Q&A: Global Oceans

From top:
Laura Castell, Just one More, 2017, reduction linocut on aquatint etching 300 gsm, oil based ink, 14.8 x 21 cm
Mary Moore, Inheritance, 2017, photopolymer etching with digital chine collé on Ho Sho and Somerset White papers, Ink Jet colour and Charbonnel Noir etching inks, 14.8 x 21cm.
Mary Pulford, Mangrove and Samphire, 2017, linocut on hand made seaweed paper, 14.8 x 21cm

 

 

Julia Wakefield is behind Global Oceans, the title for this year’s ambitious Adelaide International Print Exchange, centred on the health of our increasingly endangered ocean environments. The results are being exhibited at Adelaide’s Hahndorf Academy.

 

IMPRINT: What is the foundation of the theme ‘global oceans’ for this year’s Adelaide Print Exchange?

JW: ‘Global oceans’ is a term that is used when conservationists refer to the importance of retaining an ecological balance throughout the marine environment. Everyone on the planet is affected by what happens in the oceans, and the devastating effects of our own human activities on the oceans are only now becoming terrifyingly evident.  The oceans have always been not only a communication highway between civilizations, but also a challenge to our imaginations, tempting us to take our ships ever further towards that distant horizon, or tantalising us with prospects of hidden treasures or fearsome monsters lurking in the depths below. I invited printmakers to let their imaginations roam around this subject, which is also an appropriate metaphor for the communication flow that develops around an international print exchange.  Our previous theme in 2015, ‘Winged Messengers’, also evoked images both natural and philosophical.

IMPRINT: How diverse – geographically and artistically – were entries in the exchange?

 JW: I received prints from the UK, America, Singapore and New Zealand, as well as five different states in Australia. Most of the printmakers are very experienced, and have taken part in many other print exchanges. A few have been encouraged to take part in a print exchange for the first time, but you would be hard put to tell which ones are the relative novices, given the general overall high standard.

IMPRINT: What is the history and importance of this event?

JW: I have taken part in international print exchanges since the 1990s, when I was living in the UK. I began to see the value of striving to produce high-quality editions so that I could build up a collection of prints from artists from other countries and cultures that would both educate and inspire me.  I exhibited 15 of these exchanges at the Hahndorf Academy in 2013.

In 2015 I established and exhibited the biannual Adelaide International Print Exchange, with the aim of bringing printmakers from all over the world together to create a unique exhibition. Twenty-nine printmakers from all over Australia, from America and Singapore took part.

The primary purpose of the AIPE is to encourage as high a standard as possible for these prints, by exhibiting them and offering them for sale.

The second, but equally important purpose, is not only to raise awareness about global environmental issues but also to raise funds for organisations that are working to improve and preserve our natural environment. Each print is sold for the same price ($85 including commission), and the artists donate all profits from the sale of the first print to a designated charity.

Our first beneficiary was Birds SA. All profits from sales of the prints were donated and used to help fund research students at our local universities.

This time the number of contributors has grown to over 50, and the charity we are supporting is the National Marine Conservation Society.

IMPRINT: Why is printmaking so important to you?

JW: It’s difficult to explain. The excitement of discovery is always part of the process. The perfect simplicity of an idea expressed in a print can transcend linguistic and cultural barriers. The friendships that printmakers can develop, even through the simple act of exchanging prints, are genuine and lasting. Printmaking also seems to go hand in hand with a concern for the environment, perhaps because we are now more aware of how toxic printmaking processes can be, and we want to minimise our negative impact on the natural world.

A handmade print asks to be held and valued as a precious object, but it is not a useful object like a piece of pottery or jewellery. It has value as a work of art, yet it is, more often than not, one print from a limited edition, which means it can be bought or exchanged with far less pomp and ceremony than an original painting. Many prints are precious, not because they have monetary value, and not necessarily because they are intrinsically beautiful; their value lies in the unique message that is transmitted from the artist to the owner of the print: a message that words alone cannot express. – Andrew Stephens

Global Oceans is at Hahndorf Academy until 23 April 
http://hahndorfacademy.org.au/exhibitions-1/2017/3/24/global-oceans-the-adelaide-international-print-exchange
 –

Q&A: Burnie Print Prize 2017

From top:
The Burnie Print Print on display
Performance printmaking by Performprint.
Patricia Wilson-Adams, Positions 1 to 3 (2016), letterpress on Chinese paper, wax, slate, wood and metal, edition 1/4, framed triptych, 35 x 105 cm

 

 

The Burnie Print Prize has announced its winner, Patricia Wilson-Adams for her work Positions  1 to 3 (2016), letterpress on Chinese paper, wax, slate, wood and metal. Imprint speaks with curator Birgitta Magnusson-Reid.

IMPRINT: What is the history of the Burnie Print Prize and how does it relate to the Burnie Regional Art Gallery’s impressive collection of works on paper?

BM-R: The inaugural Burnie Print Prize was held for the first time ten years ago in 2007. The Director at the time, Belinda Wright, had a vision to develop the gallery’s permanent collection on a national basis through an acquisitive award and in doing so, bring the best of contemporary printmaking to public view.

The Burnie Regional Art Gallery opened in 1978. Due to the difficulty for a new gallery to grow a comprehensive collection of artworks surveying the history of Australian art, it was decided, in 1980, to adopt an acquisition policy with a principal focus on collecting works on paper. This reflected the strong historical presence of the papermaking industry in the region and enabled the collection to so have an emphasis on contemporary Australian art.

In line with this policy, the gallery started to subscribe to the Print Council of Australia’s annual print commission. These prints form a significant part of the gallery’s collection and with the addition of the winning, purchased and donated works from the Burnie Print Prize, the historical and cultural values of the gallery’s collection are greatly enhanced.

IMPRINT: What are some of the special qualities evident in Patricia Wilson-Adams’ Positions 1 to 3?

BM-R: The judges were looking for works that show a great feeling for the material presence of a print as well as displaying innovation in regards to tradition.

They also paid special attention to artists whose work demonstrated some sort of progression in their making and how their work has developed over the years.

Wilson-Adams‘ work was awarded the prize on the basis that the judges felt it engages most directly with the viewer, posing questions, setting up moments of involvement. It is a work that promises to maintain its ability to captivate and will be an asset to the collection.

IMPRINT: What is the most unusual work entered for the prize this year?

BM-R: When the entries to the prize opened we received a phone call from the print collective Performprint.

They wondered if they would be considered for entering as their prints are made as live action performances with a pro-skateboarder as the printer. To us, this seemed both innovative and exciting, but in the end it was up to the judges to make this decision during the pre-selection. Their entry was accepted by the judges and the group arrived at the gallery and selected a space big enough for the print action to take place in front of the judges.

IMPRINT: How far afield do entries typically come from?

BM-R: The Burnie Print Prize has for the majority of instalments, received entries from all Australian states and territories. This year, for the first time, the prize was opened to the whole Oceania region. Out of the 133 entries, five were international and out of those two were included in the final exhibition of 52 works.

 

IMPRINT: Why is printmaking still such an important part of the art world?

BM-R: Printmaking is the art form which for centuries has been performed in a symbiosis with technology, derived from it but also driving the development of the tools and techniques used.  You have to ask yourself would we have poster art without lithography and later screenprinting and where will 3D-printers take the print art?

The different print methods have of course always required very different skill sets. I don’t think we will see a loss of expertise in the future but rather a new development where all printing techniques will be used in interesting ways.

We don’t know how or why the artists included in the Burnie Print Prize have turned to printmaking as their preferred method of expression, but somehow the idea that printmaking is part of human nature springs to mind, as ninety-nine per cent of us at some stage in life have carved into something, be it grandma’s colonial table or a message of everlasting love on a tree. Inking up and taking a print may not have been included in that context but for the print artists it is and continues to be!

The Burnie Print Prize is on at the Burnie Regional Art Gallery until 7 May
 –

Q&A: Susanna Castleden

From top:
Susanna Castleden, 1:1 Airplane Wing (2015), frottage on gesso on maps, 4.16 x 12.69 metres. Photo: Susanna Castleden
Research trip in Arizona.
Susanna Castleden, 1:1 Wing (detail)

Arising from a curiosity about how the world is encountered and represented, WA-based artist Susanna Castleden is interested in how the consequence and affect of global mobility has changed the way we see and perceive the world, and how this has necessitated alternative ways of visualising our position within it. Recent projects explore mobility and mapping specifically associated with leisure travel, examining the phenomenon of mobility and what it means to be part of a world on the move. Working in drawing, printmaking and text-based works Susanna creates large-scale works that often include sculptural or multi-part elements.

1:1 Wing and 1:1 Gangway are part of a series of works that consider moments of stillness within our mobile world. Created using a labour intensive process of rubbing – or frottage – these works require a time-based connection with objects that are usually in motion or are only encountered through mobility. The frottage is made on maps as a way of reflecting the geographical and cartographic relationships of travel whilst referencing the sites in which the work was made – an aircraft boneyard in the Mojave Desert and the Passenger Terminal at the Fremantle Port.

IMPRINT: What are some of the foundation ideas for your latest body of work?

SC: The works developed from my research into global mobility and mapping, looking at ways in which we come to know the world by moving around it. This then moved to look at stillness, particularly in relation to air travel. So, these ideas took me to an airplane boneyard in Arizona where I had access to stationary airplanes.

IMPRINT:  Scale is a notable feature – what sorts of challenges does this present?

SC: All sorts of challenges! There is a lot of time needed to prepare the gessoed paper – the work is made on maps layered with gesso and then rubbed to make the frottages. Then there is the time to actually do the rubbings, which in the case of the Wing is 13 metres and the Gangway is 16 metres. The wing was in the Mojave Desert, so heat and wind was an issue too. I also work with a wonderful assistant as there is a lot of planning, handing paper, and measuring that I can’t do alone. Then finding a gallery that will fit this scale works in is also a challenge!

IMPRINT: What are some of the most liberating aspects of printmaking for you?

SC: I love knowing a process really well and then thinking of ways to upturn that process.

IMPRINT:  What do you consider your most important innovations in your career?

SC: Working at large scale, questioning and  techniques, and finding out the amazing things paper can do.

IMPRINT: How has your work evolved in recent years?

SC: I have been really lucky in receiving funding for two of my larger projects, which has allowed me to do some things that I would never have been able to do otherwise. This has allowed my work to evolve in ways that are perhaps more adventurous and experimental.

Susanna Castleden’s work is in SPAN at Fremantle Arts Centre, Western Australia, until 26 March
 –
Susanna Castleden is an artist and senior lecturer at Curtin University, where she is
Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Design and Art. Susanna completed a
PhD at RMIT University, Melbourne in 2014. Susanna has received several awards
including the Linden Art Prize (VIC) in 2015; second place in the Fremantle Print
Award 2014; Joondalup Art Award in 2011; the Burnie Print Prize (TAS) in 2013 and
the Bankwest Art Prize also in 2013. Susanna was shortlisted to exhibit in the 2014
International Print Biennale in UK and most recently held solo exhibitions at the
China Academy of Art in Hangzhou China and at Turner Galleries in Perth.

Q&A: Jacqueline Gribbin

From top:
A wrapped Gilbert Whitley block found in storage.
Jacqueline Gribbin, Cats Whiskers, relief etching, chine colle, 2017
Jacqueline Gribbin, Down in the Weeds, relief etching, 2017
Letterpress boxes in storage

 

Jacqueline Gribbin’s new exhibition explores the work of icthyologist Gilbert Whitley, an Australian Museum curator of fishes.

IMPRINT: How did you develop an interest in Gilbert Whitley and his letterpress blocks?

JG: A few years ago I was shown a collection of letterpress blocks stored at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Many were wrapped in faded and yellowing paper with handwritten notes; some were covered in grease or wax. On first viewing, they were obviously forgotten treasures, particularly to a printmaker’s eye.

The blocks originated from the Australian Museum in Sydney, and I discovered that most of them had been created by a Gilbert Whitley who had worked at the museum from 1922-1964. After reading some more into Whitley’s background, I became intrigued enough to visit the Australian Museum to learn more about the blocks and Whitley himself. There began my exploration of the Whitley archives and the origin of the blocks.

IMPRINT: What is it about his works that you felt you wanted to respond to?

JG: My response to the blocks developed and evolved over time. Initially I was responding to the exquisitely detailed drawings of fishes. However, as I looked at more blocks I found different “groupings” such as simple scientific and anatomical drawings of sharks and rays as well as maps of areas around Australia relating to Whitley’s research. There were also old photographic images of fishermen with their catch.

I spent quite a lot of time looking at Whitley’s research papers and books to establish the identities of fish on the blocks. I also observed his original pen and ink drawings, watercolours and sketches. Through my research I began to respond to Gilbert’s character – his obsession with ichthyology and his cheeky sense of humour – as well as finding a scientific and historical context for the blocks.

IMPRINT: How has exposure to Whitley’s work informed your own practice?

JG: As my own work is formed from the environment and nature, creating a body of work with a marine based theme was a natural extension of my usual practice. Having said that however, the marine world was a very new and unknown environment to me, and exploring it through Whitley’s eyes has opened up a whole array of marine environments that I never knew existed. Although Whitley was an ichthyologist and a scientist, it is his character and little anecdotes, which permeate through his books and my work. He loved doodling and sketching, and I think it is this aspect of his character, which has allowed me to approach the creation of the works without feeling constrained to produce a literal response to the marine world.

IMPRINT: Can you describe the links you have developed between Whitley’s experiences and the contemporary world?

JG: In 1934 Whitley gave evidence before the Shark Menace Advisory Committee in NSW. Many of the issues discussed still remain relevant today; we still retain the same repulsion, fear and also admiration of sharks and we are still discussing ways to reduce shark attacks.

Evolving environmental factors, threats to the marine world and more positively, discoveries of new species of fish were Whitley’s experiences, which are still relevant to the world of ichthyology today. Human nature is still the same, and we continue to have the same fears and connections with the sea. This commonality has enabled a contemporary artistic response to Whitley’s work and character.

Relief printing blocks courtesy of the Australian Museum

‘Dear Gilbert, …’ (Song for the Ichthyologist) is at Nomad Art, Darwin, until 25 March.

Q&A: Streeton Prints

Clockwise from top:
Arthur Streeton, San Marco, Venice, edition of 50, 25.5(h) x 35.5(w)cm. Medium: Zinc etching on Somerset
Posthumous print by: Theo Mantalvanos
Interior view: Streeton Prints artist in residence, Joel Wolter talking to QG&W visitors about his printmaking techniques and the Streeton influence in his work.
Arthur Streeton, Magpie, edition of 50, 25.5(h) x 35.5(w)cm
Medium: Zinc etching on Somerset
Posthumous print by: Theo Mantalvanos

Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop is now showing Streeton Prints, an exhibition of never previously published etchings by Sir Arthur Streeton posthumously printed by Theo Mantalvanos at QG&W. Soula and Theo Mantalvanos explain.

 

How did this exhibition come to fruition?

After successfully restoring 11 of 12 plates and realising we would be able to edition Sir Arthur’s prints, the artist’s grandson William Streeton asked if there was any way the opportunity could transform into something more for QG&W. William was impressed with our dedication to print and arts education and wanted to offer even more support. He asked if we could give him a wish list to which we responded with three wishes: Can we publicise the story, could we host an exhibition to share the precious prints and restorative process with the public, and could we also manage the sales. 
 
Print and arts education has become a huge focus for both of us since opening QG&W just over a year ago. We always wanted to run workshops but were surprised at how thirsty the general public was for art information. And the ‘how to’ and ‘process’ of art isn’t only intriguing, but we realise it leads to patronage (or art addiction!). People realise the value of what they’re looking at, in fact most times after we’ve explained the handmade print process we hear, ‘why isn’t it worth more?’.
 
Streeton Prints presents the perfect opportunity to ‘educate’ and there are various aspects we could present.
  • First, the history: the straightforward restoration and editioning process
  • Second, the Streeton story: presenting the unseen works by one of Australia’s much-loved artists and learning more about Sir Arthur (and how much work he did on his honeymoon!)
  • Third, the legacy: the value of a significant artist, ie how they continue to feed artists and in the various ways in which they do this decades, even centuries, later.

Why were these etchings never previously published?
The answer to that would have to be: We will never really know. We hope this extraordinary event will uncover some more information by encouraging anyone with related information to come forward but for now all we know is that there are very few proofs – two of which are part of the exhibition thanks to the Streeton family. It could be possible that there wasn’t a need to publish them, that the demand wasn’t there. Or we can assume that Sir Arthur simply preferred painting or that his paintings sold well enough for him not to pursue printmaking.
 
Why is Arthur Streeton not better known for his prints?
Given the prints were held back from the public eye and painting became Sir Arthur’s preferred medium, and that he established himself as an impeccable painter, it makes complete sense he is predominately known for his painting. But this is what’s so incredible about this uncovered treasure, we will now know Sir Arthur for his prints. We’ll also know his son as the man who desperately needed a piece of copper and decided Sir Arthur’s copperplate of Doge’s Palace, Venice could do without one corner!
 
How are you demonstrating Streeton’s influence on contemporary artists?
We put a call out to our represented artists and asked them to respond if they felt they were inspired in some way by Sir Arthur. Nine artists will demonstrate their inspiration by partaking in a residency at QG&W during the exhibition. They have access to the centre of the gallery for six days each to work, exhibit and/or make prints or paintings on our smaller press while talking to visitors. The artists are Joel Wolter, Philip Davey, Emmy Mavroidis, Adam Nudelman, Amanda Firenze, Michelle Joy Caithness, Soula Mantalvanos, Andrew Weatherill and James Pasakos.
The salon wall will include works that have been specifically made for the exhibition or are influenced in some way by Sir Arthur by Danielle Creenaune, Andrew Gunnell, Bronwyn Rees,Stephen Tester, John Waller, and Deborah Williams. For example, Deborah Williams tackles the subject of the artists’ dog, Andrew Gunnell has always referenced Sir Arthur’s colour palette in his work, Danielle Creenaune ‘follows familiar footsteps of Streeton’s southern highlands sojourns’. In some works it’s very obvious how the artist has been influenced, in others we need to further explain. 
 
We believe the discovered etchings, the way in which we have presented the restoration process and plates as well as the contemporary works by QG&W artists will provide a great experience and education to our visitors. The plates, their proofs and prints may never come together again and we have a chance to see more work by Sir Arthur Streeton. A great honour for QG&W and especially for Theo who editioned the prints, handling Sir Arthur’s plates for hours, days, months. 
Streeton Prints is at QG&W, 81 Hesse Street Queenscliff, until 30 April.

Q&A: Laurel McKenzie, InkMasters Cairns

From top:
Rhonda Campbell, Tropical Wetlands i, 2016, monoprint with collograph and chine-collé
Anna Eglitis, Rainforest Morning, 2016, hand-coloured linocut
Laura Castell, Our Wasteland, 2016, linocut
Harry Robertson, The Kraken Hunt ii, 2016, linocut

Who: InkMasters, Cairns

What: Flavours of the Tropics

Where: Vivo, 49 Williams Parade, Palm Cove, Cairns

When: Until 20 March

 

Q. What was the inspiration and process behind curating Flavours of the Tropics?

LM: Inkmasters is committed to creating exhibition and career-enhancing opportunities for its members, and Vivo (at Palm Cove, on the northern beaches of Cairns) is located in a holiday destination, in a very tropical environment. As many international and interstate visitors see the exhibitions in this space, it seemed appropriate to showcase not only the print-based works of our members, but something of the experience of being in a tropical environment. The concept of ‘flavours’ could relate to many things – not just food of course – but the ethos, the up-sides and down-sides of being in the wet tropics, the natural and the social environment.

Q: The prints are both colourful and rich, yet offer an ethereal quality – were there key themes and styles you were specifically looking for while curating?

LM: A broad spectrum of print media, styles and approaches, representative of the sorts of works being done by local artists, was sought. The theme was outlined to members, and responses to that theme invited. As expected, people responded in quite diverse ways. The way artists use colour in this environment does tend to be responsive to the richness and saturation of colour, and the sharpness of shadows, in the natural environment – even the way people dress tends to be more colourful.

As to ethereal qualities perceived in the works in this collection, I can only suggest that this reflects the temperaments and working methods of the artists involved. Tanya and I looked for confident and thoughtful individual statements, but specific stylistic leanings were not uppermost in our thinking.

Each artist has a direction in their individual practice, but when called upon to address a theme, as in this exhibition, they find ways of incorporating their ongoing interests with the specific challenge of the topic at hand, which can lead to innovation and even to new directions!

Q: What do you hope that people who visit the Flavours of the Tropics exhibition take away with them after they leave? Was there an intended message in the exhibition that you wished to portray?

LM: I hope that visitors will appreciate the depth of artistic ability and the diversity of skills that the far north Queensland artists in this show possess. These are (mostly) small prints, but they are strong and engaging statements about the ‘flavours’ of this particular locality.

– Megan Hanrahan

Q&A: Keith Lawrence

Clockwise from above:
Janet Goldman, Red Kimono, linocut
& chine colle, 72 x 53 cm
Clare Humphries, Once, and again 2, 
linocut hand burnished
etched glass, 27 x 30 cm,
variable edition of 10
Joel Wolter, The Silent Theatre, 
etching, 30 x 22 cm (image),
69 x 59 cm (framed),
edition of 20

What: Editions annual exhibition

Where: Tacit Contemporary Art, 312 Johnston Street Abbotsford, Vic

When: until 26 February

IMPRINT: Editions has become a go-to event for Victorian printmakers. What is the genesis of the show?

KL: Five years ago, Melbourne printmaker Stephanie Jane Rampton was invited to curate a small group show following an accident that resulted in her having to postpone a solo exhibition with us. But we moved to our current building that is four or five times bigger. That small exhibition of half a dozen or so Melbourne friends with 20 works became the front three galleries and 19 artists with 65 works. That was 2013.

The following year I co-curated with Stephanie as we looked to diversify geographically and artistically. It also became the entire building rather than just the front galleries. I took on responsibility, along with Tim, the overall gallery curator, in 2015: it was strategic for Tacit to build direct relationships with artists and the print world. An open submission was introduced last year to diversify even further and reach new printmakers.

IMPRINT: The work is incredibly diverse. Have you been surprised by the range this year?

KL: Editions strives to celebrate the diverse aesthetic qualities inherent within printmaking media, a celebration of tradition while embracing contemporary innovations within the printed form. A now established exhibition of such scale provides a safe platform for artists ranging from emerging to more established to explore new and exciting print processes and approaches to image-making. That platform also provides the opportunity to exhibit multiple works from current practice, providing audiences with a greater understanding and insight of where the printmaker is ‘coming from’.

The now five editions of Editions have featured intaglio, relief and lithography in a range of substrates and printed on a range of surfaces covering diverse subjects, challenging audiences in their understanding of what exactly is a ‘print’.

IMPRINT: Would you say you’ve contributed to a resurgence in printmaking?

KL: From the outset, Editions provided a commercial outlet that reaches beyond the multiple print focussed galleries by respecting print as print objects within an exhibition context. Past Editions have provided, for example, opportunities ranging from the screen-printed paperbags of Carolyn Hawkins spanning a five metre wall, the light-box installation of Georgina Whish-Wilson whilst still providing an opportunity for the small delicate works by Stephanie Jane Rampton or Shane Jones.

As an exhibition that celebrates Victorian printmaking, Editions has featured a high percentage of regional-based printmakers – particularly from the Goldfields area. It’s an important, high-profile opportunity for increased exposure to these artists. Similarly we look to include recent graduates from the tertiary educational establishments, providing increased opportunities early in their art practice.

Tacit prides itself on the presentation and curation of the work and Editions has now firmly placed itself on the Victorian printmakers cultural calendar.

IMPRINT: What are some of the most striking or original works you have seen since Editions first launched?

KL: What we’ve always enjoyed is that juxtaposing of traditional techniques expertly done (I’m thinking the absolute control of multiple-plate printing by Damon Kowarsky, Kyoko Imazu or Hyun Ju Kim) alongside more innovative approaches (the minimalism of Louise Blyton’s silk screens and T. J. Bateson’s massive multiplate linocuts or Clare Humphries, whose work is addressing both the optical and material potentials of the picture plane).

Pete Gurrie in 2015 presented a 3D printed matrix whilst Paula McLoughlin last year explored CYMK dot matrix in reference to printing history. Within a supportive educational environment facilitating experimentation, graduate work has included the large-scale silkscreen printing on sheet metal by Ying Huang or the incorporation of human hair into the etchings of Scarlett Mellows.

It’s that balance of a mix of the traditional and the contemporary that we’re searching for. But ultimately we like to push the hand-constructed multiple in a digitally saturated world, celebrating the manual, the labour, the craft. Upon visiting the exhibition, we want visitors to be overwhelmed by the sheer sense of labour and time-spent that is worthy of celebration and respect. Editions celebrates the artist and the art.

– Andrew Stephens

Q&A: Terry McKenna

Top: Richard Steiner Birds Ears, 2001, Mokuhanga water based pigments on torinoko paper, 46cm x 31cm

Above, clockwise from right:

Terry McKenna Evening Glow on Impossible Building, 2015, Mokuhanga water based pigments on kozo paper, 23cm x 35cm, Ed. 15; Konomi Honda Man’s Shirt, 2015, Mokuhanga water based pigments on washi, 40cm x 51cm, Ed 10; Tuula Moilanen Six Dreams of Ukiyo Beauty: Speed, 2009, Mokuhanga water based pigments on kozo paper, 28cm x 42cm, Ed. 36

 

Below: Richard Steiner Birds Ears, 2001, Mokuhanga water based pigments on torinoko paper, 46cm x 31cm

 

What: Kyoto Hanga – mokuhanga works by Masahiko Honjo, Konomi Honda, Tuula Moilanen, Richard Steiner and Terry McKenna

Where: East and West Gallery, High Street East Kew, Melbourne

When: 9 February-25 March

Q: What is mokuhanga and why is it rarely seen in Australia?

A: Mokuhanga is the traditional water based woodblock printing technique of Japan, most famously seen in Ukiyo-e prints such as Hokusai’s Great Wave. Outside of Japan it has generally been difficult to learn and to access tools and materials, while top practitioners have tended to exhibit mainly within Japan, often due to language barriers. These factors have made it relatively rare to see quality contemporary work here.

Q: There is a wide range of artists being exhibited – please tell us about Richard Steiner and your work with him?
A: Steiner is a senior practitioner, having lived and worked in Japan for more than 50 years. Only a few other Westerners have lived continuously immersed in traditional art forms for such an extended period. Spending an extended period working with him was a great entry into the world of mokuhanga. While training with Steiner I was able to broaden my technical skills, meet a range of other practitioners and craftspeople that would be otherwise impossible to meet as a visitor, hear lots of interesting stories about the mokuhanga world and its characters within Japan, and experience collaborative ways of working. Being immersed in Japanese life and culture was a great experience for me.
Q: How has your own work evolved since you met Steiner?

A: I see a definite development in complexity and skill over the years. This medium in particular requires practice to master and I see a gradual increase in the level of complexity, with colours, carving and print effects particular to the medium. Thematically my work has been wide ranging as Stiener encouraged me to experiment.

steiner-birds-ears-web

Q: What other influences are important to you?

A: A significant influence on my current body of work “Ballarat Hakkei” is the historical use of this theme in Chinese landscape painting and Ukiyo-e. The Eight beautiful views (Hakkei) are a set of eight themes that I have adapted to explore my responses to returning to live in Victoria after many years abroad. Originally stemming from the enforced solitude of exile, the themes have been given an ironic twist in my work.

Q: Do you see strong connections between the artists in this show?

A: Steiner and Moilanen have a long standing collegial relationship, while Honda worked for Steiner as a printer in his workshop. Honjo, for a time ran Marugo Gallery in Kyoto and has relationships with a broad range of printmakers there, so everyone knows each other, although their work remains somewhat separate. I selected them because of this – to showcase a variety of work, origins and approaches. Steiner’s work stems from the Sosaku Hanga (Creative Print) movement, through his teacher, Honjo is the product of a traditional workshop situation of professional carvers and printers producing a leading artist’s works, Moilanen and Honda are both products of Seika University although at different times and origins. In short, the common ground is the medium of mokuhanga. There are many other mokuhanga artists at work in Japan, in the future I hope to stage a more comprehensive exhibition that can showcase the amazing variety that is possible with this medium. – Andrew Stephens

Q&A: Damon Kowarsky

Top: Paul, etching and aquatint from two copper plates, 22 x 25 cm, 2012.

Above: Jeffrey, etching and aquatint from two copper plates, 13 x 19 cm, 2010

Above, right: Michael, etching and aquatint from two copper plates, 13 x 19 cm, 2010

Damon Kowarsky won the Grand Prize for the Midsumma Men on Men art competition (alongside Scott Thomas, who won People’s Choice). Kowarsky’s etchings are showing at the Laird Hotel. Megan Hanrahan finds out about his process.

 

Q: What were some of the foundation ideas for your work in your new exhibition, Exposed?

The exhibition was a result of a competition earlier in the year, the Men on Men art competition, which involved work about masculinity, and the winner got an exhibition at the Laird, a men-only pub. I picked a selection of work from the last five years that were all portraits of men as I felt that was the most appropriate response.  It is the only male-only pub in Australia, and one of a few in the world. Now, it may not seem so important, however if you look back to the early ’80s when there was a huge amount of stigma against gay men, and the rising problem with HIV, it retains its role as a special space where men who are perhaps still uncomfortable with their sexuality can go. The bulk of my work is architectural and landscape, so this was a chance to have 10 or 11 portraits that fitted together in this exhibition but hadn’t [been] seen before.

Q: The prints have a lot of strong texture – can you explain some of the technical processes at work?

I nearly always work with two-colour or two-plate etchings, so a dark black or brown and then a blue or red as a second plate. I was shown a technique where you lay down an aquatint and then draw into it with chinagraphic pencil, or a waxy pencil, and that wax resists the acid. Etching can be an indirect drawing, but in this way you get the soft crayon marks you perhaps might associate more with lithography, but you get them on an etching plate. That, plus the combination of the two plates, is what picks up the textures. I am always pushing the boundaries of what that particular technique will give. Two-plate etching is reasonably difficult enough if you’re interested in coherent registration, but there is still a lot of scope for exploration.

Q: Do you have a conscious preference for waist-up portraits? Can you elaborate on what prompts this or what you like about it?

I am much more interested in portraiture than drawing the full body. A part of that is how it fits onto the page. There is a long tradition of a head-and-shoulders bust portrait going back to the Renaissance and long before that as well. It gives some clues about the body and the person, while still remaining strongly a portrait, which is much more my interest than drawing nudes. I am interested in who the person is and my relationship to them.

Q: Do you work from life with the people in your portraits? What is the process?

Yes, absolutely. I typically will make a pencil drawing of the subject, and then if I am satisfied with that I will transfer that drawing onto the etching plate. To me that’s really the only way it will work. It’s always a challenge to draw a portrait, and that’s a good way to learn and develop skills. We live in an age where photographic portraiture is everywhere… it can be done so easily, so taking the time to do something that requires practice and skill has a value. There is also a political element – I don’t think the world should only be viewed through the lens. Our eyes were the primary way we looked at the world for a long time, and understood the world, and I think there is also value in that.

Q: What are the sorts of feelings or emotions you would hope to prompt with these works?

I want them to enjoy looking at it. It has got to be interesting to them, and visually rich, and then they are free to develop any ideas they want from it afterwards.

Q: What drew you to art and printmaking? Was the process of creating fostered in you as a child, or did you discover it later in life?

 It was certainly always there when I was young, my mum did drawing when I was a child, and we had a close family friend who was a designer back in the day when that meant a room full of pencils and watercolours, cutting knives, ink, paper and all the kind of things that don’t exist in the design world anymore. I loved the sense of craft that he had. And then I started making art when I as a 19-year-old, and fell in love with printmaking. Printmaking felt the most natural. I liked the combination of craft, and the ability to be artistic and experimental. With printmaking, you need to rely on techniques, but you can push them as far as you want. – Megan Hanrahan

Exposed: Damond Kowarsky and Scott Thomas

The Laird Hotel, 149 Gipps St Abbotsford

Until February 3

2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: Rujunko Pugh

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