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

Immersion: Fleurieu

From top: Images from the Immersion exhibition.

Immersion: Fleurieu, Strand Gallery in Port Elliot, South Australia, until 9 June

Reviewer: Christobel Kelly

 

The Fleurieu Peninsula has long been a magnet for artists. From the cultural layers that blanket reciprocal enactments of ‘country’ by its Aboriginal inhabitants, through to the wide-eyed images created by early French explorers, to the exquisite tethering of colour by 20th century artists such as Kathleen Sauerbier and Horace Trenerry, this is a space that is dense with artistic response.

So too, the current exhibition Immersion: Fleurieu, at the Strand Gallery, sits firmly within an artistic convention whereby, in order to respond to the landscape, one has to be absorbed and entangled by it. A longitudinal project by the printmaking collective The Ruddy Turnstones has seen this group come together in various iterations to work en plein air towards a number of exhibitions including the present one, which is open every weekend until the end of June.

From the shifting theatre of shore life to the intersecting areas between conservation and rural land use, the work of Loique Allain, Michele Lane, Lorelei Medcalf, Georgina Willoughby and Mei Sheong Wong teases out the relational juncture the artists have with this geographic area. Within the artworks, one can certainly sense the surety of individual responses to a place that elicits deep connections, as well as the subtle references to the group itself as a living system.

For the viewer, it is the delicate interplay between individual responses to connectivity and the commitment to embedding the group in areas such as Deep Creek, The Bluff at Victor Harbor, Sellicks Beach and so on, which makes this exhibition so intriguing. These are areas that many of us are familiar with, and have been created afresh with each graphic rendering from these contemporary placemakers.

Richard Harding: Break in Transmission

From top: Richard Harding, Plane Wallpaper, 2017, plan print, three strips of 310cm x 79 cm
Richard Harding, Silence, 2017, photographic screenprinted Gouache, 42.0 x 59.4 cm
Richard Harding, Border Control, 2017, acrylic mirror strips, 930 x 200 cm

Richard Harding’s new exhibition explores the idea of empathy in action for people seeking asylum.

Imprint: What was the foundation idea for this project, and how does it resonate with the current political climate in Australia?

Richard Harding: Over the past decade news bulletins, newspapers and the internet have intermittently spiked with images of oppression and abuse — times leading to death — of LGBTIQ people from various parts of the world. Currently graphic images are being streamed via the internet from Chechnya of brutal attacks on gay men ranging from beatings to electro-shock torture and death. My artworks are questioning what we do to assist our oppressed brothers and sisters around the world? Even though LGBTIQ Australians do not have the equality we seek through basic human rights we do have the power of demonstration and speech. It is through these freedoms that Break in Transmission hopefully activates empathy into action.

Imprint: In what ways have you been made aware of the plight of gay refugees trying to gain asylum in Australia?

RH: The LGBTIQ communities here in Australia and around the world are renowned for their ability to move into action rapidly when threatened. This comes in the form of information dissemination, demonstration and fund-raising as was evidenced at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Currently we have the speed of the internet and community radio and press such as JOY 94.9 Australia’s first and only gay/lesbian community radio and the STAR OBSERVER newspaper.

Imprint: You have written that Susan Sontag’s ideas expressed in Regarding the Pain of Others has helped guide this work – how so?

RH: According to Susan Sontag in, Regarding the Pain of Others, “something becomes real – to those who are elsewhere, following it as ‘news’ – by being photographed” (2004, p19). It is this becoming real from afar that Break in Transmission attempts to explore. She discusses notions of authenticity of staged images and “actual” or “caught” images and the effect of the viewer understanding the difference. In preparation for this exhibition my preliminary research and production experimented with this mode of making. Through this studio methodology I ascertained the found images were more powerful as they were from the time and place of image capture. Even with the movement into other mediums and they maintained their authenticity.

It is interesting to note here that Sontag also writes of how the titles within Francisco Goya’s The Disasters of War 1810-20 act as authenticators (I saw this or This is the truth) or captions as they do for the modern photograph.

Imprint: How have you occupied the gallery area at Trocadero Art Space?

RH: Break in Transmission utilises gallery two at Trocadero Art Space to surround the viewer in a U-shaped composition of mirror and image. The installation heightens an awareness of the borders and control points used by national institutions to limit the movement of people geographically and psychologically. The wall opposite the mirrored bar code is covered with faux wallpaper depicting planes flying left and right in a linear formation. Over this is placed a framed screen print depicting a crane hook and rope; a devise used for execution. Through the use of found image and reflection/refraction, the artwork attempts to mine into the identity of otherness through the ongoing plight of gay refugees seeking asylum in Australia. The viewer sees these images that are behind them in the mirror.

Imprint: How has printmaking informed the work?

RH: I view printmaking as a grouping of techniques and methods that are imbued with theories of reproducibility, repetition and multiplicity. The work is informed through these positions. For instance the giant barcode is made of acrylic mirror and there are multiple strips at 5cm, 10cm, 15cm and 20cm repeated to form a scanable code.

The found images are part of a larger archive of images that I have been collecting for some time from the ‘press’ (pun intended) both material and virtual or paper based and internet. Their use was activated by the ongoing distress of viewing similar yet different images from around the world. – Andrew Stephens

Break in Transmission is at Trocadero Art Space, Footscray, until 3 June.

James Parker and John Whitney: No Bridge too Far

Above: James Parker, Undalya Bridge, 2017, wallpaper intaglio print, 27.5 x 40 cm

James Parker and John Whitney celebrate the bridges of South Australia in their art-making.

Imprint: What is the origin of the idea for this show and how has it been developed?

 

James Parker:  The show started because John had a stroke, I thought a project would be a good thing to help him get back into creating (this was a folly, he drew me a series of hospital implements from his bed a day or two after being admitted – machines that go ping, bed pans and various walkers, chairs and canes.) Anyway we thought it a good idea.  The bridges theme came from the fact that I am besotted with bridges I grew up 50 metres from a beautiful bridge in the mid-north of South Australia. I have had three other exhibitions about that particular bridge, the Undalya “Basket Bridge”, this beautiful arched iron bridge features four times in this show.

The other feature that directed the show is that John and I love a road trip. We took quite a few over the two years it took to put the show together. We also incorporated our own trips (mostly work related) into the collection of bridges. I had spent time in the south-east of the state and also into the APY lands.  Anywhere we went we asked the locals about interesting bridges, sometimes they took us out to see them, sometimes we would just find them while aimlessly wandering around back roads.  We photographed 220; the concentration was very evident once we had mapped the sites. We constructed a map wall in the gallery with pins and a different coloured ribbons for the three types of bridges: foot, railway and road. The ribbons ran from a pinpoint on the map to a photograph of that particular bridge. This wall became one of the most popular exhibits in the show. The majority of sites were along the length of the Mt Lofty Ranges, with Strathalbyn, Burra and Spalding having the greatest concentrations.

John and I have not portrayed the same bridge within the show although we both drew a majority during our research. John has concentrated on drawings, both pen and pencil, whilst I have used a variety of techniques just as the original bridge builders did.  I incorporated brush and ink, various intaglio techniques, large encaustic paintings and ipad drawings.

Imprint: Is it a challenge to get two artists working together in this way?

JP:  John and I have worked together many times as artists in residence in primary schools over the past ten years so we know each other’s strengths and each other’s passions. We have often taught in the same class at the same time, tag-teaming on technique, theory, history or poetry. It seems natural to us as to where each of us will step forward and the other retreat, the same happened here, I like to think of the bridge as a more social beast whereas John views them as engineering, architectural and practical (although beautiful) things.

Our interests are the same but our attitudes to their portrayal are quite different.

I think that it also helps that we are both completists.

Imprint: Can you discuss some of the issues or hurdles that arose during the making of the work?

JP:  There were very few, matter of fact I can’t think of too many at all. We had one big disappointment in that we couldn’t find the time to get to the wonderful Algebuckina bridge which crosses the Neale river near Oonadatta. We also couldn’t find an old bridge in Reynella that we were told existed. We will keep searching.

Imprint: What are the sorts of responses that might be elicited from viewers?

JP:  I think viewers will be surprised at the variants in the bridges, and that there are so many, also that we live in the driest state on the driest continent and here we are making a show about bridges, an engineering and architectural feature that is typically associated with water.

Imprint: What was the role of printmaking in this show?

JP: There a few different techniques used in the show namely drypoint, collage intaglio, linocut and monotype.

I am a terrible editioner – I don’t have the patience for it. (I have been known to, though). So there are only a couple of prints that are editioned. I prefer to vary the inking on each pass. I have also printed monotypes over dry points.

I have constructed two prints in the show by collaging together various textured wallpapers and printing them as intaglios. Because some of the wallpaper is flocked I have to coat it first with shellac – this gives a very murky plate tone which I quite like, they are difficult to print as different papers hold the ink differently, so you have to be very gentle in rubbing some areas and a little harder in others, this means identical prints are really quite hard. I class them as monotypes.

There is also an older book I made a few years ago in edition, which I bind differently each time I sell one or exhibit. It is made with using old typeface and lino prints.

I liked experimenting on the plates trying different techniques to see what gives the right feel or atmosphere for a particular bridge. Was the bridge sitting harsh and hard on the landscape or was it murky and damp when we visited?

The various printmaking techniques gave me the tools to find the right solution.

Imprint: What are your favourite bridges?

JP:  1. Undalya Basket Bridge. 2. The five-arch Railway Bridge on the Spalding to Burra Road. 3. The ruined wooden road bridge in Bruce. – Andrew Stephens

No Bridge Too Far is at Gallery 1855, Tea Trea Gully, until 10 June. www.teatreegully.sa.gov.au

Sue Pedley: Orange Net-Work

From top: Images from Sue Pedley’s Orange Net-Work (series 1-35), 2017, 84.1 x 118.9 cm, graphite, ink, paper.

Orange Net–Work is a mixed media work by Sue Pedley showing as part of the Mosman Art Gallery and Museum exhibition Tokkotai: Contemporary Australian and Japanese Artists on war and the Battle of Sydney Harbour, being held at Sydney’s T5 Camouflage Fuel Tanks in Mosman, an industrial scale former naval oil tank, built and camouflaged against Japanese attack. 

Imprint: Why is the orange net central to this work?

Sue Pedley: The work brings together an orange net originally made in 2010 in collaboration with a fishing community on the island of Teshima in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea; a new sound work created with artist Gary Warner; hundreds of stones; and a series of frottages that overlay naval and civilian clothing onto sounding maps of the Seto Inland Sea and Sydney Harbour. In 2016 I returned to visit the Teshima community and to retrieve the orange net and some clothing from the house, which I shipped to Sydney to form part of a new net-work for the Tokkotai project.

The orange net, based on the dimensions of a nori seaweed harvesting net, was made by the Teshima local community and volunteers from nearby cities. The net became a conduit to form new relationships, pass on stories and share in the age-old tradition of netting. The completed net was then draped over an abandoned house in the village as part of the inaugural Setouchi Triennial.

Imprint: What is the history of the connection between the Seto Inland Sea and Sydney Harbour?

SP: This new work explores an historical link between the use of nets in the Inland Sea and in Sydney Harbour. During WWII a protective anti submarine boom net was installed in Sydney Harbour, stretching from Georges Heights to Watsons Bay. On the night of May 31st, 1942 three Japanese mini submarines entered the harbour. One became entangled in the net. As a consequence of this attack, six Japanese and 21 Australian sailors tragically died, but the main impact was psychological, creating greater fear of Japanese invasion in Australia.

Each played pivotal roles in naval strategies during the Pacific War. The sheltered Inland Sea was an Imperial Japanese Naval base, harbouring training centres, hospitals, armories and shipyards. Sydney Harbour was a base for the Royal Australian Navy (Garden Island) and a port for US Navy ships.

Imprint: How does your work reflect on this history?

SP: The frottages depict both naval and civilian clothing. The civilian clothes are all from the abandoned house in Teshima where three generations of clothes (both traditional and western style) had been left folded and untouched for more than 20 years. The naval clothes are from the Royal Australian Navy’s heritage collection on Spectacle Island in Sydney Harbour, and include a Japanese submariner’s jacket especially made and donated by the Japanese Midget Submarine Association in 1995.

The sound component of the work similarly brings together elements originating in different contexts; they include the sounds of net-making, of conversation and the ambient soundscape of the abandoned house.

By relocating the orange net and the naval and civilian clothes, placing them within a former military oil tank and enlivening them with sound, the work touches on deep intergenerational hurts and divisions created by war. It also aims to suggest an enduring capacity to recover and heal from these traumas.

What role did printmaking have in formulating your work?

SP: I see frottage as a type of monoprint. The series of 35 frottage/monoprints in the installation are rubbings of civilian and naval clothing onto sounding maps of Sydney Harbour and the Inland Seto Sea. I have photographed half the work  then printed them in black and white reverse to give the X-ray affect.

Tokkotai: Contemporary Australian and Japanese Artists on war and the Battle of Sydney Harbour is at T5 Camouflage Fuel Tanks, Headland Park, Georges Heights, 20 May-12 June.