’s seemingly endless pile of lithographs, it became clear clear to me that Peter drew to him people who had within them that strange silent communication that has held the attention of children and adults the world over as far back as our prehistoric ancestors – the desire to draw. Which is not to be confused with the desire to make art. Art, as it is popularly understood today, is measured by arts institutions. They decide which artworks they deem important, and worthy of study and protection for posterity. Which is different to the history of Peter’s lithographs. It is true that many of Peter’s lithographs carry the marks of artists that various institutions deem as worthy, however there are other lithographs that carry the marks by artists who remain unknown. Regardless of this, I found in each of Peter’s lithographs an equal level of care and attention to detail each artists received. A mindful attention from Peter’s eyes irrespective of any notion of ‘lasting appeal’.

Q&A with Minna Gilligan

Minna GilliganYou’re lovely, but it’s not for sure, 2016, acrylic and collage on found image, 18 x 13 cm. Courtesy the artist and Daine Singer Gallery. Image commissioned for the cover of the Imprint winter 2016 (Vol. 51 No. 2) and produced as an unsigned and unnumbered edition of 100 A3 posters. Posters available for purchase for $15 each through the PCA website.

‘My Grandfather was a watercolour artist, and, although he passed away before I was born, his paintings have adorned every room in every house of all my family members for as long as I remember. I grew up being very used to looking at art, looking beyond what was right in front of me and into framed portals.’ 

Artist Minna Gilligan lives and works in Melbourne. Photograph by Selina Ou for Gallery NGV Magazine.

Congratulations on being awarded the 2016 Nillumbik Prize recently! Can you tell us about some of the moments/encounters that have informed your path to becoming an artist?

Thank you! It was lovely to gain some recognition in my hometown for my art practice.

I wouldn’t be able to define a specific moment that has informed my path to becoming an artist, but I would say it is due to the broader environment I was raised in. My Dad is a garden designer and my Mum is a florist, and I was brought up thinking aesthetically and critically of my surroundings and chosen projects. My Grandfather was a watercolour artist, and, although he passed away before I was born, his paintings have adorned every room in every house of all my family members for as long as I remember. I grew up being very used to looking at art, looking beyond what was right in front of me and into framed portals.

How would you define contemporary printmaking and where do you think your work would fit within this?

I suppose contemporary printmaking sits within a digital realm now. I would go as far as to define saturated reproduction of images on platforms like Instagram and Tumblr as a means of creating a duplication, as a means of extending the original – which is where I see printmaking existing. I think the definition is wider, now. My art exists on the aforementioned digital platforms and is reproduced there. It is also reproduced in digital prints on fabric and paper. I see scanning also as a vital element to contemporary printmaking. It gives you so much control over scale and quality.

How did you approach the winter 2016 cover commission for Imprint?

I wanted to make something that was positive and playful. I struggle with winter as a season and dread the lack of light and the negativity associated. I thought it would be fun to make a painting/collage that is the complete contradiction of the season.

Can you tell us about some of your favourite artworks and where their power lies for you?

My favourite artworks are very disparate, varying from Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World to the work of Yayoi Kusama, Helen Frankenthaler and Matisse. In more contemporary spheres I love the work of Keltie Ferris, Katherine Bernhardt and K8 Hardy. As of this weekend, a specific body of work I saw in the flesh was Paul Yore’s exhibition at Neon Parc. The power in this work lies in the unapologetic generosity of his cornucopias.

What do you hope people will get from engaging with your artwork?

When people look at my work I want them to feel joy, magic and maybe a slight sense of uneasiness. I don’t want to project an entirely utopic realm but I do want what is projected to be optimistic. I enjoy people projecting their own struggles, exhalations, etc., onto the work, too, and I enjoy it when people tell me those thoughts.

Do you have any advice for artists just starting out?

The only advice I ever really can rely on is to work really hard. I repeat that to everyone who ever asks for advice, which is a little contradictory considering at the moment I’m trying to take a step back from my work for a short period of time, just to consolidate and reflect on what I’ve achieved over a non-stop period of four years since graduating.

What are you working on now?

Currently I’m in the final six months of my residency at Gertrude Contemporary, and as I don’t have any specific exhibitions scheduled for the rest of this year, I’m revelling in being able to make work without an end point in mind. I am also beginning work on an artist book with a publisher in Canada, which will be a compilation of collages that I’ve made over the past 6­–7 years. Other than that, I’m taking my first holiday since 2012 in July and I’m going to Japan. I can’t wait!

www.minnagilligan.com

Q&A with curator Noreen Grahame

‘A lively cultural scene, be it in an art museum or gallery, is dependant on the curator setting up an exhibition, which stimulates both artists and public. Basically the role is one made for those who look, look and look at work and who are open.’ 

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

Like most people I visited galleries and art museums and found I was fascinated by the print and wanted to find out more about how prints were made and who made them. I was living in Zurich in the 1970s, a time when prints were booming, and one could say I stumbled into the scene.

How do you view the role of curator?

A lively cultural scene, be it in an art museum or gallery, is dependant on the curator setting up an exhibition, which stimulates both artists and public. Basically the role is one made for those who look, look and look at work and who are open.

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

The artists’ books + multiples fair, although not strictly curated, posed many challenges from writing descriptions of artists’ books I had only discussed with the artists to finding that, in one case, the book submitted no longer resembled the catalogue description in any way. The artist decided at the last moment to alter it completely.

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

It may be a little akin to giving birth. You forget all the pain of ‘that’ working day.

Who are your role models?

Pat Gilmour was the print curator at the Tate when I was in Europe. I had read about her and how she would be all over London visiting even the smallest gallery shows and artists’ studios. When I returned to Australia, I found she was the International Print Curator at the Australian National Gallery – now the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). I phoned her number at the NGA. She picked up and we had a long discussion about the prints of the German artist Friedrich Meckseper, whose work I was showing. She was, of course, completely au fait with his prints. Likewise Anne Kirker, former curator of prints at Queensland Art Gallery, Roger Butler (NGA), Anne Ryan (AGNSW) and Cathy Leahy (NGV) are always open. I hope I am like them.

Which exhibitions or projects are you most proud of?

Always the one I am working on, which is currently Big Impressions, prints from the collections of the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery (TRAG) to celebrate the Print Council of Australia’s fiftieth anniversary.

Can you tell us more about this project?

Originally I spent quite some time making a first selection for Big Impressions from a list of TRAG’s print collections before driving to Toowoomba. With Tiffany Shafran and Eloise Tuppurainen-Mason I went through Solander box after Solander box and found a rich collection including PCA member prints from 1994 onwards. The challenge I faced was to reduce my third selection by fifteen prints and still do justice to the show. The decision was to show three prints – three big prints. Big Impressions reflects the enormous contribution the PCA has made to printmaking in Australia and to Australian culture over the last fifty years.

Michael Schlitz (artist) and Karen Knight (poet), Balancing, 2013, relief woodblock on Kozo paper, triptych, 66 x 264 cm, edition of 4. Courtesy Dick Bett Gallery.

Richard Harding on curating Out of the Matrix

Above images in order of appearance: Performprint, Bearings, Beauty and Irrelevance, 2015-16; installation view Gallery 2; Andrew Keall and Jazmina Cininas, installation view, Gallery 6; Richard Harding, Queer, 2016, installation view.

‘The expanding print for me talks to the idea that there isn’t one definition of what a print can be or what a print is. There’s lots of different ways of naming works … but the fact that it uses reproductive technology or a matrix is the thing that positions or locates it within the print realm.’ 

Richard Harding is an artist, Senior Lecturer in the Printmaking Studio at the School of Art of RMIT University and Secretary of the Print Council of Australia.

Out of the Matrix, curated by Richard Harding, RMIT Gallery 6 May – 11 June 2016.

Featuring: Jazmina Cininas, Marian Crawford, Lesley Duxbury, Joel Gailer, Andrew Gunnell, Richard Harding, Bridget Hillebrand, Clare Humphries, Ruth Johnstone, Andrew Keall, Rebecca Mayo, Performprint, Jonas Ropponen, Andrew Tetzlaff, Andrew Weatherill and Deborah Williams.

RMIT Gallery: How did the idea for this exhibition come about? What was the starting point for a new exhibition about contemporary printmaking?

Richard Harding: I had discussions with the RMIT Gallery curatorial team about what type of exhibition would be appropriate for a university gallery that would also reflect the work coming from the Print Imaging Practice Studio at RMIT’s School of Art.

Print imaging within our school is an umbrella term for a studio that houses the traditional mediums of photography and printmaking. Out of the Matrix focuses predominantly on notions of printmaking, but within printmaking there are photographic means being employed by practitioners. They don’t identify as a photographer, they identify as a printmaker but they use photographic means or photographs within their practice.

So the practitioners selected for the exhibition have a connection to the RMIT print studio through being staff, students or alumni. In their current practice, they teach, they curate, they do performance. There’s a whole array of different tags or modes of operation that they employ and so as artists are informed by an ongoing print practice.

Andrew Tetlaff, Andrew Teztlaff, Displaced Suspension, 2016  & Rebecca mayo, Merri Creek Zeltbahnen, 2013–16, installation view, Gallery 2.

RMIT Gallery: How important has the history of print at RMIT been in shaping of the exhibition?

Richard Harding: The print studio at RMIT has quite an interesting sense of history through its alumni of not only students and artists but also educators. So people like Graham King, Tate Adams, Hertha Kluge-Pott, and George Baldessin. A lot of people know and identify those names with high end galleries. These people have helped shape what printmaking is today in Australia and also have helped educate the current printmakers that are coming in now.

We’re very proud of our tradition and we maintain our tradition through specialisation and through high-end modes of delivery with regards to technical and conceptual development for our students. So we are putting in place now the next wave of printmakers that will be coming out of RMIT who will have a strong sense of their history, and a really good base in their traditional technical analogue and a digital presence in mediums and techniques.

These techniques are used as vehicle for incredibly complex, sophisticated philosophies and theories that have been spoken about within print and within general art production today, and that is reflected in the exhibition.

You also see strongly in the work the idea of the social artist or the social practise of art and how that’s connected to with current affairs, it’s connected to notions of urban development, it’s connected to the sense of wellbeing and expands further into different modes of making as well.

Jonas Ropponen and Joel Gailer, installation view, Gallery 6.

RMIT Gallery: In an age where you can really print anything off a computer, is there still an interest in traditional forms of printmaking? It seems as though many of the artists in Out of the Matrix are actually using traditional and modern forms together and in different ways.

Richard Harding: The analogue side of art production is alive and well. It’s highly sort after, it’s revered. The students who come through the studios here at RMIT do so because they want to learn the tradition.

Analogue informs what artists do digitally as well. What’s interesting is that many of the practitioners in the exhibition who focus on the digital tend to fall back into analogue too, and utilise photography as a form of drawing. So all these digital devices and notions of the virtual are played out in the act of making and in the processes of making these things move back into the analogue.

Prime examples of this in the exhibition would be work by Jazmina Cininas, Clare Humphries and Andrew Gunnell – as seen in his use of the moving image as a preparatory tool, capturing video and then taking stills from that video and then converting those stills into an analogue print and working over the top of them with a photographic process.

Deborah Williams, who is known predominately as a printmaker within the intaglio genre, is now moving into doing digital inkjet, printing from photographs that she has been taking of mistreated dogs in Asia. In her work there is a great sense of surveillance. By first using a digital camera, she has positioned herself as the viewer that then becomes the maker. It is quite an interesting movement.

Deborah Williams, A single gaze and Looked at, 2016, installation view.

RMIT Gallery: As part of Out of the Matrix there have been a range of public programs at RMIT Gallery exploring ideas such as being ‘print informed’ as an artist and the notion of the ‘expanding print’. Can you touch on some of these?

Richard Harding: The expanding print for me talks to the idea that there isn’t one definition of what a print can be or what a print is. There’s lots of different ways of naming works and naming print that can appear to be camouflage or can appear that people don’t want to say that it is a print for whatever reason but the fact that it uses reproductive technology or a matrix is the thing that positions or locates it within the print realm.

The moment you can make a multiple of an image, it is print informed, it relates back to print. It may not be a brother or a sister maybe it’s a distant cousin but it’s the type of thing that we here at RMIT and specifically in print imaging practice encourage students to consider when they think about concepts and when they are thinking about ways of making.

How does this medium, this specialisation that you are focusing on, how does it add to your idea? Why do a lino cut as opposed to an etching? Why do an etching as opposed to an inkjet or digital print? Can they come together? Will you draw on them? Will you collage on it as well? Will you make it unique? Will you print thousands of them and paste them on the street? And if you are doing that why are you doing that?

Clare Humphries, What remains, what returns, 2016.

Interview courtesy of RMIT Gallery. All images © RMIT Gallery & Tobias Titz Photography, featured in the exhibition catalogue available from RMIT Gallery.

Q&A with Vanessa Wallace

In order of appearance: Vanessa Wallace, Negotiate 3–7 (installation shot), solvent transfer, chalk transfer and coloured pencil on Fabriano Tiepolo, each print 100 x 43 cm; Fleeting 8–11 (installation shot), heat transferred digital print, stitched block on acrylic shelf with handwritten text, 9.5 x 9.5 x 9.5 cm. Below: Negotiate 5 (detail), solvent transfer, chalk transfer and coloured pencil on Fabriano Tiepolo, 100 x 43 cm.

‘I walked into the print room at the Central Institute of Technology in 1999 and was instantly fascinated by the presses. Throughout art school both at central and then ECU I found print processes the main way I was able to give material form to my conceptual concerns as an emerging artist.’ 

Why do you make art?

I can’t imagine not making – it has become integral to my way of moving through the world.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

It forms part of my everyday. Both through making prints in my own practice and working as an art technician specialising in printmaking at Edith Cowan University.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I walked into the print room at the Central Institute of Technology in 1999 and was instantly fascinated by the presses. Throughout art school both at central and then ECU I found print processes the main way I was able to give material form to my conceptual concerns as an emerging artist.

Who is your favourite artist?

The Boyle Family, Hamish Fulton and Richard Long were all artists that influenced the early development of my work. I don’t have a favourite artist as such and find it changes depending on what I get to see either online or by visiting galleries.

What is your favourite artwork?

Again it changes. One work that I keep being drawn back to is Great Piece of Turf by Albrecht Dürer.

Where do you go for inspiration?

The everyday. A quite moment and a pause to catch something unnoticed. I find if I make one thing a day, even if that is a photograph of the ground that I title it keeps the thoughts flowing somewhat. Working in an art school helps as I’m lucky to be constantly around other artists at various stages of practice.

What are you working on now?

A series of tiny artists books and a few smaller works.

Vanessa Wallace‘s exhibition Shuffle will be on display at the Spectrum Project Space, Edith Cowan University, Mount Lawley campus, until 3 June 2016.

Q&A with Rew Hanks

In order of appearance: Rew Hanks, A Touch of Home, 2015, linocut, 75 x 111 cm; Captain and his Bunnies, 2015, linocut, 104 x 75 cm.

‘Now I make art to try and fulfil a continual creative pursuit. I usually enjoy solving the intellectual and technical processes and challenges that arise. I seem to have adopted the role of a type of ‘Pictorial Choreographer’ who invents complex narratives that evolve during their execution.’ 

Rew Hanks lives in Sydney, NSW.

Why do you make art?

As a child I intuitively made many drawings and paintings without hesitation or fear of criticism. It was a luxury of uninhibited creative freedom that was never to be repeated as the future became more complex with increased knowledge and continual self-appraisal. As a teenager in high school I was introduced to the history and theory of art and years of very limited practical tuition. The teachers and other students would often comment, ‘Only the dummies and delinquents choose art as a subject’. Fortunately I didn’t fit either of these categories. At art school I was overwhelmed by the endless possibilities of making all forms of art and obtained a broader appreciation of the historical and contemporary concepts of art. Now I make art to try and fulfil a continual creative pursuit. I usually enjoy solving the intellectual and technical processes and challenges that arise. I seem to have adopted the role of a type of ‘Pictorial Choreographer’ who invents complex narratives that evolve during their execution. Many of my friends from art school have given up producing art because of the financial burden, lack of exhibition opportunities and the poor general support from the community. For me making art has become a fundamental and intrinsic part of my life although at times continually being creative can feel a little like a curse.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Like most professional relationships it is good most of the time but it can be frustrating even infuriating, demanding and rewarding. We have a healthy respect for each other. The constant pressure to produce new and engaging works requires discipline, dedication and plenty of hard work. You must constantly challenge yourself to progress. During the many hours taken to cut my intricate linocuts I use this time to prepare new ideas and compositional concerns for the next work by quickly sketching possible images or concepts. Printmaking has become the major vehicle or outlet in which I use to help realise my creative output. This has evolved partially because of time constraints due to heavy teaching commitments. However it allows me the freedom to develop the work of my choice. We all have productive and not so productive days and must accept that not every print is going to sing. This happens to all artists no matter what medium they use. In the future I am very keen to resume my relationship with lithography and pursue wood engraving and embark on a series of small sculptural works.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

Similarly to most Australian school children I was introduced to linocuts in high school when I was about fifteen. The tools were rusty and blunt and the linoleum was brown, crumbling and brittle. We printed by hand rolling up with oil based Sakura inks and then used the back of a wooden spoon rubbing frenetically on the shiny side of a sheet of MG litho paper. Most of the impressions were smudged with the borders covered with inky fingerprints and the occasional splash of blood from nearly severed fingers. What a perfect introduction to a beautiful medium. It’s little wonder when students are reacquainted with the medium they uniformly shudder. I occasionally produced linocuts but was seduced by lithography in art school. After completing further training in America I produced mainly lithographs for many years, both mine and for other artists. However, for the last fifteen years I have exclusively exhibited linocuts because I thoroughly enjoy the physical act of carving and printing of the medium and also it gave me freedom to interrupt its execution at will unlike lithography.

Who is your favourite artist?

An impossible question to answer. There are too many to list.

Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Honoré Daumier, William Hogarth, George Stubbs, John Glover, Red Grooms, Edward Hopper, etc. They all offer something unique that might inspire an idea or maybe just to simply admire.

What is your favourite artwork?

Another impossible question to answer. It changes regularly. The process of discovering a ‘new’ favourite artwork keeps it exciting and refreshing. Visiting the Louvre, Uffizi, Rijks and MoMA museums is why I can’t attempt to answer this question.

Where do you go for inspiration?

As an artist you are continually absorbing images and ideas from everything around you. It might come from newspapers, journals, books, TV, the internet, exhibitions or just from a simple conversation. All of which are stored in your memory waiting to be reactivated when needed. Mobile phones and  iPads are also regular methods of instantly capturing a spectacular bank of clouds or unique shadow. However being surrounded by too much stimulus, both cognitive and visual, occasionally leads to frustration because of the lack of time to bring some of these ideas to fruition.

What are you working on now?

I have just shipped off thirty-five linocuts to Redcliffe Art Gallery in Brisbane for a survey exhibition that opens on 7 May. I’m a finalist in the Basil Sellers Prize which opening on 22 July at the Ian Potter Museum in Melbourne. The work must relate to sport in Australia. All the prints I have produced portray Captain Cook playing cricket, golf and surfing with a satirical contemporary twist. This sporting theme will continue but with Indigenous references for my first solo exhibition in Melbourne which opens at Nicholas Thompson Gallery on 22 September. I have just been awarded Third Prize in the Bietigheim-Bissingen’s Graphic Arts Prize Linocut Today X and hope to attend the award ceremony on 15 July in Germany.

 

 

Q&A with Samuel Tupou

Samuel Tupou, Evermore Repeata, 2015, silkscreen on magnani litho, 50 x 70 cm.
Samuel Tupou lives in Queensland. His print Falé Machina, produced as part of the 2014 PCA Print Commission, is available to purchase through the PCA online store.

Why do you make art?

To exorcise the inner dialogue.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Screenprinting has been a constant in my practice ever since I became interested in making art. I enjoy the craft of printmaking, using tools, equipment and process to convert ideas and thoughts into realised artworks.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

My high school art teacher suggested that I try screenprinting some of my drawings, I was immediately captivated by the colours, sharp edges and smooth finishes of the ink.

Who is your favourite artist?

Howard Arkley

What is your favourite artwork?    

Green Stripe by Henri Matisse, I had a poster of this painting on my wall  as a teenager, it really stood out, the rest of my room was wallpapered with early 90s heavy metal posters.

Where do you go for inspiration? 

Everyday stuff: catching a train with my kids, listening to music, yarning with friends, photo albums, moments in time.

What are you working on now? 

I am finishing of a new series of colour halftone works for an exhibition at Pine Rivers Art Gallery in Brisbane and later in the year I have a show at Linden New Art in St Kilda.

Samuel Tupou‘s exhibition Duplikator will be on display at Pine Rivers Art Gallery from 30 April to 4 June, and at Linden New Art from 20 July to 9 October. www.samueltupou.com

Q&A with Winsome Jobling

In order of appearance: Winsome Jobling, Lunar globe – res communis, 2009, drypoint on handmade paper from recycled mooring rope of Manila hemp using a taser-cut shaped deckle, 70 x 171 cm; Watermark Moon, 2011, handmade pigmented paper from cotton and abaca with stencil and watermarks, 55.3 x 20.3 cm.

‘Paper is a ubiquitous material, a carrier of world history, stories and economy – we take it for granted and the computer age hasn’t dented its production. My print works begin with the focus idea and then making the paper substrate – the material adds to the story.’ 

Winsome Jobling lives in Darwin, NT.

This is a busy time for you with your recent exhibition Ground at Nomad Art and your current survey the nature of paper at the Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory (MAGNT). Can you tell us more about these exhibitions and the process of putting them together?

I have had an exhibition at Nomad Art annually for the past seven years. This year’s exhibition focused on the surface of the earth, the ground as soil, the substrate for plant growth, and life on the planet. Imagery of plant root structures mimic the branching structure of plants above the ground, the bifurcation of river systems form the source to the sea, and the pathways of the blood via veins and arteries in our bodies. Family trees follow the same branching patterns and link us to our beginnings. The tree of life. Throughout the development of this body of work the handmade paper ‘ground’ became more suggestive and experimental. The papermaking ‘set the scene’ for the print plate vocabulary. For me, the ground for my prints is the most important part of the work.

Winsome Jobling: the nature of paper is a major survey exhibition at MAGNT that covers twenty-six years of my practiceThe exhibition took over a year in development and is also testament to the inspiration of Director Marcus Schutenko, as well as Exhibitions Manager Wendy Wood, curator Angus Cameron and the Museum team who put this exhibition together. There are sixty works in the exhibition: prints, sculptures, drawings and installations as well as a 100-page catalogue. I am still bemused but thrilled by the attention!

How did you start as an artist?

As a kid my sister and I had an Art Club on Saturdays – just us two! I did bits of courses in industrial and graphic design and advertising and then went to art school where I majored in painting and fibre arts. Then I went to Darwin and a whole new world, learning from people whose knowledge stretches back over 40,000 years, whose links to the land and the natural world transcend the physical realm. This experience has combined with and underpins my work. If I don’t make art then my world is not right.

What is it about paper that attracts you?

Paper is a ubiquitous material, a carrier of world history, stories and economy – we take it for granted and the computer age hasn’t dented its production. My print works begin with the focus idea and then making the paper substrate – the material adds to the story. I was inspired by the power of paper when handed a piece of paper by John Risseeuw at a conference. It was a petition to the US government demanding the end to land mines – at the bottom it said ‘this paper made from the pulped clothes of land mine victims’ – I dropped it.

In my own work, for example, I have used hemp mooring rope to make the paper for Lunar Globe – res communis (2009) which alludes to major explorations in the past to plunder new world discoveries and the proposed mineral exploration on the moon.

The possibilities of the final sheet are endless: each plant fibre lends intrinsic qualities, pigments and images can be embedded in the sheet forming process and watermarks that can be hidden or exposed.

Do you have particular rituals or routines that contribute to your creative process?

The seasons have become a routine when making paper. Simplistically according to white fellas we have only two seasons in the top end but age old Indigenous knowledge recognises the nuances of six seasons. I collect fibre plants over the wet season when plants are verdant and supple with sap making them easier to harvest and prepare. I often rinse the fibre in monsoon rainwater under the downpipe after cooking.

What do you hope people will get from the experience of viewing your work?

I hope people make links between the material and the image to extrapolate the bigger picture of the interconnectedness of all things.

What is next for you?

I am making two bodies of work: one more print-based looking at the local and iconic sand palm Livistona humilis, the other larger and more experimental works are continuing to focus on the ‘chatter’ or vibrations in the negative spaces between everything around us as well as the recently discovered gravitational waves that distort spacetime. Past, present and future all at once.