Above: Gwenn Tasker, Material Echo, 2017, etching, 30 x 40 cm (image) 56 x 76 cm (paper)
Gwenn Tasker discusses her work selected in the 2017 PCA Print Commission.
Q: What is your relationship to printmaking and how did you develop this interest?
GT: As long as I can remember I have been attracted to the aesthetics of prints. As a young teenager I used to go into the city in Brisbane and browse the printroom at the Verlie Just Gallery. Looking back, I can appreciate the kindness of Verlie in allowing a scruffy schoolgirl to spend hours in her gallery, and also in encouraging my interest. I followed a different career path after leaving school, and later lived in rural Queensland and Brazil, but always took advantage of opportunities to make prints where I could. In 2003, when we returned from Brazil, I began a degree in Fine Art at the Qld College of art, intending to major in lithograpy. However, I fell in love with etching and have remained entranced with both the processes and the possibilities ever since.
Q: How did you approach your submission for the PCA Print Commission 2017?
GT: This was a great honour, and I approached it with the desire to create an image which would reflect both my conceptual and aesthetic concerns. This image was inspired by a decaying railroad bridge that we saw recently in Tenterfield. The process of decay made the ‘treeness’ of the original building materials more evident, which I thought was interesting as a reminder that all things emerge from nature and will return to nature.
Q: What are some of the foundation ideas that have guided the creation of the visual content of the work you submitted?
GT: I want my images to operate in a similar way to poetry. By placing various elements together I hope to evoke a feeling or sense of meaning. I am interested in exploring and reflecting the ways in which humans view the non-human world as this has real implications for how individuals and cultures treat the environment. I felt this bridge, a human construction being returned to nature, represented one aspect of this very complicated interaction between human activity and the non-human world.
Q: How does it relate to your broader body of work?
GT: This work connects to some previous bodies of work which looked at the consumerisation of nature, but in a tangential way. More recently I have started looking at the human desire for a better life, while engaging in behaviours which are harmful to the same world. I have been looking at Utopian literature and theory within which to framework these ideas. I find the Elizabethan period particularly interesting due to the parallels with our own times–discovery of new worlds, exploring, discovery of new materials, new technologies. It is interesting that the Elizabethan period produced much Utopian literature, but in recent times there has been a growth in the exploration of dystopias across all the arts. I believe that action is difficult when one gives in to despair but collective human action to avert disaster is still possible.
Q: What were some of the technical challenges involved?
GT: I am currently exploring the use of semi-permeable grounds, and using everyday materials to produce images, in an effort to find materials which are both less toxic and more affordable, both significant concerns for my students. It is a lot of fun. The downside is that I am less familiar with these at the moment, and the grounds are less stable, so there was a bit of wrestling with the plate involved in drawing out the image.
Q: What other projects are you working on?
GT: I am currently preparing work for an exhibition in October with the Nightladder Collective. I have been a member of the collective since it formed in 2009. The other members are Angela Gardner, Lisa Pullen, John Doyle and Maren Gotzman. The collective work differs to my normal practice, in that we value playfulness, incorporating chance and freedom from the constraints of developing a conceptual framework. It is a space within which I can explore media and mark-making, and there is often a flow-on effect to my other practice. I am also continuing to work on the images arising from my consideration of Utopias and Dystopias, in a body of work that I think of as Journeys of Longing and Despair.
Prints can be ordered at www.printcouncil.org.au