2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: Pia Larsen

‘I make art today because I continue to enjoy the challenge of synthesising ideas through materials, process, time and place.’

Why do you make art?

I come from a family for whom making art, and living with art, is a way of life. I grew up in a creative environment and learnt early on how to work with ideas from one state to another. I make art today because I continue to enjoy the challenge of synthesising ideas through materials, process, time and place.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

I have been using printmedia since childhood and its complexities and qualities have been formative for my work in print and other mediums.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

At Kinma Primary School I had a brilliant art teacher, Angelika. Her approach was non-hierarchical and encompassed sculpture, lino, batik and screenprinting, as well as field trips to places such as Long Reef, where we gathered ‘found objects’ (rubbish) to arrange in a large bed of plaster.

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

My submission consisted of three works. Two were completed during an artists residency in the US at the Women’s Studio Workshop, October–November 2015. The third image, from 2016, juxtaposes two paper milk carton objects with digital images printed on the surface, also created during the residency. This work plays with scale and uses time and place to explore the geo-politics of the US.

Whose work have you been enjoying lately?

I have been looking at Cindy Sherman’s work and her latest incarnation of female archetypes; Baldessari and David Noonan for their use of overlay and appropriated images; and Kiki Smith as a woman artist who uses a broad range of processes and has interesting things to say about being an artist and the context in which she works and lives.

Where do you go for inspiration?

I look at artists’ work online and visit exhibitions around Sydney and interstate. I read across a range of topics and listen to programs on Radio National that explore philosophy, politics, religion and the day-to-day lives of Australians, and people from around the world.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on bottle objects in paper with watercolour/gouache that reference the US flag, its colours, pattern and potent symbolism. They will be exhibited in a group show with Charles Cooper and others, to coincide with the outcome of the US election in November, at SLOT Space in Redfern, Sydney.

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

2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: Heather Kunjarra Koowootha

‘I showed my drawings to printmaker Theo Tremblay three years ago and he invited me to make prints with him. I saw prints by the artists at Canopy Arts (in Cairns) and was curious how they were made.’

Why do you make art?

I have to make some artwork because it’s a whole new journey through life experience.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

I became interested in printmaking because it allows me a full range of tones, textures and fine detail. I am beginning to work with colour and I can try different colours and see how they work in with my ideas.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I showed my drawings to printmaker Theo Tremblay three years ago and he invited me to make prints with him. I saw prints by the artists at Canopy Arts (in Cairns) and was curious how they were made.

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

I was working on this print about the history of my mother’s people and how they were forcibly removed from Fitzroy island, near Cairns, the missionaries burning the village to force them to the boats to take them to the mainland, and Mr Tremblay suggested I send a proof to the PCA for consideration. I was overjoyed when they accepted it, because, after all it is a very personal statement.

Whose work have you been enjoying lately? Where do you go for inspiration?

Foreign artists, represented in art galleries in Cairns, and artists I come in contact with. I live in a remote area of Queensland and look forward to big exhibitions like Inkfest at the Tanks Art Centre in Cairns, like what we just had recently. I am inspired by North Queensland Indigenous works by artists such as Paul Bong, Sid Bruce Shortjoe and Mylene Holroyd. They are doing etchings and it encourages me to keep going. I also get inspired by stories from my elders and childhood memories.

What are you working on now?

I’m working up a series of drypoints on Perspex about a colonial battle which took place in Yarrabah, where my great-grandfather, Tobias, was a war hero. I’m also working on some small etchings making fun of racist politicians.

Congratulations to Heather Kunjarra Koowootha who received the Indigenous Artist Award as part of this year’s commission.

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

2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: John Ryrie

‘I have been interested in printmaking since I was about nine or ten years old. Picasso’s etching and lithographs were the first prints I looked at.’

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Printmaking is my main medium. I am also a painter, sculptor and a musician.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I have been interested in printmaking since I was about nine or ten years old. Picasso’s etching and lithographs were the first prints I looked at. I was eighteen before I made my first print.

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

The ‘Waiters’ Race’ was part of the Lygon Street festival back in the 1990s.

Whose work have you been enjoying lately?
This year there have been a lot of good print exhibitions: at the NGV we’ve had DegasWhistlerJan Senbergs and, in the member lounge, Piranesi; in Ballarat, William Kentridge and Pam Hallandal. I have also been looking at Laura Knight, Stanley Anderson, Robert Sargent Austin, Günter Grass and Bruegel.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a folio of prints based on Punch and Judy. It was started in 2006 as a State Library fellowship project. There is an exchange folio called Panoply organised by Rona Green and another for the Scarlet Fund. I have one print in each of these. I am also working on another limited edition book that I hope to have finished by the end of this year.

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

2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: Rona Green

From today until 31 October, our fabulous 2016 PCA Print Commission prints will be available to view at a range of venues around the country (please see details listed at the end of this interview). To celebrate and to offer a little peep into the worlds of the artists selected for the commission by our esteemed judges – Roger Butler, Senior Curator of Australian Prints and Drawings and Illustrated Books at the National Gallery of Australia, and master printer John Loane of Viridian Press – today we also kick off an interview series in which we will highlight one of the ten prints and artists involved in this year’s commission each week.

‘From looking at my work it is probably fairly easy to tell what is of most interest to me: animals, appearances, stories.’

Why do you make art?

It is deeply amusing to do so.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Involved and intense. It’s a very close friend.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

At La Trobe University in Bendigo during the early 1990’s I was taught by a couple of excellent printmaking lecturers (Peter Jacobs and John Robinson) who totally infected me with their enthusiasm for the medium.

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

A lot of handsome cats have been drawing my attention of late so it seemed like a good opportunity to use one of these as a reference for the purpose of the print commission. The dapper cat character I conjured up lives a wild life. Hopefully he will provide interesting company for those who choose to have him come live with them.

Whose work have you been enjoying lately?

Derek Boshier, Michael Craig-Martin, Lee Lozano, Pauline Boty, Dorothy Iannone, Paul Compton.

Where do you go for inspiration?

From looking at my work it is probably fairly easy to tell what is of most interest to me: animals, appearances, stories. Artists whose work I admire include Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Francis Bacon, John Brack, David Hockney, Peter Blake, Diane Arbus, Philip Guston, Ida Applebroog, Leon Golub, and Ed Paschke. And I am particularly keen on Egyptian art and the Dutch Golden Age. Not to mention TV …

What are you working on now?

Preparing for a solo exhibition of printmaking at Bendigo Art Gallery and a solo exhibition of painting, drawing and printmaking at Australian Galleries, Melbourne. Both shows are scheduled for late 2017.

Q&A with Marco Luccio

I don’t tend to wait for inspiration to strike, I just go in my studio and work. I do, however, take time away to restore my energy and allow space for new work to come into being.‘ 

How did you start out as an artist?

I started out as an artist by doing VCE art then completing a fine arts honours degree at RMIT. I was always encouraged to be an artist by family, friends and teachers from very early on so it gave me a strong sense of what I wanted to do with my life. It hasn’t always been easy to pursue an art career, as most artists will attest, but it’s never been boring! It’s very fulfilling and at times absolutely thrilling.

What is it about printmaking that attracts you?

 I love the marks, the directness, the chances, the accidents, the absolute joy of the first proof, the satisfaction of completing a challenging piece, the unique possibilities of expressiveness, the relationship printmaking has to drawing, the integrity of the medium and the fact that, for me, the subject and the medium are often the same, interconnecting quite often with the themes I pursue and the manner in which I create the plates.

I love the way it feels to gouge deeply into a plate to create powerful and rich velvety blacks, and the contrast of sensitivity that a light touch allows. Each plate offers a new passport to exciting new worlds … and, of course, it’s plain great fun.

Can you tell us about the process of making work for New York Mythic?

It all began with my first trip to New York in 2007. I have made several trips to Manhattan over the years. This is a very large show. It features three bodies of work and around eighty-five artworks.

It pulls together a selection of the 2008 drypoints from the series Citscapes of New York. Also it includes a body of etchings that were started in 2013 but etched this year and will be shown for the first time in Australia as part of New York Mythic. Then there is the forty or so artworks made just this year, a collection of paintings, charcoal drawings, drypoints and mixed media.

To create New York Mythic I started by making sketches in situ in New York from various vantage points such as the Chrysler Building but also, for the first time, used photos as a reference. These were snapped whilst white knuckled and terrified (I’m afraid of heights!) in a helicopter flight over the City of New York.

I wanted this show to capture New York as an imagined and expressive construct, views that may give the viewer a new perspective not only literally but also in the use of mediums and approaches.

Some of the works are very big – up to eleven and a half feet. I think this engages the viewer in a way that smaller works don’t.

With these big images I poured ink and water and built layers over and over until the images started to guide me. I wanted to have a sense of scale that I had not previously explored. I also have drypoints in this show that are four by six feet. They are deeply gouged and were incredibly physically challenging to scratch, ink and print – though I think this physicality, this exertion of energy is fitting. The subject and the medium, as mentioned earlier, become one. New York has this monolithic sense of imposing power and a formidable presence and I was driven by these feelings in making the work.

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

Yes I do. If I have time I like to start with a coffee at my local cafe and write in my journal. Sometimes I like to plan my day and have an idea of what I may tackle but other times that may change completely. I like to be organised but it generally doesn’t last longer than two minutes, and that’s if I’m lucky! When I’m right in the middle of producing a whole body of work it’s often a bit chaotic with a constant reordering to make sure I’m on track.

I like to have all sorts of music playing, classical, pop and lots of jazz or sometimes the football … I’m a sad Collingwood supporter, but it offers me a nice break from the studio. Cricket also gets a run at times.

I like to work regularly in my studio but also have great enjoyment making paintings and prints in situ on worksites or in landscapes. 

I don’t tend to wait for inspiration to strike, I just go in my studio and work. I do, however, take time away to restore my energy and allow space for new work to come into being.

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

I hope people get the feeling that they are not only seeing an image that represents the physical place but also a sense of what it’s like to be there, what your body might feel like when it’s in front of these cities or landscapes. What your senses tell you about a place. I hope the viewer might feel a sense of connection to the marks that represent the subject as much as the subject itself. I hope that they also may get a sense of me in the work too, and of themselves as much as the places I draw.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a new book with the great author John Hughes.

Previously we worked on the book The Garden of Sorrows together, which featured sixty of my etchings, and are now collaborating on a new book. I have been making new drawings for that project. 

Also, The Garden of Sorrows is in early production to become a theatrical performance by the wonderful Snuff Puppets. The first introductory performance was performed at the NGV Australia last year and the further complete performances should be ready for touring next year.

New York Mythic will be on display at fortyfive downstairs from 13 September to 8 October.

Q&A with Robert Avitabile

‘I became interested in prints because I like drawing. The simple expression of marks on a surface is both a beginning and an end and is very satisfying. Drawing can be a beautiful evolving statement of an idea and I like it when printmakers carry this freshness and energy into their work.’ 

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

Art wasn’t part of my childhood in semi-rural Ashwood – I was inclined to be outside most of the time, with the only distraction from this being early black and white TV after dinner.

My father’s night class charcoal drawings of Voltaire and The Discus Thrower, etc., from the National Gallery School in the late 1930s to early 1940s weren’t on our walls, but lurking in the back of his wardrobe.

Art came along when I was ready and ironically it was my father’s hidden drawings that sparked my earliest interest and attempts at drawing. The serendipitous opening of the NGV on St Kilda Road in the late 1960s had a profound effect on me since we were now living in St Kilda East. A beautiful world had opened up before my eyes. I could easily walk or catch a tram there and it all made sense.

I began Preliminary Year in Art and Design at Prahran Tech in 1972, and was able to develop ideas and techniques that I had no way of pursuing earlier. I did three more years of a Graphic Design major, with ongoing Life Drawing and electives in Printmaking and Photography also being an important part of my studies. After four years of drawing and the influence of wonderful teachers like Glenys McIntosh and Pam Hallandal, I cannot imagine my life without it and I mourn the downgrading of Drawing in educational institutes today.

I became interested in prints because I like drawing. The simple expression of marks on a surface is both a beginning and an end and is very satisfying. Drawing can be a beautiful evolving statement of an idea and I like it when printmakers carry this freshness and energy into their work.

How do you view the role of curator?

I am an artist and I became a curator by default. I like how art objects interact and (as a classic Libran) I like to arrange them. I also like stories of artists and their careers and I strive to tell these stories in the context of their art. This is how I work and I imagine it’s how others work. However, a gallery owner’s work as a curator is only part of a big job description.

When I was about 16-years-old I curated my first show in my father’s shed – it was a collection of my own Picasso copies. I have now been fortunate to put together some major shows at Metropolis Gallery in Geelong, working with a number of amazing artists including Marco Luccio, Adrian Lockhart and Andrew Chapman; the many prominent Australian printmakers around whom I have curated a number of Collectable Print shows; emerging local artists like Michael Gromm and Steve Salo; comprehensive retrospectives of Kenneth Jack, David Newbury and Bill Harding; and exhibitions in association with a number of prominent Aboriginal art centres. When I look back at each exhibition, it’s the artists’ stories that bring their exhibitions together to connect with viewers. And so it’s the role of a curator to help tell these stories in more ways than simply finding pictures to hang on the wall.

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

A curator understands how people will ‘read’ a group of works by an artist and how they can be presented in the gallery space to best advantage. An exhibition is a partnership between the artist and the gallery, with mutual respect necessary for a great result.

A simple answer might be that there are no challenges, only solutions.

What does a work day look like for you?

My working day starts at home and after the usual activities I check my diary and social media, but sometimes when hot weather is forecast, checking a bonsai before work is more important – apologies.

I usually drive but also regularly walk our dog to the gallery, so we both get a good half hour exercise. I check emails and chat with our gallery assistant if she’s working that day. After replying to emails while serving early customers and attending to anything immediate, I settle into the current exhibition management as well as keeping an eye on future planning. A lot of my day is ‘on the run’ and no two days are the same or predictable.

Upstairs we’re lucky to have our own in-house Geelong Picture Framers, so I also spend time there having a chat and making sure it’s looking good and running smoothly.

I enjoy interacting with customers, as this is an important part of running a gallery. Sometimes I might visit an artist’s studio or some galleries, or spend a quiet day working from home.

Most of my time is spent thinking of the future and staying one step ahead of what’s happening, while keeping my feet firmly on the ground in the present. You could say the drawing beneath all this is constantly changing and that’s how I like it.

Who are your role models?

While I believe that once the exhibition is on the wall the curator, exhibition designer and anyone else should be invisible, there are many anonymous curators in public and private galleries whose ideas I must have absorbed over many years – some reminding me what is good and some not so good. I am probably more influenced by many years working as a freelance designer, producing many interpretive design projects for historical, natural heritage and indigenous art sites. Many of those projects incorporated writing, illustration and design and many talented people for whom I worked were specialists in presenting beautiful visuals and stories in exciting, cohesive and innovative ways.

Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for, and process of, putting together your current group exhibition Mono?

When I look at monotypes the freshness of creation is still there: the energy of drawing is embedded in these works. Any artist brave enough to be involved in making monotypes must surely have been drawing for many years. You’ve only got one chance to pull the perfect mono and it seems artists like the adrenalin rush of this medium: not knowing exactly what’s going to happen when their painting on a copper or plastic plate goes through the press in union with a sheet of paper. You could say the artist and the print are both under a lot of pressure! If you are able to see this show, I hope the results achieved by Tony Ameneiro, Kim Barter, Anita Iacovella, Bruno Leti, Debra Luccio, Janice McBride, James Pasakos, Linda Robertson and Wayne Viney explain this better than words.

This exhibition was the brainchild of Wayne Viney who came to an opening of Linda Robertson’s here last year and said: ‘Why don’t we do a Monotype show?’ and I said ‘OK why not? Who else does Monos?’ So we stood around scratching our heads and put down a few names. Then with the help of Dr Thomas Middlemost (over the phone while agreeing to open the show), we finalised the exciting list of artists for Mono. Thanks Wayne and thank you Tom!

This early stage was one of introductions and pulling all the artists together and getting them working towards a common exhibition date, with exhibition details and gallery requirements emailed and positive replies received. Every stage of an exhibition is important – it’s like an organism that grows and grows and on the opening night of Mono there was a very positive response from artists and guests. The artists were there to celebrate, but the magic is that most people see this as the start of the exhibition – it really started last year!

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m talking to Mono visitors and passing on what I know about monotypes, the artists and their art processes. The exhibition is open and so it’s all about our visitors to the show.

But of course we do have another exhibition coming up in October, so preparations for Robert Ingpen’s Storybook Art has been a concurrent priority for some time at Metropolis Gallery involving cataloguing, photography, writing press releases, framing and presentation of about eighty works, then designing advertising and other printed materials.

In November we are presenting Panoply, a major exhibition of printmaking curated by Rona Green and including forty emerging and established Australian artists.

Between these two shows we have just slotted in an exciting little Collectable Works on Paper show, which came to us recently out of the blue. This is where flexibility as a curator is important to get it all done. Without the help of my partner Ilze, gallery assistants Amber Daly and Alex Game, and our framers upstairs, none of what we do would be possible.

Running a commercial gallery anywhere is probably one of the hardest things to do; however, it’s an occupation that incorporates everything I’ve ever learnt and experienced in art, design, life, business and so on, and importantly how to work within your means without becoming burdened.

 

Mono is on display at Metropolis Gallery, Geelong, until 3 September.

Q&A with Clayton Tremlett

‘Originally I studied as a painter but the processes of printmaking, particularly the excitement of the reversed and uncontrolled magic of the first proof, eventually got me.’ 

Image: Clayton Tremlett with life mask, 2016. Photo: Carrington McArdle.

Why do you make art?

For me art making is about identifying connections and commonalities in life experience. In more recent years my practice is about examining history and drawing from events or people that influence my identity, to make works that encourage others to reflect on who they are.

I enjoy aesthetic challenges and also like to make print projects that use the printing industry or printed matter like wallpaper or stamps as a historical context.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

It’s about experimentation with materials and processes, by challenging or corrupting a traditional technique and cultivating something personal.

When I started printmaking, my focus was multi-colour reduction linocuts (up to twenty colours) because of the textural beauty I found in the layering of ink.

For my most recent series Beard and Influence I have advanced a technique I’m calling Laser Resist Etching which combines photography, Photoshop and the photocopier to make a new form of photo etching.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I suspect it was subconscious connection with my father’s practice of carving leather. As a child, I recall watching him use a swivel knife and tools to effortlessly cut and sculpt leather which has many parallels to carving lino with a scalpel and then removing the waste with gauges.

Originally I studied as a painter but the processes of printmaking, particularly the excitement of the reversed and uncontrolled magic of the first proof, eventually got me.

Who is your favourite artist?

Favourite is a transient thing. Many artists have been very influential depending on their ideas and technical skills. I admire artists for their individual pursuit of a personal expression and this translates across many disciplines. If I had to name a favourite sustained influence it would be the electronic music of Kraftwerk and their conscious aesthetic as it relates to visual art.

 What is your favourite artwork?

This too is transient and dependant on a particular changing set of receptive moments in life. Recently I travelled with my family to Vietnam and was overwhelmed with the technique of lacquer engraving on panels. Although it is an old technique it was a new experience for me and for a time my most favourite type of work because of its combination of carving and painting.

In my hall at home is a portrait of Captain Cook by Rew Hanks. I particularly enjoy looking at this work because of its technical skill and confidence with the medium.

Where do you go for inspiration?

More recently that would be the Public Records Office in Melbourne.

History is tangible when you are holding a book that is over a hundred and forty years old with detailed information on a prisoner’s appearance, crime, punishment, religion, occupation and tattoos.

Crime and Punishment and Inking Up are artist book projects that explore prisoners held in the old Castlemaine Goal. Crime and Punishment focused on the types of sentences you could get for misdemeanours like riding your bicycle on the footpath (one day), while Inking Up highlights tattoos favoured by a selection of prisoners in the 1890’s – the most common being an anchor between the thumb and forefinger.

What are you working on now?

My current exhibition has taken four years to produce. The works are large scale self-portrait linocuts in the guise of twelve bearded Australian Bushrangers. This was my first performative series where I grew diverse hirsute appearances in order to re-create the original photograph of each bushranger.

After each project, I like to flip the concept to see what is revealed on the other side. Following on from Bushrangers it seemed logical to research the phenomenon of being lost in the bush.

I am also documenting central Victorian ANZAC memorials (the lone soldier) as the central image for a series of anti-war linocut prints.

Q&A with Bridget Hillebrand

‘As a child I was fortunate that sketch books and charcoal were always at hand. My mother attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna before immigrating to Australia and introduced me to art at a young age. She always encouraged me to draw from life and drawing is still a large part of my practice.’ 

Why do you make art?

My earliest memories as a child are of climbing over the back fence and drawing in my neighbour’s garden. My neighbour’s yard was always far more interesting than my own. It was wild and overgrown and I spent many hours contemplating how to draw the curve of a leaf or the angle of a falling roof gutter. As a child I was fortunate that sketch books and charcoal were always at hand. My mother attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna before immigrating to Australia and introduced me to art at a young age. She always encouraged me to draw from life and drawing is still a large part of my practice.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Constantly evolving!

How did you get interested in printmaking?

After finishing my painting degree in the early 80s I travelled overseas for a year. I remember the first time I viewed prints by Dürer, Kokoschka, Kiefer, Schiele, Kollwitz and Rauschenberg to name a few, at the Albertina in Vienna. Some of the works resonated with my senses so strongly that I went back numerous times to view them. On my return to Australia I was committed to making prints and rarely picked up a paint brush again.

Bridget HillebrandRites of Passage, 2014, linocut printed with crushed quartzite and limestone, 30 x 113 cm.

Who is your favourite artist and do you have a favourite artwork?

A large range of artists and artworks inform my practice at different times. I am open to encounters that not only inspire but also challenge my way of thinking. I enjoy artworks that provoke a variety of responses. James Turrell’s Skyspace Within without is on my list of favourites along with many others.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Most recently Mt Arapiles, but inspiration can come from a variety of sources: a conversation, a passage from a book, music, exhibitions or an encounter in the landscape. Most importantly the act of making inspires me to explore and experiment with new ideas.

Bridget Hillebrand, Site Unseen, 2015, hand-stitched artist book, bind embossing and chalk, 17 x 39 cm (closed).

How has the experience of completing your PhD affected your practice?

Completing a PhD provided time and focus to develop a body of work related to my experience of the landscape and more specifically to rock climbing. It encouraged me to articulate my thoughts and experiences, which in turn enriched my experiences in so many areas. Writing an exegesis allowed me to rediscover my love of reading. I also researched a wide array of material that I may not have looked at otherwise. The research also stimulated my interest to further challenge and explore the corporeal and spatial aspects of my work, to increase the kinaesthetic nature of my creative research, and to further explore an interactive engagement between viewer and artwork.

What’s next for you?

My solo exhibition Touchscapes will be exhibited at MADA Gallery, Monash in August and comprises the practical component of my PhD research. In developing artworks that reflect a rock climber’s intimate and sensory encounter with rock, the exhibition presents new possibilities for seeing and looking, where the viewer is invited to engage with the works through touch.

 

Touchscapes will be on display at MADA Gallery, Monash Caulfield, from 10 to 16 August. bridgethillebrand.com

Q&A with Jonathan Tse

‘My inspiration comes from things I collect. There are many things I love including early children’s toys. When my family migrated to Australia from Hong Kong in 1975, my parents only bought the necessities and much of our childhood belongings were left behind.’ 

Why do you make art?

I always enjoyed drawing and making things as a child. In 1978, while in primary school, my mum submitted an application for a Creative Art Scholarship offered by the Trustees of the Queensland Art Gallery and I was offered a place at Kelvin Grove Primary School on Saturday mornings. Ever since then I have always had the itch to create and today I still love it.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

From 1987 to 1989, I completed my degree at the Darling Downs Institute of Advance Education, Toowoomba, now USQ, in (Creative Art) and then QUT in Brisbane in (Visual Arts). I am currently working at Queensland College of Art in Brisbane as the technical officer in Printmaking.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

My interest in printmaking, specifically screenprinting, began at USQ, back in 1987 under the guidance of Normana Wight, lecturer and Head of Printmaking at the time. She was the one who got me interested in making prints and since then I have been fascinated by print and all its techniques.

Who is your favourite artist?

That’s a tough question – there are many artists/printmakers who I admire and draw inspiration from. If I had to narrow it down to three, these would be my favourites: George Baldessin, Jörg Schmeisser and Ray Arnold (and yes they are all etchers).

What is your favourite artwork?

My favourite artwork is an etching by Jörg Schmeisser called Looking Back. I have this print on my wall and it was the first print I saved up to buy when I was a student.

Where do you go for inspiration?

My inspiration comes from things I collect. There are many things I love including early children’s toys. When my family migrated to Australia from Hong Kong in 1975, my parents only bought the necessities and much of our childhood belongings were left behind. Today when I find something ‘Made in Hong Kong’ at a garage sale or the flea market, I remember back to the early days when I had one of those. The nostalgia makes me want to collect it again. Today my work is not only about family and connections, but also looking back and finding the past.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on a survey exhibition of prints titled The Collector to open on the 5 August at Queensland College of Art in Brisbane. The show is an insight into the fascinating world of the artist as a collector and the influence this has had on my work. I hope you will be able to see it.

 

Jonathan Tse’s survey exhibition The Collector will be on display at Webb Gallery, Queensland College of Art, from 3 to 13 August.

Q&A with Clare Humphries

‘I’m inspired by questions that I can’t answer easily, and by unexpected connections I discover through artworks, experimentation, conversations and reading.’ 

Why do you make art?

What draws me to art – as a maker, and also as someone who experiences the work of others – is its potential to produce a contemplative state formed through the senses. Art allows me to engage ideas through the body and to explore alternative spaces and temporalities. Making is also an act of attention, a way to form questions and to materialise the immaterial. Simon O’Sullivan suggests art engages introspection as a ‘technology of transformation’; this resonates with my experience of working with materials and processes, and it also reflects the kinds of effects an encounter with another person’s practice can have on me.

What is your relationship to printmaking?

Ever since I produced my first print I have been fascinated by touch as both an intimate and yet distanced element within the means of production. I remember my first printmaking experience in which I spent hours making sustained and intense physical contact with the printing plate as I carved an image. I then stood back and witnessed the detached, momentary and mechanical contact between paper and plate as they passed through the press together. I was compelled by the intimacy of plate-making coupled with the fleeting contact necessary to pull a print. Since then, much of my work has been concerned with exploring and re-configuring the relations between the hand and the printed surface.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

My father was an art teacher, so I was exposed to many fields of practice from an early age. Our home was full of artworks including screenprints, linocuts, paintings and hand-forged objects. My father gave me many opportunities to explore different materials and processes and through this I discovered a fascination for what I call the ‘haptics’ of printmaking. Since these experiences I have also uncovered an enduring interest in imaging technologies that function beyond their ‘time’, that is, beyond the time when they function as a commercially viable medium. New possibilities are always uncovered in obsolescence. 

Who is your favourite artist?

Different artists and artworks inform and enrich my practice at different times. Recently I have been looking at Anni Albers in relation to a new body of work I am developing. I’m investigating the potential of cloth to trace a liminal zone between presence and absence, particularly as it might be evoked through the idea of a winding sheet or burial cloth.

I’ve been investigating Albers’ weavings and writings because of their exploration into the materiality of cloth, including the ideas of the ‘path’ and ‘event’ of a thread. It’s interesting to consider her move to printmaking later in her career, and to look at works where she has translated qualities of tactility, tension and pliable surfaces to the two-dimensional picture plane.

What is your favourite artwork?

A number of still life works by Spanish Baroque artists were very influential on the work in my current exhibition. For many years I kept a reproduction of Juan Sánchez Cotán’s Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber (c. 1602) on my studio wall. Whenever I look at this work my sense of worldly vision seems to stop at the far edge of the shelf depicted in the painting. Beyond the ledge the intimately rendered vegetables have no spatial coordinates and the darkness seems to suggest that even gravity may cease to exist there.

In Cotán’s work ordinary objects emerge from dense black fields and appear somehow more than real, transfigured by a dramatic play of darkness and light. 

Where do you go for inspiration?

I’m inspired by questions that I can’t answer easily, and by unexpected connections I discover through artworks, experimentation, conversations and reading. Inspiration, for me, is a desire to act and, like curiosity, it feeds on itself: I find the more I act, investigate and experiment the more I want to act, investigate and experiment. Inspiration also arises when something gets displaced in my thinking, so I find the more I can be open to questions and experiences, the more curious I become about future possibilities.

What are you working on now?

I have just finished hanging a solo exhibition called Exhume at Counihan Gallery in Brunswick. It presents a body of work I produced as part of my postgraduate research and includes some new work that extends on the project. The exhibition addresses the idea that after a person dies their personal belongings enter new systems of circulation and value. I extended a methodology of printing for the project that aims to reconfigure the relation between the hand and the printed surface.

My next project represents a shift of focus that extends on some of my persistent concerns. As I mentioned earlier I’m exploring the space between bodily presence and absence, between ‘here’ and ‘not-here’. My starting point is an investigation of cloth that has potential as a wrapping for the body. I’m interested in how the notion of a winding sheet might suggest the limits of embodiment and evoke notions of ritual and transition.

Clare Humphries‘ exhibition Exhume will be on display at Counihan Gallery in Brunswick from 22 July to 14 August.