Q&A with Jo Lankester and Hannah Murray

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

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

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

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

How did your collaboration begin?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the dangers?

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

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

How would you describe the mechanics of this collaboration?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is next for each of you?

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

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


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


The PCA is delighted to announce that our Pop-Up Exhibition at NKN’s Gallery in Collins Place, Melbourne, is now open!

Curator Marguerite Brown (also PCA’s General Manager), offered the following statement about the exhibition:

The PCA Pop-Up exhibition celebrates the depth and diversity of contemporary printmaking in Australia, featuring artists who work across a range of technical, conceptual and aesthetic approaches. With fifty works on display in honour of the Print Council’s fiftieth anniversary this year, the exhibition is a small snapshot of the PCA Print Archive. This archive began in the late 1960s and continues to grow every year through our annual commission of contemporary artist’s editions, which are then made available for acquisition by collectors in our Print Subscription program. While we hold at least one print from every edition in our archive, and in the collection of the State Library of Victoria, the impressions in this fundraiser exhibition are available for purchase, and all proceeds go towards continuing our work in supporting and promoting contemporary print in Australia, and beyond.

See below for full details of the programmed events … all welcome!

with Kate Gorringe-Smith
Wednesday 6 July, 11 am – 3 pm 

An all ages workshop, children welcome! Kate will have a small press and materials set up where participants can try their hand at inking up a lino and pulling a print. This school holidays let your kids experience the wonder of printmaking, first hand!

No RSVP required just drop in.
Participation by gold coin donation. 


Over a series of days during the exhibition each of the practicing artists below will be present in the gallery with their work, engaged in the creative process as artist-in-residence for the day.

Drop in to say hello and gain a unique insight into their various ideas and techniques.

Friday 1 July, 11 am – 4 pm


Thursday 14 July, 11 am – 4 pm


Friday 15 July, 11 am – 4 pm


Wednesday 20 July, 11 am – 4 pm


Thursday 21 July, 11 am – 4 pm



Thursday 14 July, 6pm – 8pm

Rona Green and Ying Huang have both been commissioned in the past by the Print Council of Australia to create a limited edition print as part of our annual Print Commission Program.

Join us for this special opportunity to listen to Ying and Rona speak about their respective practices, and the experience of being part of the PCA Print Commission.

RSVP by Wednesday 13 July to generalmanager@printcouncil.org.au
Entry by gold coin donation. 

Q&A with Peter Lancaster of Lancaster Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have been some of your favourite collaborations and why?

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

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

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

What is next for you and Lancaster Press?

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

Lou Tomlinson, The Arrival

Further notes:

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

Recognition of the artist’s autonomy.

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

Multiple deletions and additions on stone

A page from the original article published in Imprint autumn/winter 1986, Volume 21 Number 1–2.
Top l-r: drawing on the masked-out stone with gum nitric solution to burn out grease reservoirs, photography by Vicki Ripper; re-working the stone for third colour, photography by Steve Gray. Both images accompanied the original article.

‘This process is useful when there is a shortage of stones and time is limited, and also offers an interesting way of working for the lithographer who enjoys building up an image fairly quickly.’

Cover for Imprint autumn/winter 1986 Vol. 21 No. 1–2 featuring Joyce Allen’s Family at Work, 1973, linocut, 32 x 21 cm.

The following technical article was written by Kaye Green and published in the autumn/winter 1986 issue of Imprint Vol. 21 No. 1–2.

While working at Griffith University I used a technique of printing multi-colour lithographs from the same stone without graining between each new colour. This process is useful when there is a shortage of stones and time is limited, and also offers an interesting way of working for the lithographer who enjoys building up an image fairly quickly. I have used the process up to eleven times on a single stone without re-graining and find it an excellent method which suits my way of working. It is also helpful when introducing people to colour printing for the first time.

The process depends on successive printings with part or all of the image being eliminated after each printing and new work being added. The element of risk involved occurs because all impressions of the edition must be printed in the first colour before the image can be altered for the following colour. There is no possibility of retrieving the original drawing and so judgements regarding colour must be accurate.



The stone is grained thoroughly to ensure a good stable ‘tooth’. I use #80 to remove the previous image and the ghost image, and then #120, #180 and #220 or #240 three times each.

The drawing of the image for the first colour is made on the stone (normally the ‘key’ drawing) and it is processed and printed in the usual way in the required colour, making sure that the registration is accurate from the outset. I always take an extra print at this stage, onto a sheet of acetate, to help later with registration.


When all the prints in the first colour are complete, the image is rolled up fully, dried, rosin and talc applied and a layer of gum buffed in tightly. The ink is washed out thoroughly with turps, making absolutely sure that the stone is completely clean. Once a check has been made to ensure the stone is clean, then it is wiped down and fanned dry. At this stage the stone is lying with a gum film stencil on the negative areas and is open on the image areas.


The next step is to burn out the exposed grease reservoirs of the original image areas by painting out the parts of the drawing to be eliminated. This is achieved with a gum etch solution of twelve drops of nitric acid: 1 oz [30 ml] of gum arabic. Tests have shown that strong burn-out etches are of no greater efficiency than repeated mild etches. A good layer of the etch needs to be applied into the reservoirs as the grease reservoirs not completely destroyed by the burn-out etch will return as scummy images.


When the gummed out areas are thoroughly dry, a coat of asphaltum is applied, the gum is washed off with water, the stone is sponged down and the remaining image is rolled up fully in black roll-up ink. Rosin and talc is applied and a counter-etch solution applied to re-sensitise the stone for new drawing. I use a fairly weak solution of 6 oz [180 ml] of acetic acid: 1 gallon [3.79 l] of water, which, although effective in re-sensitising the stone, does not tend to greatly coarsen the grain of the stone. The counter-etch is applied three times, rinsing off with water each time and the stone is finally rinsed thoroughly, sponged down and dried.


New work may now be drawn onto the stone, adding to what remains of the first image. When the additions are completed, rosin and talc are applied, and gum is buffed in lightly. After thirty minutes, the stone is re-gummed and buffed down tightly. Although I usually wash out the drawing and roll up straight into the new colour and print, if large editions are intended, it is recommended that the image is first rolled up in black, etched with a mild etch, rested and then washed out and rolled up in the second colour for printing.

If the original drawing is excessively greasy, there is a possibility that deleted areas may re-appear. If this occurs at any stage, it is necessary to immediately clean the scummy areas and re-etch the stone.


Exactly the same process is then used to eliminate parts or all of this image and to add new drawing for the third colour and so on.


The constant counter-etching causes the ghost of the original drawing to fade until it often becomes difficult to see where to introduce new work accurately. This problem is easily rectified by taping the printed acetate sheet into position by using the registration marks and then tracing through a red oxide sheet.


It has been suggested that parts of each drawing be left and added to by each successive drawing; naturally, the entire image can be totally deleted by painting the burn-out etch over the whole stone.

There is a danger when printing in colour, in that the coloured inks available are usually extremely loose. I use a fairly stiff ‘lean’ ink modified with Magnesium Carbonate for maximum stability and desired print quality.

This process has certainly added enormous possibilities to the sorts of qualities I seek in my lithographs and has more than halved the processing time usually involved in printing a multi-colour lithograph.


Tamarind Technical Papers, No. 5 April 1976, pp. 60-61; No. 2 July 1974, pp. 14-20.

Q&A with Minna Gilligan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any advice for artists just starting out?

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

What are you working on now?

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


Flashback Friday: An interview with Sharmini Pereira of Raking Leaves

A page from the original article published in Imprint spring 2014, Volume 49 Number 3.
Top l-r: The Incomplete Thombu by T. Shanaathanan (2011); The Speech Writer by Bani Abidi (2011); Name, Class, Subject by Aisha Khalid (2009).

‘The impulse to set up a publishing initiative grew from a fascination with production and how an appreciation of materials and design working in unison with content could result in works that had an inevitability about them as books … Raking Leaves was born out of the simple assumption that everyone was familiar with a book.’

Cover for Imprint spring 2014 Vol. 49 No.3 featuring Ciara Phillips’s A lot of things put together (detail), 2013, screenprint on cotton, 400 x 500 cm.

The following conversation between Trent Walter of Negative Press and Sharmini Pereira of Raking Leaves was published in the spring 2014 issue of Imprint Vol. 49 No. 3.

Raking Leaves is an independent, not-for-profit commissioner and publisher of art projects, founded by Sharmini Pereira. Taking the form of book projects and special editions, Raking Leaves’ publications are marked by a conceptual rigour in both form and content. I corresponded with Pereira, a renowned curator and publisher, about Raking Leaves’ initiation, projects and expanded activity via email while she travelled between Toronto, London and Colombo from late June to early July.

What was the impetus to start Raking Leaves?

Firstly, it was a desire to work with interesting artists without the constraints of an exhibition. As a curator this involved teaching myself how to be a publisher, which I was motivated to do because as an independent curator you are constrained by many factors that I felt shackled by. The impulse to set up a publishing initiative didn’t actually come from a love of books either. It grew from a fascination with production and how an appreciation of materials and design working in unison with content could result in works that had an inevitability about them as books. I liked the exclusivity of something being a book and not an exhibition in order for it to be engaged with in the world. Raking Leaves was born out of the simple assumption that everyone was familiar with a book. Books hold no kind of exclusive membership yet the work contained within Raking Leaves’ book projects is, in most cases, exclusively made to be a book and I’d add, behave as a book.

Is this the kind of conversation you would have with an artist in anticipation of working with them on a publication with Raking Leaves? In so much as the book form can provide a space for a contemporary art project, rather than being a document of it. Can you talk about the various ways that artists have responded to this?

Conversations with artists begin in all kinds of ways but they do tend initially to go in the direction of discussing the merits of a book versus an exhibition. Or the reasons why a book lends itself to presenting a certain kind of work. In the case of Aisha Khalid, for example, her idea for a book project was clear from the start. She wanted to work with the old-fashioned copybooks that were used in school to teach handwriting. We got together lots of samples and studied how they were made: usually poorly printed on flimsy paper and with recycled covers taken from food packaging. At least that’s what the ones we sourced from Lahore were like. By contrast, T. Shanaathanan wanted to create a book project that would make the reader feel like they were ‘holding’ a series of documents or an official file, like the ones you get in south Asia that are produced from buff, recycled paper that fade in the sunlight. Form following function is most clearly displayed in Bani Abidi’s book project The Speech Writer, which consists of 10 flip books. The flip book predates moving film and led to silent cinema. It was obviously a wonderful form to work with for someone that works with video and photography without any dialogue.

What I find impressive about Raking Leaves publications is their conceptual and formal rigour: how the book form emulates the artist’s practise rather than being a sideline to it. These are thoughtful projects and I imagine that their development is an involved one. Can you elaborate on the process of developing Bani Abidi‘s project?

Bani’s project began in 2010, was printed at the end of 2011 and launched in early 2012. We started working with Astrid Stavro early on. She was chosen as the designer because she has produced several interesting books in serial format and became instrumental in the discussions and production process. This was the first time she had designed a flip book but once she knew what it was, she began doing research on the ways in which 10 books could be housed together. Bani wanted to present the books flat so that the first page of each book was shown, as opposed to a series of book spines. Monotype was used on the cover where you find the fictional interview about the character of the speech writer featured in the book project. Again this was something that took several discussions and involved various design options. Creating the box was also involved. Finding a printer that could produce something this intricate that was not over engineered took several months of dummies and print buying in Europe and in Asia.

As a publisher, how involved do you become in the form of the book? Is the artist given carte blanche or are there practical limitations imposed on the artist from the outset of the project? 

I am involved in the book from conception through to delivery. The role begins curatorially and evolves into that of a publisher. I’d like to think that the artist is given full freedom in that the book projects are not based on templates or part of a series. From experience most artists enjoy being given parameters of a kind. As an idea for a book project develops practical limitations do arise. Rather than see them as restrictions, I tend to see them as questions that require solutions. Costs are obviously a big factor, too, but like anything else if the idea necessitates a certain level of investment, and it’s a good idea, then this is what I will work to ensure is produced.

Do you consider Raking Leaves publications within the canon of artists’ books?

They might influence the canon but I don’t know if they sit that comfortably within it. I prefer to view them as belonging to the fields of critical publishing and public art for example, in terms of the etymological relationship between ‘public’ and ‘publish’, which often gets forgotten. The audience for artists’ books is fairly small and of the art world, largely based in Europe and the US. Raking Leaves’ books have a much broader appeal. A number of anthropologists and legal theorists, for example, have been writing about and referencing The Incomplete Thombu in relation to displacement and legal debates around land rights in Sri Lanka.

I imagine, though I may be mistaken, that these are difficult conversations to have given the current political climate in Sri Lanka. Was there any trepidation in deciding to publish T.Shanaathanan’s The Incomplete Thombu? And if so, what was the nature of these thoughts or conversations?

Prior to publication, trepidation arose more out of wanting to be respectful to those that contributed to the project and being careful not to sensationalise the subject matter, but not from any fear of censorship. Since publication the situation has been different. Whichever way I think I choose to speak about the situation it will be interpreted as a form of self-censorship. The reality is more a case of understanding that in Sri Lanka anything can be construed to be something that it is not in the hands of someone ready to jump to conclusions when they see the words ‘Tamil’ or ‘Jaffna’. If this was an artwork in a gallery I doubt it would court any kind of interest from the authorities. By being a book it circulates more readily and freely. It’s accessible to everyone who can interpret it as they want. I don’t think I, or the artist, would want it any other way, in spite of the risks this may or may not involve.

There are a lot of conversations in Australia about the centre and the periphery with regard to the global art world. What influence does being based in Colombo have on Raking Leaves?

Being on the periphery of south Asia informs the situation in Sri Lanka more closely than the relationship with the global art world in terms of the centre/periphery debate.  For Raking Leaves Sri Lanka provides a base and therefore a centre from which its activities are generated and distributed, irrespective of any geo-political centre. There are not any comparable initiatives in the region that are doing similar work which means we exist in a vacuum at times. Being off the radar has its advantages too, however. I don’t think what we do is particularly cutting edge or fashionable in that sense. I think this ensures some kind of engagement and sustainability for when audiences do come into contact with Raking Leaves.

Does having no comparable initiatives in the region mean that Raking Leaves’ activities have expanded beyond publishing?

I established the Sri Lanka Archive of Contemporary Art, Architecture and Design in 2013 as part of a collaboration with Asia Art Archive and their Open Edit: Mobile Library initiative. Interest and support towards the archive was overwhelming and Raking Leaves was approached to establish it as a permanent physical archive in Jaffna. It has a staff of four people and has staged seven talks and five screenings attracting a total of just under 1000 people in it’s first six months. Collecting materials connected to the development of Sri Lankan art, architecture and design remains our primary focus while the talks and screenings act as a way of bringing people to the material. Working with the Asia Art Archive and having the archive in Jaffna have certainly provided Raking Leaves with opportunities to work beyond its publishing activities in a related but broader engagement with printed matter.


Q&A with curator Noreen Grahame

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

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

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

How do you view the role of curator?

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your role models?

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

Which exhibitions or projects are you most proud of?

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

Can you tell us more about this project?

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

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

Richard Harding on curating Out of the Matrix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clare Humphries, What remains, what returns, 2016.

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

A Postcard from Printing the Page, State Library of Victoria

On Tuesday 31 May, a rhyme of poets and an impression of printers/artists descended on the Keith Murdoch Gallery at the State Library of Victoria (SLV) for ‘Printing the Page’, a special workshop conceived and coordinated by Marian Crawford (artist, lecturer and PCA committee member) on behalf of the Print Council of Australia and in partnership with SLV (with special thanks to Suzie Gasper) in celebration of poetry and letterpress printing.

Marian Crawford typesetting with participating poets; type tray; Greg Harrison typesetting with participating poets.

As well as forming part of the PCA’s fiftieth anniversary program, and acknowledging the important relationship between the PCA and SLV, which houses a complete set of the PCA’s Print Commission archive, there was a particular emphasis on the social dimension of print culture.

In setting the tone of the day, Crawford observed that ‘printmaking as a fine art practice is often extremely sociable, and this is observable both in the way a printmaking studio runs, in the sharing of equipment and of practical tips in process, and in the social nature of the printed image itself.’ She also cited this line from Alberto Manguel’s from The Library at Night: ‘Knowledge lies not in the accumulation of texts or information, nor in the object of the book itself, but in the experience rescued from the page and transformed again into experience, … In the reader’s own being.’

Carolyn Fraser, Andrew Gunnell, Marian Crawford, Greg Harrison and Rosalind Atkins preparing for the poets; Francesca Sasnaitis casting her editorial eye over Andrew Linden’s poem prior to typesetting.

Indeed, this spirit of creating new experiences and discovering a greater range of creative possibilities infused the atmosphere of the day. Workshop participants were invited to bring along a three-line observational poem to set and print. To help out throughout the day with inspiration, typesetting and printing, Marian invited Carolyn Fraser (printer, writer and founder of idlewild press), Richard Harding, Rosalind Atkins, Andrew Gunnell and Greg Harrison (all artists, lecturers and printers); Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison (artists with a special interest in artist books); and Francesca Sasnaitis (poet and founder of Ratas Editions).

Carolyn Fraser sharing her typesetting skills with attending poets.

Following the setting and printing of poems, the space was opened for public letterpress demonstrations, where many curious punters circulated and experienced the setting and printing of their names, or observed Francesca and Louise compiling and hand-binding the results of the earlier poetry workshop in a single edition of ‘Printing the Page’.

Rosalind Atkins displaying type locked up in a chase with one of the participating poets and her freshly printed poem.

Rounding out the day, Marian Crawford spoke about her relationship to the printed page, explaining that her ‘most insistent and persistent fascination within fine art is centred around the printed image, and includes the fine art print, the printed page, and the relationship between text and image on the printed page which then extends to the book and literary studies, poetry and writing’. She then invited Carolyn Fraser and Francesca Sasnaitis to the stage. Francesca explained the collaborative process that lead to her and Crawford’s beautiful publication The Unstable Edge, and performed a reading from its pages. Later, Marian and Francesca also performed readings of the poems produced in the Printing the Page workshop.

Richard Harding printing event participants’ poems on one of the three Adana Presses; Greg Harrison and Marian Crawford sharing their typesetting skills.

Carolyn Fraser gave a short, but tingle-inducing, presentation on the history of letterpress and amateur journalism finishing with a point that cannot be emphasised enough in this time of constant commercial pressure:

‘Rare today is the use of the word “hobby” (other than pejoratively). People have “projects” these days; the pursuit of pleasure has been supplanted in almost every area of life by economic imperatives. We may be witnessing the very last generation of amateur printer/journalists, but the influence of their activity has been vast. Gutenberg‘s press augured the beginnings of the Enlightenment. The toy press gave voice to America’s youth. Experimentation breeds expertise, amateurism breeds passion. America would be as equally impoverished had Thomas Edison not published the Grand Trunk Herald as had he not invented the phonograph, the telegraph or the electric light bulb. The word amateur comes from the Latin – amator – lover. This is what lasts – that which we love. Our culture depends on it.’

Hear, hear!

Printing the Page participants holding their letterpress printed poems (clockwise): Rachel, Fiona and Monique, and Sandra.
Clockwise: Julie De Silva reading ‘Violin’ the poem she brought to set and print; Lou Baxter quoting a popular maxim that she chose to set and print; Andrew Linden reading ‘Dreaming’, his paraphrased version of a verse from the poem ‘Last Night as I was Sleeping’ by twentieth century Spanish poet Antonio Machado.