Denise Gillies and Lynne Mitchell

Right:
Denise Gillies and Lynne Mitchell, Traces in Time, 2017, dyptich collagraph, chine colle, collage, Blind embossed on handmade paper with cotton threads mounted on found handmade paper
Below right:
Denise Gillies  and Lynne MitchellConstellar 1, 2017, collagraph on hand made paper with hand printed fabric overlay and hand stitched cotton mounted on Indigo card
Bottom right:
Denise Gillies (right) and Lynne Mitchell (left) at work.

Denise Gillies and Lynne Mitchell discuss their collaboration for Bunbury Regional Art Galleries show On the Same Page.

Imprint: You both have an interest in the very broad area of landscape- can you give some background to your individual approaches to this and how you  encountered each other’s  practice and how it lead to this show?

Denise Gillies and Lynne Mitchell: Landscape is indeed a broad term that we both use to describe our individual works. In saying that, it may be landscape per se with some recognizable elements, very abstracted landscapes or it may be to do with the environment and man’s impact upon it.  Both of us also often include elements of time passing and history in our individual pieces.

At least some of our focus on landscape most likely stems from both growing up in rural areas, although in different countries, Australia (Denise) and England (Lynne).  Certainly Lynne’s background as a geologist definitely has a bearing on her choice of subject matter. We are also strongly influenced by the area where we both live, the Ferguson Valley, a beautiful area of small farms, hills and forests to the south of Perth, WA.

We had both been working and exhibiting separately as printmakers for some years before Lynne and her husband moved south to live here.  Consequently we met as members of The Southwest Printmakers group and exhibited together in various group shows for a few years.  From the beginning people commented on the visual similarities in a lot of our work, and most of this was from before we had even met.

We both do a lot of collagraphs while not restricted to this technique. Our individual works are often layered both on the paper with a variety of printmaking techniques, but also metaphorically in the way a piece’s content may be interpreted. And while we may branch out from traditional printmaking by introducing mixed media, our art is always print-based.

The idea of a collaboration grew from discussions around our commonality of print process and more importantly our like-mindedness.  Initially we planned to have a joint exhibition with just two or three collaborative pieces with the rest made up of our individual works. However, like many of our other plans, once we got started the end result was quite different.

Imprint: In collaborating how did you approach the nitty gritty of forming ideas and then making them work?

DG/LM: We thought collaborating might be difficult.  In fact it proved surprisingly easy.

Our exhibition title, On the Same Page, was decided long before any work was done.   It became our guiding principle and as our collaboration got underway we continually referred back to this title.

Initially there was a lot of brainstorming and writing of ideas.  This was only about the proposed collaborative pieces as we had decided that our individual pieces would be up to each of us. Having exhibited together over several years and become friends, we had confidence our individual pieces would work well in any exhibition.

One of the first working steps was to actually make most of the paper we used. We made it from leftover edges torn from our individual prints and we also integrated small pieces of actual discarded prints from both of us into the paper mush.  Hence we ensured we were both always On the Same Page.  This hand-made paper features in most of our collaborative works.

All our collaborative works were done with each of us in the same studio working side by side. We jointly made and printed small collagraph plates. We each printed fabric. We worked together composing the various elements of each artwork . Every step was a joint effort. (‘What about this?’, ‘Shall we put this here?’ ‘I prefer this colour’ etc. ) Our original plan was that each of us would make a plate or do a piece of art in her own studio then give it to the other to add to in some way. That never eventuated as we found the pieces we were most happy with, were those produced when we worked on them at the same time.

Imprint: What are some of the joys and possible pitfalls of working in this combined manner?

DG/LM: We only had joys in our collaboration. We grew in confidence in what we could do the longer we worked together. Because neither of us is precious about her work and because of the trust we had in each other the whole process was extremely smooth. We liked what we were producing and marveled that it was so different from our individual works.

In the end we produced seven individual pieces each and twelve collaborative pieces.

We can imagine there could be many pitfalls for others embarking on this process. Personality plays an important part in a collaboration such as ours. We think there could be major clashes unless each person was prepared to put his/her ego to one side. Two people working as we did, would need to trust and respect the other’s art practice. The temptation to dominate or overrule could lead to the loss of both a professional and a personal friendship.

We went into this collaboration with confidence our personalities were compatible enough that we could push through any possible pitfalls if they arose.  Luckily for us none did and it all worked.

Imprint: Now this work is complete what are your reflections on the ways others might respond to or encounter your work?

Because the exhibition has been opened and we have given artists’ talks we have had the opportunity to gauge the opinions of others.

When we first said we intended to do collaborative work, most people found it difficult to grasp how it could happen. When we explained how we had worked together, our artist friends in particular found it hard to believe. In other collaborations we have researched, the artists have worked independently on either the other’s work or plate to produce a single piece.  So far, we haven’t been able to find any other examples of artists working as we did.

Now the artworks are on display peoples reactions have been gratifying. However, people are surprised that the style is, as our friend who opened the exhibition said, as if there is a third artist. The work we have produced is far from anything else either of us has ever done. Little of either of our individual styles is present in the collaborative pieces.  Comments on our individual works are also interesting.  The general consensus is that our individual works are more confident and vary considerably from previous works.

We enjoyed the collaborative process immensely.  Not only did we produce a body of work of which we are very proud, but we had a lot of fun doing it. This collaborative process is something we plan to develop further.

On the Same Page is at Bunbury Regional Art Galleries until 17 August 

www.brag.org.au

Squatters and Savages: Ballarat Art Gallery

Right:
Megan Evans and Peter Waples-Crowe, still from Squatters and Savages, 2017, HD video – 06:00
Below right:
Megan Evans and Peter Waples-Crowe, Sovereign, 2017, Victorian era bedroom chair, leather, carving forks
Below:
Megan Evans and Peter Waples-Crowe, Bleeding Chandelier, 2017, antique chandelier, glass beads
Bottom right:
Megan Evans and Peter Waples-Crowe, Hunting Party 2, 2017, antique chair, embroidery thread, glass beads

Artists Peter Waples-Crowe and Megan Evans speak with Jack Callil about the Squatters and Savages exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

 –

Imprint: What is the Squatters and Savages exhibition about?

Peter Waples-Crowe: I was asked to reimagine some 19th century prints of Indigenous people the Art Gallery of Ballarat collects. It started in 2013 when I was using old images of Aboriginal people in collage techniques to revise them—and it grew out of that. The Gallery had this collection of Indigenous prints and didn’t know what to do with it. But they wanted an Indigenous person to work with it, so that’s how the project came along.

Imprint: What are you both trying to communicate through the artwork?

PW-C: What I’m trying to do in my work is bring some of these works into the contemporary. As a gay Aboriginal fella, some of them comment on that. Some comment on Aboriginal history. Things that weren’t covered then—that we’re not just objects of ornaments, we’re living people. I’ve put them in living scenarios and used a lot of sarcastic humour. I’m fascinated by the images themselves as an Aboriginal person because they don’t seem to represent me as a contemporary Aboriginal person.

Megan Evans: And I have a different perspective from Peter. My perspective is from someone of a colonial settler heritage. I’m interested in how someone in the 21st century can take responsibility for actions of people from the past—particularly people you’ve descended from. One of the things that I’ve always felt missing from the whole ‘Sorry’ apology movement, which went on for a long time and still goes on, is that no-one has really taken responsibility. The mistake a lot of people make is they think, ‘Well, it wasn’t me, it was something that happened in the past’.

Imprint: What reasons did you have for collaborating with one another, and what did it achieve?

ME: I’ve collaborated a lot in the past with Indigenous artists, but this was really special. We collaborated conceptually, but we didn’t work on each another’s work—other than the video piece—we just did our own response to these prints. So I think the benefit of working together was that our works bounced off one another, and his approach was different to mine, but we both responding to the same thing.

PW-C: Megan’s great grandparents were Scottish/Irish too, and they settled back in this place in north-eastern Victoria. And my mob are Ngarigo, and we go back up a bit further. So we come from a similar location, same sort of history, so that was sort of magic as well. And the show is much stronger with the two of our works there. Megan uses revisions of colonial furniture, and I was struck by her craftsmanship. I was interrogating that similar space, so I thought it would be amazing to work together. And I love collaborations.

Imprint: There’s an idea of inherited guilt in Australia – how did you approach that in this work?

ME: Peter asked me once if my work was all about ‘white guilt’. And I said it’s not about guilt, and that I don’t think guilt is a useful thing at all. In fact, guilt is a violent thing. All it does is suppresses the people who’ve been oppressed. They feel bad in bringing anything up, and they can’t get angry, they can’t express their pain.

PW-C: Yeah, Megan doesn’t want guilt. She says there’s this responsibility that people own up for that era. That’s what has to happen for true reconciliation. People have to see they’ve taken their white privileges at the expense of other people. A lot of Aboriginal art is about telling stories that haven’t been told, or were written out of history. History goes to the victor. Aboriginal history is written by non-Aboriginal people. We’re not in control of our own history. We’re trying to recapture that. Just trying to tell some stories. Tell some truths. I think people take that away. – Jack Callil

Squatters and Savages is at Ballarat Art Gallery until 16 July

Rona Green: Bendigo Art Gallery

Right:
Rona Green, Submission Magician, 2014, hand-coloured linocut, 56 x 76 cm
Below right:
Rona Green, Shitehawk vs Dirck ‘Foo-Foo’ De Cock, 2015, hand-coloured linocut, 72 x 108 cm
Below:
Rona Green, McGoohan, 2015, hand-coloured linocut, 51 x 66 cm
Bottom right: Rona Green at work.

Curator Jessica Bridgfoot discusses Rona Green’s new exhibition Champagne taste and lemonade pockets at Bendigo Art Gallery.

Imprint: What was the history behind mounting this exhibition, and how was Green’s work significant for the Bendigo Art Gallery?

Jessica Bridgfoot: Rona studied printmaking at La Trobe University here in Bendigo and graduated in 1995. During and since that time Rona has remained very active and visible in the Bendigo arts scene – exhibiting regularly at what is now the La Trobe Art Institute – which is directly across the road.  Rona’s work is so distinctive and the characters she has cultivated in her practice have become almost local heroes here. Of course, we felt it fitting that Green’s menagerie of dogs, rabbits, cats and birds come to Bendigo Art Gallery to ‘roost’ in what is a survey exhibition of the last decade of her printmaking practice.

Imprint: Green works a lot with ideas about identity – can you discuss the background to this and how it manifests in some of the works in the exhibition?

JB: Green’s ‘para human’ characters are absolutely unique but there is also a subtle unnerving familiarity about them which creates not only an interesting tension in the works but a kind of entry point for the audience. There are a number of devices Green uses to construct and disrupt notions of identity: the use of tattoos, clothing and body language all play on our embedded collective psyche and the way we ‘categorise’ the world. For example, Green’s work  Submission Magician is firstly a kind of brazen Aussie bloke, decorated in tattoos that suggest nationalist pride (the Southern Cross, Eureka flag), he has the head of a dalmatian and the body of young, lean man. His stance suggests that of an aggressor – maybe on the cusp of a confrontational head-butt – or perhaps he is taking a selfie, baring his allegiances to the world. We recognise Submission Magician as we have seen him somewhere before – he’s a family member, a neighbour, or the angry bloke pacing up and down the supermarket carpark, but somewhere beyond this artifice (in his soulful, puppy-dog eyes) there is also a vulnerability. In this way, Green’s work highlights our (predominantly Western) ascribed value systems and the dichotomies of identity – a serious subject delivered in the form of a playful punch.

Imprint: What were some of the elements of Green’s work you wanted to draw out and play with in the show?

JB: I wanted to convey the feeling that the characters in the works are active and very much alive and tried to reflect this in the hang, to play with notions of the gaze, the works aren’t passive – their eyes follow you around the room! The compositions or framing of Green’s subjects is a key device used cleverly by the artist. Green claims to frame her characters at portrait or ‘mirror’ height (i.e. from the waist up) to allow the audience a moment of self-reflection and in this sense the idea of the subject’s gaze (who is gazing at whom?) can be quite provoking. Many of Green’s characters are rather unnerving. Being confronted by a whole room of them can be a slightly surreal experience – as if the lights go out and they all get together to play midnight poker in the gallery.

Imprint: Are Green’s working methods, from a technical perspective, strongly influential on her compositions and aesthetic distinctiveness?

JB: Since her art student days Green has maintained a distinct aesthetic – notably the graphic use of bold black line. This kind of visual style was possibly shaped by her early use of linocut that lends itself to line-based work. Interestingly there are parallels between the way Green works as a printmaker and the way a tattoo artists works on the skin. Green prints in black ink on paper and then painstakingly hand-colours her work using watercolour and pigment inks – much the way a tattoo artist colours in between the outline of his/her design. This exhibition is a survey of the last ten years of Green’s printmaking practice, and while there are subtle nuances within her technique, the bold, vibrant, graphic language remains strong and I think that sense of conviction and cohesion in her technical process is one of the strengths of her work – that it is the language of Rona Green.

– Andrew Stephens

Champagne taste and lemonade pockets is at Bendigo Art Gallery  24 June-3 September

Milan Milojevic: Wunderkammerama

From top:
Milan Molojevic:
Wunderkammerama Objects, Digital prints, paper constructions and dome, 2017. Photo: Natalie Mendham

 

 

Fishface (the eyes follow you around the room), Digital print paper construction, 2017. Photo: Natalie Mendham

 

And your bird can sing, Digital prints, birds paper constructions and dome, 2017 (detail). Photo: Natalie Mendham

Milan Milojevic discusses Wunderkammerama, part of the Dark Mofo festival in Tasmania

Imprint: Can you outline the foundation ideas for this show, especially your interest in the wunderkammer?

MM: I was approached by Tracey Cockburn, Arts and Cultural Development Coordinator of the Rosny Farm, to see whether I would be interested in having an exhibition in the Rosny Barn as part of Dark Mofo. I was excited by the idea and put in a proposal and it was, thankfully accepted by Tracey and Dark Mofo. It’s a difficult venue , certainly not what I was used to, but it has a lot of atmosphere and I had to think outside of my usual exhibiting practice. My work for the past decade or so has focused on creating imaginary worlds and based on the Jorge Luis Borges book titled The Book of Imaginary Beings, published in 1967. My visual language is informed and inspired by the aesthetics and visual language developed by 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th century engravers and naturalist artists. I’m interested in museum diaoramas, the worlds Joseph
Cornell created. Wunderkammers and idiosyncratic collections and curiosities are also a strong influence on my work. So this exhibition gave me the opportunity to create my own wunderkammer, which offered a more challenging approach to my practice of breaking through the traditional two-dimensional print and creating three-dimensional paper constructions- objects in domes, small sculptural hybrids and an installation comprising of almost 200 printed birds. One of the highlights was a series of prints that had the surface embellished with beads and glitter by my wife Joybelle, who is an artist/sculptor.
Imprint: What were the challenges with putting this show together from a printmaking perspective?
MM: The challenges were in the space itself, there were restrictions because of its heritage status, there was  no way I could hang work directly on the beautiful sandstone walls, there were panels but I didn’t like that look so I wallpapered a number of panels. The building had great ambience and atmosphere so I realised it had to be a ‘theatrical’ installation and the idea of a wunderkammer fitted really well.
Imprint: Tell us about the imagery contained and how you compiled and explored these?
MM: I guess the exhibition gave me the opportunity to push the imagery further into sculpture. One work comprises 44 books of different sizes covered with my images, so it looks like a mini library, titled Unnatural histories.
Imprint: Is the setting for the show of especial interest – likewise is its inclusion in Dark Mofo significant?
MM: It is important, it’s great to have been included in Dark Mofo – the list of artists, performers, musicians is impressive – and I felt that I had to really lift my game to be involved and that was a great inspiration for my practice. It was a great risk in trying something else and it has now given me some great ideas to carry on with.

– Andrew Stephens

Wunderkammerama is at Rosny Barn, Hobart, until June 25

Lisa Sewards: Port Jackson Press

From top:
Lisa Sewards, Secrets, 2017unique state, etching, 28 x 22cm.
Lisa Sewards, Cloudy memory, 2017pigment print on cotton rag 300gsm
image 90x116cm, paper 110 x 136 cm, edition of 3
Lisa Sewards,  Grey Cloud, 2017unique state, oil on board, etching overlay, 24 x 24cm
Lisa Sewards, Love, 2017, unique state etching, collage, 34 x 28 cm

Lisa Sewards, Cloudy Memory, at LWOO Port Jackson Press Print Gallery

Imprint: Please describe the initial inspiration for this exhibition and how the experience provoked you?

Lisa Sewards: I have always attempted to convey a story and notions of reflection within my artworks.  As part of my preparation for creating I extensively research my subject matter, always searching and probing.  Back in 2013 my first large scale solo exhibition entitled White Parachute involved eighteen months of research and was pivotal to my artwork going forward.

My sketches, photographs and memories from several years ago when a close family member unexpectedly took flight and left behind clouded secrets provoked Cloudy Memory.  As a result this small body of work has resulted in the union of symbolic clouds, the parachute and a lone figure.

Imprint: Why do you think we human beings so love to gaze at clouds?

Lisa Sewards: I believe we all find Clouds very beautiful, mysterious and romantic.  We get lost in them if we find the time to gaze up at them, we want to touch them, float on them… and for me in this instance, combined with the parachute, they represent a portal, a womb of obscurity, where personal secrets were carried away.

Imprint: Clouds have featured so richly in the history of art – did this have any bearing on your work?

Lisa Sewards: Early in my arts practice under the guidance of Melbourne painter Sarah Tomasetti her beautiful works of the natural world influenced the way I approached my art.   Her teachings led me to “skying” reminiscent to the English Artist John Constable’s practice of making sketches of the sky and its moods, noting cloud formations and their elusive shifts in colour and light.  Included in this show are small oil paintings indirectly influenced by this past that have an etching overlay fusing both painting and printmaking.

The diverse and complex Printmaking processes influence my current practice.  I admire the varied Cloud imagery you find in many present and past Printmaking applications especially in Japanese woodcuts and wood engravings with those delicious clouds once created by William Blake.

Imprint: Why was printmaking the best process for this project?

Lisa Sewards: My Printmaking techniques continually evolve and incorporate traditional intaglio methods, etching using solar plates and also digital pigment prints.  This project has incorporated all these Printmaking methods in small intimate passive works and also allowed the mood to be captured perfectly in a large-scale velvety Cloud pigment print.

Imprint: How have your aspirations been realised in this exhibition?

Lisa Sewards: The parachute object remains at the heart of my arts practice and continues to be a fundamental inspiration, with many hanging throughout my studio.  I see so much beauty in the parachute, from its pure functional form to its rich association with past stories I have uncovered. To many people, myself included, they provide a universal symbol of strength, hope, security and grace.

Here in Cloudy Memory my parachute feels at home amongst the Clouds… the direction of the imagery has achieved its passive and tender display of love and reflection and the intimate space of Port Jackson Press Print Gallery’s LWOO is very fitting for their viewing… to compliment the artwork entitled Love that depicts the lone figure about to take flight, I have shaped a vintage white parachute canopy into a ‘fallen cloud’; it lays beneath this work and represents a metamorphosis return to the womb in the guise of an allusive cumulus. – Andrew Stephens

Cloudy Memory is at LWOO, Port Jackson Press Print Gallery, (23 June-6 July)

‘Winter’ at Gippsland Art Gallery

From top:
Wayne Viney, Clearing Storm, 2000, monotype on paper, 17.5 x 17.4cm (platemark). Collection Gippsland Art Gallery, donated by the artist 2014
Raymond Arnold, Elsewhere World, 2016, digital print on paper (unique state), 138.8 x 101.8cm (image). Collection Gippsland Art Gallery, purchased 2016
Deborah Klein, Sometimes Jenny took long and lonely walks along the long and lonely beach, 1988, linocut print on paper (edition 4/25), 61.3 x 45.6cm (platemark). Collection Gippsland Art Gallery, donated from the estate of Patricia Marie White 2013

Curator Simon Gregg discusses the exhibition Winter at Gippsland Art Gallery.

Imprint: What was the inspiration for this show and what are the sorts of parameters you decided upon in establishing the theme and content?

 

Simon Gregg: Winter is an exhibition of thirteen works drawn from the Gippsland Art Gallery’s permanent collection, designed to complement the two concurrent major exhibitions, one a survey of Kenneth Jack (1924-2006), the other, Bohemians in the Bush, being a survey of early Gippsland art (1860-1920).

 

So Winter is an exhibition that addresses the senses, and draws an emotional and physical response from visitors. I wanted to get away from the strict chronology of the other two historically-focussed exhibitions, and dip visitors into a pot of art bliss without too many parameters. There were no restrictions on the selection other than some relevance to the theme “winter”, which I wanted to interpret as broadly as possible. I had a wide array of artworks to draw upon for the exhibition (the collection has over 1600 works) but the thirteen I settled on cover a range of periods, styles and materials, while maintaining a certain coherence and, together, tell a compelling story.

 

Some of the works I selected, if presented in isolation, would not speak necessarily of the winter theme, but in this company I think they do. So I really wanted to encourage a different reading of some of the artworks. I always try to get people looking beyond literal interpretations, and to see with the heart, not just the mind. I think, overall, the works create a powerful and rejuvenating space to be in – most of the works look cold but they also have a depth and a warmth that I wanted to draw forward.

 

Imprint: What are some of the printmaking-related works you accessed while involved in the curatorial process?

 

SG: Of the thirteen works on exhibition, six are the product of printmaking processes, ranging from traditional etchings and linocuts to monotypes and a large digital print by Raymond Arnold, which is the result of digital manipulation of a series of etchings. The gallery holds hundreds of prints in the collection (I think about 400) so there was a lot of printmaking to choose from, representing every process imaginable. We have a wonderful range of works by Jorg Schmeisser, for instance, that might have suited the theme. Equally, some early prints by Jock Clutterbuck might have suited – we have some of his etching, aquatint and coloured stencil works – and they are among my favourite works in the collection, but it came down to what was going to be the most coherent within this setting.

 

Imprint: Would you elaborate on some of the printmaking-related works included in the exhibition, and how they reflect the wintry theme?

 

SG: Printmaking, for me, often speaks of a sense of distance, or separation, because there is a mechanical process that separates us, as viewers, from the creative act. I felt that especially with Lesley Duxbury’s relief etching A Certain Light and Raymond Arnold’s digital print Elsewhere World, and because of this separation there is a kind of inherent melancholy that I felt suited the winter theme. Both of them look cold, but they also speak of an internal world, and a withdrawal from the physical world. As a very introverted person I’m attracted to the idea of winter hibernation and being able to shut out the world. For me Judy Dorber’s work Chrysalis is about the magic found within – it’s about an artist looking inward rather than outward (Caspar David Friedrich famously said “an artist must paint what he sees within himself, not just what he sees outside himself”).

 

I suppose in a way I imagined the spirit of Friedrich watching over this exhibition, and these are kind of offspring of his own magical, wintry, romantic paintings.

 

Imprint: In what ways do you think audiences might respond to the show?

 

SG: Well, I hope people can park their expectations about art at the door, and open themselves to experiencing art in a new way. I don’t think the internal world of the gallery needs to be divorced from the external world of the seasons, and I always hope that when people leave the gallery they will look at their own world in a new way, and see new possibilities. By aligning the inside and the outside in this way, I hope to provide a direct correlation between art and life, to encourage this new way of looking. – Andrew Stephens

Winter is at Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale, until 27 August www.wellington.vic.gov.au

Southern Highlands Print Exchange

From top:
Kathryn Orton, Changing Places, Collagraph with chine colle.
Lucia Parella, Flee, (2014), woodblock.
Fan Ifould, Domestic Goddess, etching and chine colle.

Griffith Regional Art Gallery coordinator Raymond Wholohan celebrates the Southern Highland Printmakers’ Exchange exhibition.

 

Imprint: What is the origin of the printmaking exchange and how does it work?

Raymond Wholohan: The Southern Highlands Printmakers (SHP) are based in the Southend Highlands of NSW, centred around the towns of Mittagong and Bowral. The group was formed in 1993 to foster printmaking in the area and since its inception has exhibited regularly developing a particularly effective working relationship with the Sturt Gallery, part of the Sturt Australian Contemporary Craft and Design Centre in Mittagong.

They currently have 28 exhibiting members and try to maintain membership at around this number. Over the years, the group has built an enviable reputation for quality and innovation with members exhibiting widely in Australia and internationally. Many also teach printmaking in tertiary fine art courses and adult education programs.

Imprint: What are some of the mutual benefits for printmakers working in the exchange?

Raymond Wholohan: Unlike other established printmaking groups, the SHP does not have a physical base nor does it offer workshops on a regular basis. Rather the focus is on fostering opportunities for practicing artists for whom printmaking is important part of their work. The emphasis in on mutual support for each other’s professional practice, organising exhibitions of members’ work and developing links to other printmaking groups both in Australia and internationally.

In 2009, for example, the SHP initiated an international print exchange with print groups in Queenland, Wales and Hawaii. The portfolio of prints has been exhibited in the UK and Hawaii as well as different venues in Australia and full sets of the suite are now in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, the National Museum of Wales and Rockhampton Regional Art Gallery in Queensland. This particular exchange is to celebrate the group’s 21st birthday and has been exhibited at Sturt Gallery, Mittagong, Megalo Press, Canberra and now Griffith Regional Art Gallery.

Imprint: Can you tell us how the exhibition looks at Griffith Regional Art Gallery?

Raymond Wholohan: The works are all so diverse, so the SHP have utilised uniformity to bring cohesion to the visually rich exhibition. The vast majority of artists have a suite of three prints on similar sized paper, which are installed in vertically hung columns in identical frames throughout the exhibition. So the exhibition maintains the integrity of each artist’s imagery, but curatorially it’s neat little package.

Imprint: Are there any working methods or processes that are of particular interest in the exchange?

Raymond Wholohan: The exhibition encompasses all printmaking methods and techniques such as drypoint, wood- and linocuts, lithography, collagraph, digital printmaking, monotype, etching, screenprinting and multi-plate techniques. The whole exhibition is a 101 course in printmaking methods and techniques.

Imprint: Do you see any common threads emerging in terms of ideas and content in the prints entered?

Raymond Wholohan: As you can imagine the themes, narratives and preoccupations of the artworks and artists are as diverse as the printmaking techniques used to realise them. But if there is one thread that is more represented than another, it’s engagement with the natural world. – Andrew Stephens

Southern Highland Printmaking: Exchange is at Griffith Regional Art Gallery until 11 June www.griffith.nsw.gov.au

Flow: Counihan Gallery

From top: Flow at Counihan Gallery

Flow at Counihan Gallery, Brunswick (21 April-21 May)

Artists: Colleen Boyle, Clara Brack, Garth Henderson, Heather Hesterman , Bridget Hillebrand, Penelope Hunt, Rebecca Mayo, Harry Nankin, Jen Rae, Dominic Redfern, Cameron Robbins, Sarah Tomasetti, Maurizio Toscano

Curator: Heather Hesterman

Reviewer: Kate Gorringe-Smith

Flow is a peculiar type of motion. It is what water does when ice sheets melt; what makes rivers etch the earth over eons; it is the grand gesture of humanity’s movement from the past into the future; and, alas, it is also that unfeeling description of massive, involuntary human migration. Matter and energy flow, and information too: evidenced by the firing of neurons as much as the contagion of an internet sensation. Flow asks us to reflect on our experiences of flows and invites us to bear witness to the ecological present while hearing the call of our common ecological future.” *– Heather Hesterman

 

In this tightly curated show, “flow” defines the theme, the placement of works in the gallery, and the visitor’s experience. As part of Climarte’s 2017 Climate+Art=Change festival, the exhibition sits in a space with climate change at its centre, and each work addresses this crisis, whether directly, subtly or tangentially.

Counihan Gallery consists of three continuous spaces. In Flow, the first houses works characterised by feelings of helplessness underpinned by the implications of human agency. These are some of the most stark and pessimistic in the exhibition, works that peer with varying degrees of horror at the future and the role of humanity in the looming crisis. The first work, When All Else Fails, Jen Rae’s large drawing in white on a solid black background, depicts a lone climate refugee drifting in a small dinghy beneath a chaotic sky filled with the human debris of the ages. It is a bleak and unforgiving portrait – yet there is an innocence to the lone, childlike survivor, and the dinghy’s name is Resilience.

Next to Rae’s drawing is Bridget Hillebrand’s installation Floodlines. Beautiful and delicate, this is the exhibition’s sole work in traditional print media. Referencing articles from newspapers in linocuts of text, Hillebrand has created a downpour of words that both documents and mimetically recreates the flood-producing rains in the Wimmera in January 2011.

Water is everywhere. In Sarah Tomasetti’s work, the peak of Mt Kailash, one of Tibet’s most sacred mountains, floats against a white background, whose apparent solidity fades to the insubstantiality of muslin. This poetic piece captures both the endurance of the mountain and the rhythm of its human ritual of worship: pilgrims visit to circumnavigate the base of the mountain, on which no human has ever set foot. Four of South Asia’s major rivers have their headwaters here, fed by slow glacial melt.

The piece is a paradox: a floating fresco. “The plaster surface of the painting is made from marble dust and limestone putty, an ancient method that echoes the means of decorating the walls of Tibetan monasteries, using the materials at hand. The muslin used to bring the work away from the wall coils below, echoing the continual passage of feet in the dust at the base of the mountain, undertaking the Kora”. It is a work of reverence that also enshrines the threat that “…the estimated 46,000 glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau appear to be melting faster than those on other parts of the globe”.

Suspended next to Tomasetti’s work is Hesterman’s RISING. Hesterman has fashioned timber water-level markers that show current and predicted sea-levels for different sites along the Victorian coast. The markers hang from the ceiling and dance, casting painterly shadows, but this serenity is contradicted by their spear-like points poised to fall and stab, and their high-water marks – well over my head – that predict our inundation. Human-scaled, it is at once comprehensible and incomprehensible, beguiling and horrifying, marking the current point in time as much as a hydrological phenomenon.

In the room’s centre, Colleen Boyle’s floor-piece, I of the world, also invites us to consider where we stand in time. On the floor is an image she has collaged from two: the famous photo taken in 1968 by an Apollo 8 astronaut of the Earth’s rise above the moon, and a 15th century painting known as The Ideal City that became “a metaphor for good governance and the civilising presence of architecture”. At the time they were made, Boyle argues, both works caused a break in the flow of how humanity saw itself in relation to the world. Boyle plays further upon this idea by inviting the viewer to stand on the image and view oneself in a mirror suspended above the work – placing the viewer front and centre in this self-examination of exactly where we stand in relation to the planet.

There is disbelief and horror in this room at how we are changing things we have traditionally considered to be out of our hands. Linking the first and second spaces, however, is an element of hope: large digital prints by Garth Henderson of German industrial sites that have ceased their original functions to be preserved instead as playgrounds for society. It is a complex homage to the remains of an outmoded industrial history that has been repurposed for a different future.

In the second gallery space the works continue to relent. The mood becomes meditative through action, reflection and abstraction.

Cameron Robbins’ Creek Thing is an automatic drawing machine that, powered by the waters of the Merri Creek and with the assistance of children from the local primary school, creates abstract works that capture the creeks’ dynamism and autonomy as a place with its own life and identity.

Abstraction and identity also characterise Harry Nankin’s meditation on a stand of “old Belah trees (Casuarina pauper) found on the remote Meringur Flora Reserve in northwest Victoria”. In his images, overlaid gelatin silver film photograms on acrylic, backlit by a lightbox, and a pigment print, the shadows of the trees mingle into a complex abstraction. Nankin’s work, In defence of the pathetic fallacy, invites us to embrace the notion of Pathetic Fallacy to mitigate “…our well-reasoned suspicion of anthropomorphism [that] has become an irrational and exploitative indifference to nature for itself – an indifference central to the ecological crisis that besets us all”.

Rebecca Mayo’s piece, Bound by gorse, meditates on the flow of the Merri Creek, the growth of vegetation, of history and of colonisation, through the practices of clearing the noxious weed and making it into bricks to create a physical wall. Mayo writes that “Bound by gorse considers humans’ current relationship with Gorse conflating its historical use [as a hedging plant] to contain with the contemporary task of keeping it at bay”.

The fourth artist in this room, Clara Brack, has created a series of digital prints that appear as oversized postcards. Again reflecting the flow of history, nature and, here, thought – through hand-written messages, Brack’s work alone projects the artist herself into the exhibition space, allowing some viewers perhaps to engage more personally with the works.

Placed appropriately between rooms two and three, sits Janus, a sculpture by Maurizio Toscano who writes: “In antiquity Janus was the Roman deity responsible for watching over the thresholds of civic and domestic spaces. This two-faced figure reminded the citizens of Rome that the stability and fragility of the present demanded both a careful reflection on the past and a prudent contemplation of the future.” Janus literally appears to be a time bomb, the digital countdown displayed on the side of the piece ticking down to our destruction.

The third and final gallery space holds two works: digital pieces by Dominic Redfern and Penelope Hunt. This is the only space with a bench, and hence the invitation to sit. If the first space was characterised by interruption/examination, and the second by meditation, this space invites immersion. At its northern end, Redfern’s video installation Creek appears on five screens. It is a work that finds hope within compromise. Redfern’s creek is Riddell’s Creek, “…polluted and flowing at a trickle”, but nonetheless, “…in its diversity and tenacity…as beautiful as any other of nature’s expressions”. Mesmerising, the screens show the creek in macro, the detail absorbing and the light beguiling.

Hunt’s work, the exhibition’s final piece and – consciously placed by Hesterman’s curation – its lightest, is a four and a half-minute video loop projection depicting a landscape of rolling white clouds that silently reveal and erase a group of wind turbines. It creates a poetry of our engagement with renewables and climate change as it shifts from in and out of focus, from political to personal and back again, in and out of the media and our daily lives.

The climate change conversation is fraught with fear and helplessness. Throughout this exhibition artists have responded delicately and with great integrity. And although it does not shy from the possibility of destruction, the exhibition still offers an intrinsic message of hope: ironically, one can’t observe or comment on a “flow” without seizing upon one of its moments – we cannot comprehend the flow in its entirety – so a hiatus is created in which the viewer may question how and whether he or she dares interrupt the current flow toward environmental destruction. As Janus powerfully reminds us – we can stop the ticking, we can change the flow. – Kate Gorringe-Smith

*All quotations are by the artists from their artist statements (http://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/events-recreation/arts-and-gallery/counihan-gallery-in-brunswick/counihan-gallery-exhibitions/flow-exhibition-2017/)

Michael Kempson: China and beyond

From top:
Gregory O’Brien, Raoul Island Whale Survey with shipping containers, Astrolabe Reef, 2012-13, etching, aquatint and spit-bite, 51 x 41cm, edition of 30. Printers: Michael Kempson, Ben Rak and Sally Marks, Cicada Press. Photography: Sue Blackburn.
Tony Albert, Greetings from Appin, 2016, etching and aquatint, 50.5 x 50.5cm, edition of 15. Printers: Michael Kempson, Ben Rak and Jac Corcoran, Cicada Press. Photography: Sue Blackburn.
Ryan Presley, dominium, 2015, etching, aquatint and hand colouring, 69.5 x 50.5cm, edition of 20. Printers: Michael Kempson, Ben Rak and Tahjee Moar, Cicada Press. Photography: Sue Blackburn.

Michael Kempson explores the many benefits gained from building connections with China through the realm of art-making.

 

As a child of 1961, born on the latter cusp of the post-war baby boom, my formative experiences were enmeshed with the pernicious machinations of the Cold War; a dynamic that became more complicated following the Sino-Soviet split of the same year. China was the closest major protagonist to Australia in this period of tense global brinkmanship, and the most antithetical state ideologically. It was a turbulent period, as China’s mysteries, garnered through its isolation, fostered a fear of the unknown that was reinforced by our treaty obligations and latent Eurocentrism. The result was a shrill, lockstep Australian foreign policy agenda that continued for the rest of the decade.

Some in Australia sought to rethink this relationship: the remarkably courageous decision of Australia’s then Leader of the Opposition, Gough Whitlam, by visiting China in 1971, presciently preceded Richard Nixon’s 1972 détente. Records of Whitlam’s diplomatic engagement demonstrate that in representing Australia’s interests he didn’t shy away from confronting conversation about political differences, particularly during the formal recognition of China in his subsequent official visit as Prime Minister in 1973. The outcome of this plain speaking positioned Australia as an old friend in the burgeoning queue of countries clamouring for connection, and over the years, has delivered mutually beneficial economic, scientific and cultural engagement that has gathered momentum into the 21st century with the growth of China’s geopolitical influence and its burgeoning middle class.

My relationship with China began in 1993 when I met the artist Su Xinping, visiting Sydney with a survey exhibition of his lithographic prints. He went on to become a senior academic at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing, one of two leading art schools in the group of eight major Chinese fine art academies. That beneficial connection has, over the last decade, helped to provide an expanding network with participatory opportunities for exhibitions, residencies and forums in academies and print-workshops throughout China.

Of all my experiences in China, the most significant opportunity was the most recent. Organised by Wang Huaxiang, CAFA’s Head of Printmaking, and conducted in Beijing during September 2016, a series of print-related activities launched the International Academic Printmaking Alliance (IAPA). This project is the culmination of a number of precursor events including 2015’s Impact 9 conference hosted by their other major school, the China Academy of Arts at Hangzhou. The other seminal event was the 1st International Forum of Art School Deans (IFPASD) in October 2015 at CAFA involving exchange with nearly 40 printmaking department heads from schools around the world. IFPASD peaked an awareness in China of the benefits of harnessing links with artists and educational institutions that apply different strategies for print-based syllabus content in their tertiary programs. As a participant in three days of forum discussion, one key outcome was a commitment to develop and sustain channels of communication for ongoing international dialogue, referencing the shared challenges inherent with printmaking education and professional practice.

Chinese participation in conferences such as Impact and an increasing engagement with the annual US-based Southern Graphic Council International, has encouraged a dissemination of ideas and information, and China’s own Annual Printmaking Exhibition and Conference for Chinese Academies and Colleges, recently opened its door to foreign exchange. In 2012, I was fortunate to attend as representative of the first foreign art school, along with several UNSW art and design students, the 11th iteration, held at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art. It provided an opportunity for artists, academics and curators around the country to exhibit both staff and student work, and discuss the pertinent educational issues of the day in a spirit of great collegiality. The 2016 IAPA venture develops this by creating a new internationally focused model for print dialogue on terms that factor in China’s long and distinguished print history and their growing position in the world as a major power. Consequently, it was clear that our hosts wanted to impress.

Core to the IAPA was an exhibition of over 700 prints representing 28 countries held in a venue of World Heritage status, a four-pavilion complex known as the Working People’s Culture Palace of the Imperial Ancestral Temple, in the vast Forbidden City at Tiananmen. Curated by each international delegate, it also included work by 80 artists selected from art schools and print-workshops across China.

The prints were of superb quality and range, reflecting the strengths of each delegate’s host institution. The countries represented were equally diverse and included the United Kingdom, Nicaragua, USA, Russia, France, Thailand, Canada, Ireland, Serbia and Puerto Rico. The Australian selection, representing the University of New South Wales Art and Design in Sydney, included prints from staff and students along with research outcomes from Cicada Press, allowing for a more holistic selection of current Australian print practice, and importantly a contribution from New Zealand. The participating artists were Tony Albert (NSW), Nici Cumpston (SA), Rhonda Dick (NT), Rew Hanks (NSW), Michael Kempson (NSW), Katherine Kennedy (NSW), Bruce Latimer (NSW), Euan Macleod (NSW), Reg Mombassa (NSW), Laurel Nannup (WA), Gregory O’Brien (NZ), Adam Oste (NSW), Ryan Presley (QLD) and Ben Rak (NSW)

One thematic component of the Australian selection was the exploration of printmaking as a vehicle used to reflect critically on issues of social justice. Noongar artist Laurel Nannup’s Quirriup, a large format linocut and screenprint, names a solitary witness to the Pinjarra Massacre of 1834[i], the harrowing story of which had been conveyed to her through familial oral traditions. This experience is mirrored on the other side of the continent by Tony Albert’s etching Greetings from Appin that depicts a blood-drenched tourist ashtray decorated with Indigenous motifs, referencing the site of the first recorded state-sanctioned killing of Aboriginal people in Australia at Appin NSW in 1817. Reg Mombassa’s Bones poles and wires immerses the viewer in an environment soiled by industry, while Nici Cumpston’s Barkindji heritage connects her to the waterways of the Murray and particularly her desire to chronical the changes made to the landscape by the Federal Government’s decision in 2007 to alter natural flows into Lake Bonney (Nookamka). Her photo-generated intaglio prints, Flooded Gums and Winter II, depict the degradation and misuse of a “river in elegant decay.”[ii]

The other important business of the first IAPA was a two-day forum to facilitate delegate discussion and shape the potential ethos of this collective. The concluding matter was the establishment of the IAPA structure and the election of its officers and advisory committee to shape future events.

Reliable and productive connections are the life-blood of any business relationship. I’ve been very fortunate, that over the past few years the professional bonds established through academic exchange in China have transitioned into close friendships, despite the obstacle of language. And it is through this engagement with China that new relationships have developed with artists from all over the world. In 2013 I met the American artist and academic Joseph Scheer in an international workshop hosted by Xi’an Academy of Fine Art, and over the last few years our paths have crossed many times in China and obscure points around the globe. Scheer is the Professor of Print Media and Co-Director of the Institute for Electronic Arts at the School of Art and Design at Alfred University NY and a leading researcher into applications of cutting-edge print technology. He also hosts residency programs with US-based and international artists with recent guests being Ann Hamilton and Kiki Smith. Scheer was called upon to assist with the development of the images by Nici Cumpston, where digital files were sent to Alfred and freshly minted polymer plates mailed back for editioning in Sydney. This trans-Pacific collaboration would not have occurred without an introduction from friends in Xi’an.

As the world enters an uncertain future with a new US President, a Brexit decision to implement, a resurgent Russia and rumblings in the South China Sea, it’s comforting that at least our artists are continuing a conversation with respect and goodwill. The International Academic Printmaking Alliance is a sincere and altruistic venture that has delivered, with genuine leadership and generous support, a significant organisation dedicated to reinforcing the links that bind printmakers from all reaches of the globe.

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinjarra_massacre
[ii] Allas T, Documenting a River, Art & Australia Pp 48-49, Vol 48, No, 1, 2010

Michael Kempson is the Convenor of Printmaking Studies and Director of Cicada Press at UNSW A&D in Sydney. He was an invited delegate to the IAPA, Beijing in September 2016, an artist in residence at IEA at Alfred University, USA in January 2017 and he is working towards a solo exhibition in Beijing, China in March 2017.

Abstraction and Australian women artists

Dorrit Black Air travel 1: Mud flats and islands, 1949, linocut, printed in colour inks, from multiple blocks, 25.1 x 19 cm National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 2015

The National Gallery of Australia’s Lara Nicholls (Assistant Curator – Australian Painting and Sculpture) discusses the touring exhibition Abstraction: Celebrating Australian women abstract artists, now showing at Newcastle Art Gallery.

Imprint: How has the role of women played out in the history of abstraction, and what have been the challenges in restoring a more balanced story to public view?

Lara Nicholls: Historically speaking, where abstraction bloomed, women artists have almost always played an integral part in its proliferation. The evidence of this NGA exhibition, and that of a range of other current international exhibitions on the subject, suggests that women artists were very actively involved in the pioneering of a number of stylistic waves of abstraction in the 20th century and beyond.  In Australia, it is doubtful that Abstraction could have emerged as it did without the pioneering teaching and exhibitions of Dorrit Black, Grace Crowley and Anne Dangar.  The greatest challenge to inserting women artists into the narrative is the absence of easily found documentation and the lack of publications on the subject.  One of the great joys in preparing the exhibition was unearthing hitherto unrecorded exhibition histories for some of the paintings but of course this was a bittersweet experience as it is also one of the reasons that the women have remained less recognised than their male counterparts.

Imprint: Who are some of the most significant women who have used various aspects of printmaking in their work with abstraction?

Lara Nicholls: In America, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler are among the most highly regarded abstract printmakers of their generation and the NGA has over a thousand of their works collectively.  In Australia, Margaret Preston was one of the first women printmakers to actively exploit the graphic quality of woodblock printing to abstract the landscape and our indigenous flora.  We start the exhibition with three magnificent early examples of her woodcut technique where she cleverly flattens out a jumble of robust material, such as fighter planes in flight in The aeroplane or a bouquet of native blooms in The red bow, into a dynamic and powerful image that is anchored in the principals of abstraction. Her friend fellow South Australian artist Dorrit Black, who studied at the Grosvenor School with Claude Flight, was a master of linocut printmaking.  Flight regarded her as one of his best students.  In Air travel 1: Mud flats and islands she creates an elegant reduction of the brackish mudflats as seen from an aerial perspective.  Made in the Japanese manner, she has brushed inks onto the block resulting in a painterly effect on the impression. This work is the closest she ever comes to non-presentational abstraction.

Imprint: What are some of the key printmaking works in the exhibition and how do they fit into the broader story?

Lara Nicholls: The early examples by Margaret Preston are among the most important works in the exhibition.  However, there are other sublime examples from artists who are normally associated with other media.  I included three lithographs by Janet Dawson, which she made in the Atelier Patris in Paris in 1960.  She went there after the Slade School in London especially to learn how to mix colour and prepare the stones.  She ended up becoming Patris’s main studio assistant and in gratitude he gave her free reign to make a suite of lithographs.  In this series, Dawson uses the organic quality of the stone impression and the watery application of the inks to create magnificent images of ethereal nature.  Her experience there lead her to take charge of the print works at Gallery A in Melbourne upon her return to Australia.

Imprint: Is it evident in the exhibition that gender somehow informed the approach or the results of artists grappling with abstraction?

Lara Nicholls: I am often asked this question – is a work of art gendered?  Is there a difference between the abstract work of women in comparison to men? I think if you lined up the works in this exhibition and showed them to someone unfamiliar with the artists, they might struggle to assign gender to the works.  However, having worked with the material for so long now along-side the work of their male counterparts, I do feel women bring a different sensibility to abstraction.  This is quite evident in the forms of geometric abstraction. Virginia Cuppaidge’s geometric abstractions of the ’70s, while they rely on colour, line and scale, just like many of the men painting at the time, there is a restraint and a subtlety that I don’t think the men pursued at the time.  Another example would be Agnes Martin (not in this show, however), whose minimalism is in a whole other land to, say, Barnet Newman.  The methodology might be similar but the application and the intention are on other planes.  In terms of the early days of Cubism and avant-garde painting in Australia, it was by and large the women who embraced it and painted in this fashion, seeking new horizons for its development, while the more conservative forces of the art establishment were painting nationalist landscapes and respectable portraits.  It is a bit of a generalisation, but I think that disparity holds true for the early decades of Abstraction in Australia in the 20th century. – Andrew Stephens

Abstraction: Celebrating Australian women abstract artists is at Newcastle Art Gallery until 23 July. www.visitnewcastle.com.au