Call that printmaking?

From top: ‘Call that Printmaking?’ images by Alex Asch, John Pratt and Nicci Haynes.

Alison Alder, Australian National University’s Head of Printmaking and Drawing, discusses Call that Printmaking?, an exhibition showcasing four decades of printmaking at the ANU.

Q: What were the foundation ideas for this exhibition, and what sort of parameters did you formulate for it?

AA: The ANU School of Art and Design is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and the Printmedia and Drawing Workshop has played a central role in that history. The school was established using a Bauhaus workshop model under the first director Udo Sellbach, himself a printmaker. There have been a few changes over the decades, for instance the Graphic Investigation Workshop was merged with Printmaking, however the focus of the school is still very much based on fostering the specialised skills of making. In Printmedia and Drawing students can learn intaglio, relief and screen printing as well as lithography, typography and book design combined with a focus on drawing taught through specialised courses.

Call That Printmaking? is a celebration of traditional, digital and contemporary modes of production brought to life by a piece of equipment that most people have access to somewhere – the humble photocopier. Reducing and enlarging, making multiples, altering the mark of a drawing and relishing the inky blackness of toner on paper is all part of the appeal.

Q: ‘Printmedia’ is a very broad phrase – what exactly does it encompass and what are its freedoms?

AA: Printmedia is indeed a very broad phrase which encompasses any transference of an image from one surface to another. The mediation of an image across platforms is really exciting – the potential to readjust, redraw and reprint allows for freedoms which many other media forego by the direct nature of some processes.

The potential to disseminate information within a community relatively easily is one of printmedia’s great strengths – the democratic multiple.

Q: The exhibition clearly covers a lot of territory, both in terms of time-span, technical considerations and content. Can you give some examples of the expanse covered?

AA: The exhibition includes work by artists who graduated in 1980,  and crosses the decades to include artists who graduated last year. There is a wide variety of approach in regard to how artists have used a photocopier to make new work. Some have embraced the particular photocopy ‘look’, whilst other artists have adjusted and amended existing work into something new. Scale has been experimented with, using the capacity of a plan printer to go up to A0 including combinations of photography and the reproduction of traditional print technologies.

Q: Working with printmedia and drawing students, you must be exposed to a lot of enthusiasm and interesting discussions. Are there some enduring themes that have emerged over the years?

AA: The most enduring theme, without a doubt, is that students develop a love affair with the rich inkiness of ink – any type of ink – and its long history of making beautiful marks, whether they be created by gouging, scraping, pushing, pulling, drawing, squashing or stamping.

Call that Printmaking? 40 years of ANU Printmaking is at Megalo Print Studio + Gallery until 14 October.

Dianne Fogwell: Geelong Acquisitive Print Award

Top: Dianne Fogwell, Mildura Meander, 2015 (detail)
Right: Dianne Fogwell, 1903 – The Grey Sea, 2017, linocuts, perforations, watercoulour, found timber, handmade rag paper, 82 x 37.5 x 8.5 cm
Below: Dianne Fogwell, Not Only Honey

Dianne Fogwell discusses her winning work in the 2017 Geelong Acquisitive Print Awards.

Q: How did you approach researching and making your winning work, Mildura Meander?

DF: The artist book has been central to my art practice right from the beginning. The artist book intersects and concentrates my concerns, sometimes for research or just to say something in a more interactive or private and personal way.

My work had been for a few years about pollination and cross-fertilisation, I guess what brings life and sustains life. I noticed that what is going on my garden or suburban area is generally a metaphor for what was happening on a larger scale everywhere else in the natural world. During 2013-14, I completed a year-long journal titled Not only Honey where, like a backyard naturalist. I observed and imagined the happenings, especially with the pollinators, bees, butterflies, bugs and insects. The ponds after a year of no bees had swarms of native bees and things seemed different, so to inform the work I was doing in the studio for exhibitions I made an artist book.

I was fortunate to be offered a residency at the Art Vault in Mildura and it was my first chance to visit the region outside of Lake Mungo in the late 1990s.  I went with an idea of looking at the almond and citrus blossoms as I was curious because I had read that there had been controversy over bee contamination and in 2012 farmers had to bring 110,000 hives in for the almond industry. Something happens when you go on residencies and you are confronted with white walls and space to contemplate.

I am a gatherer and I try to go with an open mind and see what comes to the table. Mildura Meander really took form when I discovered the Australian Inland Botanical Gardens and spent a couple of days. The AIBG is an independent and basically volunteer effort originating from an idea from a CSIRO scientist. When I visited there were so many bees it made me think about the important role that botanical gardens play in the awareness of environmental issues through research, conservation and education. They act as a sanctuary, a safeguard for what can be lost in nature or destroyed by urban planning. I understand the need for productive domestic gardens for pollination health but it’s the conserving what is lost in nature and the science behind restoration and land rehabilitation of botanical gardens that took seed in my head. I’m not a scientist or a botanist, nor a botanical illustrator, so I can only create my experience in a visual form and hope that it translates my thoughts.

I wanted to express the idea of a walk through that particular landscape and somehow show the elemental interactions of some of the unassuming beings that are important to the health and beauty of our Australian environment.

Q: What are some of the foundation ideas that have guided the creation of the visual content of the work?

DF:  From 2002 I have worked primarily in lino and cut specific individual blocks from multiple perspectives (microscopic, real and imagined) so that each block becomes part of my collection of images. These images interact as language does for me, as I see my blocks as an alphabet of images where I can write a word, a sentence or a novel. I tend to concentrate on nature, though I haven’t always, and the hidden elements intrigue me. I have cut noise blocks, rain, wind, sand, dust, text and music.  I’ve spent many years thinking about pollination in concept and actual process – the seduction, choreography and the act of pollination and its necessity to our survival and the health of the natural world.

Where I travel, I seek to add to those blocks. In a way, I’m cutting the natural world around me with a focus on pollination and the environment that supports pollination at the time. The idea guides the format and that can be a single image or a sequence of images, painting, artist book or installation. The artist book Mildura Meander is just that, a journey or meander from ground to sky through my time there.


I chose the simplest format that would engage the idea for Mildura Meander, which was a concertina format. The book can be unfolded to over five metres and be closed to a 30 x 31cm squarish space, allowing variations of viewing the work. In a way, the viewer can play with the reading and have their own experience. I cut the blocks from many perspectives and scale, thus changing the way you see the elements. Like a bird through a bee’s perspective or human scale from above. The box has a lino-block of an ant on the cover suggesting that you start small and close to the dust of the ground, maybe the ant is the narrator?

For this book, I wanted to suggest a beginning and end while creating a continuum of phases. The book structure lets you play and not have a predetermined viewing. You can hide or reveal and I like the motion of unfolding and folding, blooming like a flower or tracking a walking path or seeing a long line of vision, looking towards the ground or looking up towards the sky.

Q: How does it relate to your broader body of work?

DF: The artist book is an important part of my art practice and Mildura Meander was a natural piece to make. When thinking of lino-blocks, the landscape around me presents a number of “stills” so to speak. In the case of Mildura Meander, the concertina format allows movement and stillness and is a format that suits the experience of walking through landscape. The artist book is how I find my way through new ideas or when a concentration of thoughts stays in my head. Some artist books can take months but it’s the time in the making where I can work through what’s important. They are hands-on, touched and quite different to making a single work for the wall. That’s why I gravitate to the structure.

I work mainly in print, painting, artist books and installation. Generally, the artist books are more concentrated thoughts, whilst the single or multi panelled works are a single focus and are prints or paintings. The installations are experiences so the intention determines the outcome.

The installation pieces are cross disciplinary works and are usually with musicians or dancers, so I often include the artist books in these cases. Since the beginning, I have made artist books and they are now scattered among a few national and international collections including the National Library of Australia, State Library of Queensland and the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete Poetry, Florida, USA. There are over a 100 in the State Library of Victoria and I still have many in the drawers in my studio.  The artist books can be drawings or any medium really, but at times they are long projects building over a period that reflect on things that I cannot express another way. In the past I have not shown my books in solo exhibitions, so competitions and specific artist book exhibitions are mostly the only time they go out into the public to be seen.

I was thrilled that Jason Smith mentioned my artist book practice at the award as they are of great importance to my art-making.

Q: What were some of the technical challenges involved?

DF: I’m not afraid of technical challenges. I have spent many years working with artists printing and collaborating on Fine Art Limited Edition Prints and artist books, there are over 400 printers proofs in my drawers from my years at Studio One, Criterion Press, the Edition +Artist Book Studio and Lewis Editions. I retired from printing and working with others in 2010, but one thing I understand from those experiences is how to work through technical issues. I like to be prepared for anything, so that while the works in the flow of making the technical aspect doesn’t distract me from what’s important.

The concertina format has specific challenges, the folding and unfolding has a beat so to speak and the more folds the more rhythm but also more problems. For example, needing to have seamless joins for the flow of movement, the maths involved in the folding sections to keep the book straight as well as printing over the joins and printing long sections on a press. I basically only make unique pieces, so there is always the possibility that I will print the wrong thing in the wrong place or in the wrong colour. I have lost whole books like that many times in the past, it’s just the risk in making unique works the way I do.

This book had a flow from the beginning and I felt it knew where it was going right from the start. I just needed to have everything prepared, which is a sort of meditation before the printing begins and after the preparation as I don’t predetermine the final look of the book, like where elements are printed. I do know how I want the book to be in terms of the structure but I leave space to let the piece grow until I feel it is complete in nature. Working that way can be a risk, but as I said, this book seemed to know where it was going from idea to realisation.

Q: What other projects are you working on?

DF: I’m working towards my exhibition titled Refuge at Port Jackson Press in November. It is a new series of prints around the displacement of flora and fauna created by the urban development in Canberra.

I’m continuing to cut lino blocks, there are hundreds in my drawers all filed in categories, but I have moved up out of the garden to larger trees and more birds. In Canberra the government is putting in the light rail and around 450 trees have been removed (the number changes as to what you read). I started to think about the impact of urban growth on the flora and fauna in Canberra. I also noticed that the magpies and pied currawongs seemed to be more aggressive and other birds were more frequent in the suburb. Pied currawongs generally live in the trees and leave the ground foraging to the magpies, but they share territory. It seems that family groups of birds have become refugees as the many trees have been removed, those trees must have supported many family groups and other bird species. I have been cutting and documenting some of the grander trees in my suburb and surrounding area as well as the birds. The habitat keeps shifting and will continue as Canberra grows creating more displacement though this is a local problem it has references to global displacements.

I have made many artist books in regards to the asylum seeker / refugee dilemma and our role in the problem. Recently an artist book of mine titled 1903 – The Grey Sea, concerning the 1903 asylum seekers recorded as being drowned at sea coming to Australia by the Australian Border Deaths Database, has been selected as a finalist in the 2017 Banyule Award for Works on Paper.

I feel that as a visual artist I can only make work that entices us to think about the larger issues and I like to make objects of beauty that perhaps seduce us to keep thinking about those issues.

The 2017 Geelong Acquisitive Print Awards is at Geelong Art Gallery until 8 October.

Tory Richards: The Sorcery of Print

Top: Bonded, 2016, aquatint intaglio, 54 x 65.5cm.
Hand-printed using copper plates, hard ground and rosin aquatint, etched in oily ferric chloride to promote the unexpected. The bond between horses living in a herd is like an invisible beam of light, that we are sometimes privileged to feel ourselves. It is the same bond between schools of fish and birds in flight.
Above: The Clydies, 2015, intaglio, 80 x 115 cm.
Hardground intaglio etching on copper in nitric acid.  Drawn with a chisel. The unbridled power, harmony and breathtaking beauty of these friends in a windy, natural environment.
Bottom: Cicada2016, open-bite aquatint intaglio, 48 x 38 cm.
Open bite, stepped aquatint intaglio etching on copper plates. The orchestra of cicadas in the bush reaches a crescendo after 19 pulses and descends across a further 19 during the heat of summer. The vibration is powerfully physical and washes away the stresses of life.

Tory Richards discusses her new exhibition and the alchemy of printmaking.

Q: Your new exhibition The Sorcery of Print has a very evocative title. What were the beginnings of your enchantment with the “sorcery” aspect of printmaking, and how has this unfolded?

TR: Deep within the alchemy of intaglio etching, shielded in overalls, gas mask, goggles and gloves, it’s easy to liken oneself to a wizard practicing the ancient arts.   Printmaking is in truth one of the most ancient artforms known to humanity, centuries old and practiced by some of our most inspirational and celebrated artists, including Rembrandt who has had a particularly strong influence on me.

As a child, we lived alongside an open-cut copper mine in Bougainville Island near the Solomons.   My civil engineer father instilled in me a love of rocks and metals.   I remember being strangely drawn to intaglio etchings and needing to know how it was done.   From the first day I held in my hands a polished copper sheet and a simple dry point tool, I was completely and utterly hooked on the idea of platemaking. It was a defining moment. I subsequently embarked on a concentrated journey of printmaking experimentation in many of its forms, enjoying instituting my own techniques along the way. There is the idea that it is one of the oldest traditional art forms in terms of process and yet in practice, printmaking always presents as new and unpredictable. Regardless of any applied discipline or acquired knowledge – the final proof of any hand-printed image remains a delightful surprise. That keeps it ‘alive’ for me.  The excitement and sense of joy in the process has never waned – rather it strengthens as I develop my practice.

Q: What do you find about printmaking that makes it work well with the ideas and/or themes you want to explore?

TR: As a devout nature- and animal-lover, I wish to raise awareness of the inspirational, precious creatures around us and in our care. It is my ambition to use my work as a conduit to greater respect and understanding, leading to changed behaviours towards other species. Printmaking often needs to be discussed to be fully appreciated and understood and through that discussion there lies a unique opportunity to impart a considered message. I wish to connect and present a notion to the observer that becomes important to them, that can then be personally resolved in a way that promotes incremental, positive change.

Q: What are some of the works in the exhibition that were especially challenging for you to make, both technically and in terms of foundation ideas?

TR: The Gift series I, II and III represents my most passionate message about the incredible intellect and generosity of horses.  The Gift triptych speaks of the need for us to learn to communicate with them in a way that they understand in order to fully access the extraordinary ‘gift’ that they offer.     Each individual image was produced using three registered, intaglio etched, coloured plates. This challenging interplay of layered images and inks to produce colour etchings is not for the feint-hearted and requires a certain tenacity.  Grasping this process however reveals many opportunities for amalgamating techniques to produce an interesting spectrum of imagery. Our understanding of communication with other species is also in its infancy. As a parallel, learning to communicate in a symbiotic way with horses is also complex in its layers, with an exciting spectrum of possibilities.

Q: What other projects do you have in the wings?

TR: I am expanding my work on octopuses in the series Copper Bloods over the next couple of years. Platemaking design and development in what I believe is unique and pioneering in its technical foundation rests at the core of this series, which I launched at the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair 2017.  ‘Getting to know my plates’ is a strong mantra in the evolution of this body of work, which is where this innovation lies, combined with other archetypal ideas developed specifically for this series. Central to this work is a message regarding the precious nature of the octopus as a species. One to wonder at, cherish and learn from before it’s too late. I confidently challenge anyone who ‘googles’ the capabilities of the octopus to not be utterly delighted.

The Sorcery of Print is at Maroochydore Library until 28 October.



Jenny Kitchener: PCA Print Commission 2017

Above: Jenny Kitchener, In the service of trees: bee pollinators, 2017, linocut, 51 x 58 cm (image), 51 x 58 cm (paper).

Jenny Kitchener discusses her work selected in the 2017 PCA Print Commission.

Q: What is your relationship to printmaking and how did you develop this interest?

JK: Turn back the clock. It’s 1977 and I am part of the first ever intake of students into Sydney College of the Arts. I am going to be a painter, but my plans soon go awry. I am almost immediately lured away from the brush by arcane processes of the printmaking room. Printmaking has often been discussed as a democratic form of art-making and I was immediately attracted to the idea of creating multiples as opposed to the creation of an original artwork.

I continued with my studies during the early 1990s at Southern Cross University in Lismore. The Printmaking Department, headed by Jan Davis, was underpinned by the idea that ‘concept and process’ go hand-in-hand and all work was informed by a strong theoretical foundation. Here I was first exposed to the theories of postmodernism, which at the time were a revelation to me. Printmaking was the perfect medium with which to subvert the hierarchy of the fine arts.

Fast forward to 2017. Much of my artwork is informed by, and literally appropriated and composed from, the printed image.

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

JK: I decided to submit a linocut as this is the medium which I feel enables me to pull together many ideas within the one image. I like the notion of a complex and multi-layered print imbued with many concepts. By employing the process of collage, I gradually compose my image by cutting, tearing and pasting together, for the most part, appropriated traditional printed imagery. Many of these printed images are already layered with their own historical overtones and add to the overall meaning of the work.

Q: What are some of the foundation ideas that have guided the creation of the visual content of the work you submitted?

JK: An appreciation, respect and concern for nature was instilled into my consciousness at a young age and forms the basis of my current work. I live on a beautiful rural property in northern NSW and am surrounded by birdsong and the hum of insects.

Insects have always held a special fascination for me. Several years ago I became interested in the work of the insect pollinators which include bees, beetles, flies and butterflies. Insect pollinators are essential to the life-cycle of many flowering plant species. I have made prints and artist books which attempt to highlight the indiscriminate use of pesticides and the ongoing decline of the pollinating insects which are essential to plant reproduction and biodiversity.

More recently, this interest in pollination has expanded to include birds. My print In the service of trees: bird pollinators features a bird from each of the two major families of bird pollinators in Australia: the parrots and the honey-eaters. The bird images have been appropriated from some of the very first European depictions of these birds.

An example of a plant species pollinated by each bird is featured in the background of the print: a banksia for the parrot and gum tree blossom for the honey-eater. Bees and magnified pollen grains are also included. The bell jars are an observation and a reminder of the way in which we often place nature apart from us.

Q: How does this relate to your broader body of work?

JK: My broader body of work is underpinned by environmental concerns together with personal identity issues and the slippery nature of memory. These themes are then interwoven with the more universal concepts of time, the cycles of life and a respect for the intricate workings of nature.

Q: What other projects are you working on?

JK: I have two solos shows coming up. The first is this coming November in my home town of Kyogle and is titled Eye Spy. It is an examination and response to the many different ways of seeing and interpreting nature when we enhance our focus by using artificial viewing instruments such as magnifying glasses, binoculars and microscopes.

My second solo show will be exhibited at the Grafton Regional Gallery in March, 2018. Titled Of Birds and Bees it will present work which continues to explore my preoccupation with pollination, but with the focus on the bird pollinators and the plants they pollinate.

Prints can be ordered at



J.P. Willis: ‘Utopia’

Above: J.P. Willis, The Flowers of Romance, 2009, archival pigment print, 55 x 55 cm.
Right: J.P. Willis and Sarah Bodman, How Do I Love Thee, 2009, handbound artist book, digital print and laser cut, 17 x 17 cm, Tate Britain collection, Art Gallery of NSW.
Below:  J.P. Willis, Utopia 5, 2017, archival pigment print, 105 x 150 cm.

J.P. Willis  discusses his latest exhibition, Utopia.

Q: What were some of the foundation ideas for this body of work, and how did you develop them?

JPW: My latest series of prints combines my ongoing interest in the landscape, initiated by a youthful education of growing up in the picturesque surroundings of my native Wales, and my ongoing exploration of beauty and mortality founded in the historical tradition of memento mori.

My formative years were spent working predominantly within traditional print media – etching, collagraph, etc. I saw these techniques married with my local vistas as a way for me to evaluate expansive mark making and extend myself technically. This idea of pushing boundaries with image and process is still predominant in the way I work and think today. I experiment with any innovative medium I can manipulate, producing artworks as an ongoing exploration on processes and rendering that persists into digital printmaking, extending my practice.

Early research into water-based print mediums, and more recently adopting digital and laser technology, are ways in which I investigate new products as they have become available, and I have an enduring fascination with producing works on less traditional formats and surfaces such as vinyl, artist books, and glass. This meditation on process and image has endured to produce my new series of landscapes, which combine a maturing vision with new production techniques.

Q: What were some of the technical challenges involved with making these pieces?

JPW: I see this new Utopia series of large-scale digital prints as paintings, works produced with unique digital brushes that combine traditional notions of mark making and digital printing. I have been lucky enough to work with master printer Brian Gilkes of Pharos Editions in Melbourne, and with his help and guidance we’ve been endeavouring to translate the subtle nuances of the images in the virtual matrix onto paper. This most recent way of presenting my work comes with newer challenges! I’ve been grappling with very large file sizes, hardware issues, catastrophic system failures (which included losing everything after six months of work, including back-ups!). This effort, combined with understanding the limits of new print processes, are all part of the quest that I consider a fruitful arts practice.

Q: What do you think are some of the advantages of printmaking over other ways of making art?

JPW: Print has many advantages, not just confined to editioning prints but multiples, which can themselves be manipulated by collaboration with artists in various locations to produce individual outcomes with the same roots.

This coupled with working with master printers and other collaborative partners brings an extra dimension to the work, stretches me and means I’m always learning in vision and technique.

Innovative printmaking expands an individual’s market, creating a wider audience for artworks therefore creating a means to expand their portfolio and network.

In some ways printmakers have a different outlook on making art! I find my peers are more engaged to the ideas of collaboration while being generous with help and advice, interesting to talk to and work with, and a source of inspiration.

Q: What are some of the future projects you are planning?

JPW: I’m currently working on a new series of metallic prints produced with high metallic inks. I have extended my Looking for Love series onto glass, as well as working with Brian Gilkes on large format light boxes with a continuation of my ongoing Flowers of Romance portfolio.

I am also working collaboratively with artist overseas and in Australia on several new print projects.

Utopia is at Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery 29 September-18 November.

Robert Fielding: Milkali Kutju, One Blood

Robert Fielding discusses his winning work in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards ‘Works on Paper’ category.


Q: What are some of the background ideas that helped you develop your winning work, especially in the context of political posters?

RF: I observed the recent US and Australian elections and really noticed a lot of negative politics. These negative politics come from fear and hate, and cause prejudice and division. My work is political, but it has an overwhelmingly positive message – Milkali Kutju – meaning ‘One Blood’ in Pitjantjatjara language – is a call for unity, for an end to racial prejudice.

Q: What is the general appeal for you of the political poster tradition?

RF: The political poster uses language and imagery to portray its message. I’m mainly interested in how I can use text and images to promote a positive message. My politics are forgiveness, joy, love and understanding – not hate and fear. I use Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara language in my work to demonstrate the pride, strength and resilience of our culture.

Q: How did you approach this work from a technical point of view? What were the challenges?

RF: The work includes hundreds of piercings, burnt through the paper using a soldering iron. One challenge was the burns and blisters I got on my hand from this tool! But for me this burning/piercing technique was a very important element of the work. The text “Milkali Kutju” is asking people to look beneath the surface and see that our differences are only skin deep. We all have blood running through our veins. I’ve pierced the paper so that viewers are literally looking beneath the surface of my artwork. With this burning/piercing technique I am paying tribute to a great artist and matriarch of Mimili who was famous for burning intricate designs onto wooden artefacts with a hot wire. This woman, who’s sadly no longer with us, was a senior cultural elder who showed me the beauty of the country, the culture, the story, song and dance when I first came to Mimili around twenty years ago.

Q: What are some of the broader benefits of winning this award, in terms of the effects the NATSIAAs more generally?

RF: This is the second time I’ve won the Works on Paper category at the NATSIAAs, I also won in 2015. It’s a huge honour to have your work recognised at this level, and I’ve been privileged to receive awards alongside many great Indigenous artists and elders from across the country. The exposure I’ve received from winning this award has generated new opportunities and will allow me to develop some of my ideas for big, exciting projects.

Q: What are you working on now?

RF: Right now I’m working on a few different projects, but the one I’m really excited about is a sculptural project where I’m experimenting with sandblasting designs onto rusted car doors that I’ve salvaged from car wrecks on the APY Lands – I’m looking forward to a major exhibition outcome for this work in 2018!

Top: Robert Fielding, Milkali Kutju – One blood, synthetic polymer paint and ink on burnt and pierced paper, 34th Telstra NATSIAA. Image: Mimili Maku Arts.

Pia Larsen: What we know

Above: Michelle Munzone, In Jest, 57 x 76 cm.
Right: Afaf Al-Shammari, The Mystery of the Human Brain, 57 x 76 cm.
Below: Jane Stratton, Pia Larsen, Michelle Munzone, Vicki Wacha, Zahra Mahde and Susan Stewart in the Printmedia Studio, Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, 2016.

Pia Larsen  reflects on recording knowledge through printmaking in the ‘What we know’ project.

It all began with Jane Stratton, (Creative Director, Think + DO Tank Foundation) and her vision to create a visual record using the medium of print, of people’s knowledge and know-how in Western Sydney. Classes were to be held in the Liverpool area with me as teacher and artist in residence assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Jane’s inspiration came from Denis Diderot’s 1766 Encyclopaedia: A Description of the Arts and Trades. Diderot’s Encyclopaedia created a beautiful account of the contemporary handicrafts of the day, using engraving to showcase the skills of artisans and manufacturers throughout the regions of France.

The printmaking workshops started in September 2016 at the Liverpool Women’s Resource Centre and ran over four weeks with 9 students, Jane and myself. Each week involved transporting and setting up a print studio. This included a small press, tools, inks, paper, water bath and other materials. I began by introducing printmedia through stencilling, demonstrating the process with cut and torn paper to explore negative and positive space, layered imagery and offset print techniques. They also explored drypoint on acetate plates as well as collagraphs on cardboard. As people gained confidence a queue formed at the small press and every class became a flurry of activity and creative endeavour.

During the course I talked about work by artists including, Henri Matisse, Kiki Smith, Ruth Burgess and Louise Bourgeois, discussing how the particular properties of print served their intentions as artists. Toward the months end the students began to formulate their ideas and imagery for a large-scale work (57 x 76cm), using either drypoint and/or stencilling and/or collagraphy. They created a template for the different layers and elements within their image and planned the printing sequence for the processes of intaglio/relief and/or stencil impressions. The final printing to be undertaken later in the year at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.

When the group gathered in December at SCA it was evident that they appreciated the opportunity to utilise the print studio and spend time in the environment and atmosphere of the Rozelle campus. They worked solidly over the following days to produce a set of three prints, with support from Janet Parker-Smith, Printmedia Technical Officer and myself. For most students the first layer of their image was a bleed print in colour. Vicki Wacha mixed and printed a mustard-yellow base for her figurative and patterned drypoint images in black. Zahra Mahde had prepared a stencil of the word ‘mum’ in Arabic calligraphy that printed as white lettering within a bleed print of transparent aqua. Her final layer consisted of offset impressions from leaves floating over the Arabic script. Susan Stewart had prepared a stencil of a large oak tree in white against an autumnal yellow background, overlayed with leaf and acorn shapes in green and brown. Macki Riveros printed her dancing figures as intaglio and offset impressions in red, blue and yellow creating multi layers of overlapping figures until they merged in a blur of coloured movement. Michelle Munzone had created detailed drypoints of theatrical characters that she printed over a rainbow roll bleed print of blue and purple.

Their experience at SCA including, mixing inks, intaglio printing, managing the large format presses and rollers and other studio equipment consolidated and built on their creative and technical know-how. And it was particularly gratifying to observe how people become enraptured with the medium and its potential, hungry to learn all the methods and processes so they could take control and create work on their own. They were also inspired to continue their art training despite limited access to art studios and training facilities in Western Sydney. I enjoyed the interactions and many discussions about people’s ideas, their lives and backgrounds and the way those stories and histories emerged in the final works through subject matter, symbols and pictorial composition. The work I created as artist in residence rendered the creative energy of Western Sydney as a field of vivid colours overlaid with the geography of people, place and space in the Liverpool area. The forthcoming exhibition of work from the What We Know project at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre represents “Chapter 1”. Our vision to involve more people over time and expand the project as a creative voice for the community.

Two hundred and fifty years ago in France engraving served to beautifully showcase the contemporary handicrafts of the time. In Western Sydney today print beautifully showcases fascinating stories interwoven with forms of knowledge and know-how from everyday life, stories that emanate from the most diverse part of greater Sydney with its many cultures, perspectives and histories.

Pia Larsen is artist-in-residence and teacher at Think + DO Tank Foundation.

The Motion Room is at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, 30 September–19 November. Exhibition launch: Saturday 7 October, 1-5pm.

Jacqueline Aust: PCA Print Commission 2017

Above: Jacqueline Aust, Lie of the Land – Mildura, 2017, drypoint, photogravure and chine colle, 67 x 45 cm (image) 76 x 56 cm (paper).

Jacqueline Aust discusses her work selected in the 2017 PCA Print Commission.

Q: What is your relationship to printmaking and how did you develop this interest?

JA: I was introduced to printmaking by Barry Cleavin as part of the graphic design programme at Christchurch Polytechnic in the 1970s. Much later I discovered the print studios at the polytechnic in Wanganui and was encouraged by Marty Vreede to develop my skills in the print studios, often during the weekends. I became interested, as many printmakers are, in the role of the artist as a form-giver who celebrates the concept of individual originality relative to the process of creation through repetition. Much later the print as paradox, valued as unique, yet editioned with machine-like similarity from the same matrix, became a central theme of my masters thesis and the subject, particularly of my installation works. But while the theory of print fascinates me, really it’s the endless variety of what happens between hand, plate, ink and paper that keeps me going!

Q: How did you approach your submission for the PCA Print commission 2017?

JA: The first time I was selected, in 2014, I found the process of printing an edition of 40 challenging, as at that point my editions were rarely bigger than ten and usually more like five. Increasingly I have been developing series of unique state works using the same plates in different combinations. The challenge in my approach to the commission this time has been to find a way to develop a work that is fundamentally driven by the visual structure and concepts of the series I am working on, yet make it editionable.

Q: What are some of the foundation ideas that have guided the creation of the visual content of the work you submitted?

JA: Lie of the land – Mildura is part of a series of works about the process of navigating environments that are foreign to me. It represents a map of my recollection of physical experience and visual perspective while participating in a residency in Mildura. Compared to the intense, wet, green/blue/black colours of New Zealand, the country around Mildura is predominantly dry, ochre or burnt sienna in hue. The Murray River features as a dividing line between states, and as the source of water for huge areas of land ploughed for agriculture. The issue of water use seemed to sit like an elephant in the room, or like sharply defined shapes hovering above the surface of the land. I was often overwhelmed by the scale of the environment and found the simple action of drawing a circle around me in the dirt provided a sense of containment from which to absorb my surroundings. Later these circles became a strong structural link to the same shapes in my ‘navigating’ series.

Q: How does it relate to your broader body of work?

JA: The ‘navigating’ series developed as the result of artist residencies in Arenys de Munt (Spain), The Art Vault (Mildura), and Rakiura-Stewart Island, (New Zealand), between 2015 and 2016. These residencies provoked a significant shift in my work, both in terms of subject and of scale.  Each of these places provided very different visual and physical experiences to draw on. While each print in this series is unique, it begins with the same print matrix on which expressive marks are laid as if creating a map for navigation.  Layers are added that include reference to the half tone dots used to translate images to mass produced print. Each layer serves to obscure and reveal, leaving a history and residue. This layering process imitates my recollection of physical experience and visual perspective, tracing a path from past to present to future.

Q: What were some of the technical challenges involved?

JA: Three plates are used in Lie of the land – Mildura, two photopolymer plates and a dry point in aluminium. The circle components of the dry point plate are printed on cut out circles of abaca paper placed on the plate at the time of printing, and later rearranged along with the previously printed photopolymer images. Ensuring the plates are wiped consistently and placing each of the circle components exactly for consistent effect has been the most technically challenging aspect.

Q: What other projects are you working on?

JA: Research for my ‘navigation’ series through residencies and collaborations is occupying most of my attention including, for example, working at the Umbrella studios in Townsville later this year and participating in the International Print Biennial of Douro in Portugal next year. On the home front I’m participating in a project generated by the Print Council of New Zealand that is loosely titled ‘boundless’, in which printmakers are encouraged to explore the boundaries of print. The most recent version of this project is an exhibition that is touring regional galleries in New Zealand, and will culminate in a print conference in association with the final exhibition at the Waikato Museum in Hamilton next year.

Prints can be ordered at



Andrew Totman: ‘Metamorphosis: Ever-changing… China’

Above: The exhibition space at Desheng Museum.
Right: Andrew Totman, Translucence, 2017, monotype, 50 x 30 cm.
Below:  Andrew Totman, Day dreaming, 2017, gouache, 110 x 77 cm.

Michelle Watts reflects on Andrew Totman’s latest show, held at China’s Desheng Museum.

Andrew Totman – Metamorphosis: Ever-changing… China

Artists run their fingers over the fabric of eternity

(Rose, H. Museum of Modern Love, p56 Allen & Unwin,  Sydney,  2016)


Totman’s  professional arts background covers four decades and six continents and  his works are held in major public, private and university collections from the USA, Canada, Australia, Morocco, Germany, Great Britain, France, Korea, Japan, Finland, Norway, Monaco, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, and China. In this latest exhibition, Totman has chosen to present a mixture of gouache paintings and monoprints on paper,  under the broad title of Metamorphosis: Everchanging… China.

The abstract works presented at Desheng Museum, are alive with glowing colour and animated movement. Driven by a boundless communion with nature, Totman reveals his admiration for and a kinaesthetic response to the certainty of the seasons, the cycles of tides and moon.  The abstract field implies an expansive character that is simultaneously enveloping and breathing, pulsating and muted.

Abstraction, by its very alchemic quality, offers an investigation on the balance and convergence of the elements. Although the landscape may be evoked, there are other determinants present, emotional and profound aspects of the natural world that are created in the diaphanous, weightless forms and luminosity achieved with repeated layers of transparent colour.   These works metaphorically link art (form and surface) with the human spirit and change, a mutability of the natural world and the place of humanity in it.

Totman’s established work reveals many indications of his past preoccupation with the strength of the hand, its universality, its contradictory character. In this current series, the authority of the hand is implicitly evident in a deft and essential touch.  Although on occasion languorous and tender, at other times vigorous and whimsical, the sensuality of the surface resonates with the muted power and strong form of the gesture.

These abstract compositions seem to emanate from the grace and calm of an inner peace, that, although expressing something of the dynamic, contrary forces of nature, remain convinced that an equilibrium will be achieved. Totman is not a romantic in the sense of the terror experienced in the presence of the sublime. Rather, his works display a mature knowledge and recognition of the constancy of change; extremes are balanced with harmony, darkness lifted with light, intuition tempered by intellect. Here is an artist whose belief in the elemental force of nature of the world, those universally recognised symbols of air, earth, wind and fire slipping within and around us, ground even the most resilient human hubris.

Totman’s interest in metamorphosis extends also into the qualities of a culture. Through personal experience, his growing knowledge of China and its contradictions, has led to his conceptual notions and reflections on change, contrast and dissonance. References to the iconography of the elements of fire, air, water and earth, go straight to the heart of the traditional cultural east. Totman has investigated the elements as codes, their very ambiguity offering a philosophical bridge, a  communion between art and audience, harmony and resolution,  East and West. His works strike a balance between the changeability and contested character of China, posing a quieter, more humane questioning, an admiration for our vulnerabilities and strengths.

Gwenn Tasker: PCA Print Commission 2017

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