2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: Heather Kunjarra Koowootha

‘I showed my drawings to printmaker Theo Tremblay three years ago and he invited me to make prints with him. I saw prints by the artists at Canopy Arts (in Cairns) and was curious how they were made.’

Why do you make art?

I have to make some artwork because it’s a whole new journey through life experience.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

I became interested in printmaking because it allows me a full range of tones, textures and fine detail. I am beginning to work with colour and I can try different colours and see how they work in with my ideas.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I showed my drawings to printmaker Theo Tremblay three years ago and he invited me to make prints with him. I saw prints by the artists at Canopy Arts (in Cairns) and was curious how they were made.

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

I was working on this print about the history of my mother’s people and how they were forcibly removed from Fitzroy island, near Cairns, the missionaries burning the village to force them to the boats to take them to the mainland, and Mr Tremblay suggested I send a proof to the PCA for consideration. I was overjoyed when they accepted it, because, after all it is a very personal statement.

Whose work have you been enjoying lately? Where do you go for inspiration?

Foreign artists, represented in art galleries in Cairns, and artists I come in contact with. I live in a remote area of Queensland and look forward to big exhibitions like Inkfest at the Tanks Art Centre in Cairns, like what we just had recently. I am inspired by North Queensland Indigenous works by artists such as Paul Bong, Sid Bruce Shortjoe and Mylene Holroyd. They are doing etchings and it encourages me to keep going. I also get inspired by stories from my elders and childhood memories.

What are you working on now?

I’m working up a series of drypoints on Perspex about a colonial battle which took place in Yarrabah, where my great-grandfather, Tobias, was a war hero. I’m also working on some small etchings making fun of racist politicians.

Congratulations to Heather Kunjarra Koowootha who received the Indigenous Artist Award as part of this year’s commission.

To view this year’s commission prints visit the PCA website, pick up a copy of the spring 2016 issue of Imprint (Vol. 51 No. 3), or visit one of the participating venue galleries listed below:

From Dreamtime to Machine Time

Above: the article as it first appeared in Imprint Vol. 21 No. 3–4, 1986, pages 6–14.

‘Within the first weeks of taking office, the Government established a Department of Aboriginal Affairs, set up an enquiry to ascertain how Aboriginal land should be returned to its people, withdrew Australian forces from Vietnam, endorsed the principle of equal pay for women and increased funding for the arts. It was within this affirmative context, and with the desire to preserve and promote their visual culture and to achieve financial independence, that Aboriginals began experimenting with printmaking.’

Cover for Imprint Vol. 21 No. 3–4, 1986, featuring Johnny Bulun Bulun’s Goonoomoo, 1983, lithograph, 56 x 37.8 cm.

The following article was written thirty years ago by former Imprint editor Roger Butler, Senior Curator of Australian Prints, Drawings and Illustrated books at the National Gallery of Australia, and published in Imprint Vol. 21 No. 3–4, 1986. This was the first themed issue of Imprint and was devoted to the work of Aboriginal artists. This article was also the first overview of Aboriginal printmaking ever published.

From Dreamtime to Machine Time [1]

It is not by chance that Australian Aborigines began to produce prints in the early 1970s. The need to preserve and promote the rich traditions of their visual culture has laid the foundation of a vital new form of artistic expression. The emergence of prints by Aborigines must be seen in the context of their demands for self determination, the politics of the counter culture, and the development of printmaking in Australia in the 1970s.

For some forty thousand years Aboriginal people have inhabited the continent of Australia, each having a clan and totemic relationship to a particular place where their ancestors came from in the Dreaming, and where their spirit will reside after death.

For the Aboriginal people land is a dynamic notion; it is something that is creative … Land is the generation point of existence; it’s the spirit from which Aboriginal existence comes. It’s a place, a living thing made up of sky, of clouds, of rivers, of trees, of the wind, of the sand, and of the Spirit that has created all those things; the Spirit that has planted my own spirit there, my own country … It belongs to me; I belong to the land; I rest in it; I come from there.[2]

With the European invasion of Australia in 1788, the Aborigines were systematically dispossessed of their land which not only stripped them of their traditional sources of food but also struck at the very heart of their culture. Added to this was the breaking up of clan groups by consecutive government policies of integration. Although there was a continuous struggle for the recognition of Aboriginal rights, it was not until the 1960s that the modern Land Rights movement began.

On 28 August 1963 the Yirrkala people presented a petition to the House of Representatives. Written in their own language on bark, it requested that a special committee be set up to hear their views before granting of mining rights on the Gove Peninsula. They finally issued a Supreme Court writ against Nabalco, but the Court found that, although the Aboriginals had established a spiritual relationship with the land, they could not successfully claim it under common law.

By 1971 when this decision was passed down, there had emerged a generation of Australians who supported Aboriginal Land Rights; they were the children of the post-war baby boom who reached maturity in the late 1960s. Affluent and well educated, they often did not hold the same values as their parents. Searching for more enduring values than the rampant materialism which had flourished in the 1950s, they challenged conventions and embraced alternative lifestyles.

Major issues at that time were the end of the Vietnam war and the use of nuclear power; women’s and gay liberation; conservation and Aboriginal Land Rights. Some people sought to ‘opt out’ of the system, to return to the land and self-sufficiency, others embraced esoteric religions. Cheap overseas flights made the ‘global village’ a reality, while the relaxation of the ‘white Australia policy’ and the introduction of Asian students, all contributed to an increased awareness by Australians of this country’s multicultural make-up.

Alternatives were also being sought in the art world. Painting, particularly ‘hard edge’ colour abstraction imported from America, was rejected as ‘bank art’ – decoration for a capitalist society. Rather, it was unsaleable, ephemeral or democratic art forms that were taken up. Earthwork sculpture, ritual-like performance art, community-based co-operative projects, video, photography and printmaking became the most vital areas of activity.

Printmaking facilities were established in schools and commercial print workshops opened. Screenprinting was particularly popular, due to the inexpensive equipment needed, and the ability to produce multi-colour prints. The cheapness and ‘contemporary look’ of screenprints also led to their adoption by political artists.

These diverse elements came together in 1972. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy was set up on the lawns in front of Parliament House in Canberra; Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd was established at Papunya in Central Australia and Ernabella Arts Inc in Alice Springs; the Australian Union of Students began planning the Aquarius back-to-earth festival at Nimbin, New South Wales; the Australian Prints exhibition was held in London; the Earthworks Poster Collective was formed in Sydney; and in December 1972 a Labor Government, the first for twenty-three years, was voted into power.

Within the first weeks of taking office, the Government established a Department of Aboriginal Affairs, set up an enquiry to ascertain how Aboriginal land should be returned to its people, withdrew Australian forces from Vietnam, endorsed the principle of equal pay for women and increased funding for the arts. It was within this affirmative context, and with the desire to preserve and promote their visual culture and to achieve financial independence, that Aboriginals began experimenting with printmaking.

 

A continuing tradition

Australian Aborigines have no tradition in printmaking processes, other than the stencilled images (usually of hands) that are to be found on cave walls throughout Australia. Printmaking techniques have been acquired, initially, from school-teachers, craft advisors, or from white artists.

Some of the earliest Aboriginal prints were produced by Bede Tungutalum at Nguiu, Bathurst Island, some one-hundred kilometres from Darwin. The open sea which separates Bathurst Island and its neighbour, Melville Island, from Northern Australia, has led to the development of a culture distinct from the mainland. The Tiwi people are renowned for their singers, songwriters, dances, and their carved and painted wooden sculptures. Bede Tungutalum learnt the rudiments of woodblock cutting and printing from Madeline Clair, the local art teacher, and in 1970, together with Giovanni Tipungwuti, he established Tiwi Designs. Their woodblock prints of the early 1970s often resemble Tiwi carved designs and stress the interdependence of the different crafts. Birds such as that depicted in Tipungwuti’s Tiwi Bird Design feature in many Tiwi creation stories. By 1983 Tiwi Designs concentrated on screenprinted fabrics and employed seven workers.[3]

One of the printers was Ray Young, originally a member of Earthworks Poster Collective, and later a craft adviser to the area. The latter position was also once held by Colin Little, the founder of Earthworks, demonstrating the parallel concerns between workshops like Tiwi Designs and the political postermakers of the 1970s.

Other early examples are from Galiwinku (Elcho Island), which is well to the east of Darwin. Here there was a strong local tradition involving the engraving of designs on wooden smoking pipes. In 1971 John Rudder, who worked at the mission, provided Monydjirri, Charlie Matjuwi and Botu with lino blocks of a colour similar to the ochre Elcho Islanders painted onto the wood before engraving their designs. The designs they cut were on the same small scale as those on the pipes. Printmaking did not develop within the community, and the blocks were not printed until over a decade later.[4]

Non Aboriginal artists frequently initiated such isolated experiments. In early 1970 printmaking had been introduced to both Nigeria and New Guinea in this way.[5] In 1976, while visiting Arnhem Land, Jörg Schmeisser (Head of Printmaking Department, Canberra School of Art) traded information with Albert, an Aborigine of the area. Schmeisser demonstrated how prints were produced, and Albert demonstrated the preparation of bark for painting. This exchange resulted in Albert’s production of a small drypoint of animals, emu and fish, an impression of which is now in the Australian National Gallery collection.

In 1978 Schmeisser also worked with a now deceased Aboriginal artist and his sons while they were artists-in-residence at the Australian National University. They drew their images directly onto the zinc plates using lithographic crayon as a resist, (and in one example line etching) which were then etched and printed. Although the reversal of the images was unexpected by the artists, they were satisfied with prints like Bandicoots and viewed them as an interesting excursion into another medium, but one they found no need to pursue.[6]

The first products of the new-style Aboriginal art to become widely known in Australia, were paintings in acrylic on board or canvas from the central desert area of Papunya, three-hundred miles west of Alice Springs. In 1972, the Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd was founded to distribute and promote the paintings from the area. The production of prints was fostered by commissions given to already successful painters.

In 1978, Dinny Nolan Jampijinpa, a leading member of the Anmajera tribe from the central desert area, was commissioned by the Canadian Government to produce a print for the Commonwealth Print Portfolio. An artist from each country competing in the XI Commonwealth Games was flown to the University of Alberta, Canada, to produce the prints. Australian officials did not think Dinny would ‘be able to handle it’. Instead Lyndal Osborne, the co-ordinator of the project, flew from Canada to Melbourne where Dinny spent two weeks working at the Victorian College of the Arts under the supervision of Bea Maddock (‘Boss woman’). Dinny drew his design directly onto five lithographic plates that were then proofed by Osborne. Maddock remembers Dinny’s first reaction to the finished prints coming off the press; he considered them to be ‘white man’s art’ but later seemed happy with them. The final printing was done in Canada, but due to difficulties in printing, two of the lithographic plates were converted to screenprints.

The only other image in the Commonwealth Print Portfolio not produced at the University of Alberta was by Kenojuah, an Inuit (Canadian Eskimo) artist.[7] Like the Australian Aborigines, the Inuit people have no tradition of printmaking. But since 1958, when relief printing techniques were introduced to them, the Inuit have rediscovered their artistic heritage of stories and images. A strong market for Inuit art has developed enabling many of the artists to achieve financial independence. Inuit prints have been distributed through the Canadian Eskimo Arts Council since 1965 and exhibited in Australia in the early 1970s.[8]

It is likely that the success of such models influenced the Aboriginal Artists Agency (established in 1978) to produce a set of six screenprints by artists from the Western Desert. The project was initiated by David Rankin, director of the print publishers Port Jackson Press and Anthony Wallis, manager of the agency. The two artists selected for the 1979 project were Johnny Bulun Bulun and David Milaybuma, both from the Maningrida area of West Arnhem Land. They were flown to Melbourne and stayed at the Windsor Hotel while they worked at Mal Studio with the screenprinter Larry Rawlings.

In their bark paintings, both artists work in a traditional manner systematically applying one colour at a time to build up the easily recognisable images of the animal and plant forms of their region. A similar procedure was used in creating the screenprints with the artists sitting on the floor and applying block-out directly onto the screens with a twig brush. A proof of the first colour was printed, the second screen placed over it and the second colour drawn. The process was continued until the image was complete. The screens were then printed in thick matt inks mixed to match the samples of traditional earth pigments the artists had brought with them. The editions of 90 were then signed by the artists.

These were the first prints produced by Aborigines that were marketed widely. Colour brochures were sent to twenty-two thousand American Express card holders, but despite this wide publicity only fifty-four prints sold; the most popular being those like Bulun Bulun’s Flying Foxes. They were then distributed through regular Port Jackson Press outlets and later the Aboriginal Artists Agency. A second set of three prints by Willi Tjungurrayi, working collaboratively with his brother, Charlie of the Pintubi Tribe from the Western Desert, was printed in 1981 – Bandicoot ancestors fighting over fire at Taltaltanya is a typical example.[9]

Johnny Bulun Bulun is of the Ganulpuynga clan of Central Arnhem Land, and a supporter of the Out Station movement whereby Aboriginal people return to their ancestral lands and teach traditional values to the young. Bulun Bulun has moved his own family from the main Government town of Maningrida to establish his own settlement at Gamedi. Though living in this remote area, he travels to other States to promote Aboriginal work at exhibitions and to attend conferences. In 1983, he attended exhibitions in Canberra in July and December and on his second visit once more experimented in printmaking.

Theo Tremblay, Lecturer in Drawing and Printmaking, was instrumental in making the facilities and expertise of the print workshop of the Canberra School of Art available to Aboriginal artists. The lithographic process proved an ideal method of working for Bulun Bulun. His print Goonoomoo has a sensitivity that seems lacking in his earlier screenprints. Perhaps the process of working on stone – creating the design by a combination of painting then scratching in the cross-hatching – had more affinity with traditional modes of work than drawing onto acetate overlays.[10]

Joe Croft, who acted as publisher, also arranged for England Bangala to work with Tremblay at this time. Bangala was born at Gochan-Jiny-Jirra, near Maningrida, West Arnhem Land, and is an important ceremonial person of the Gunardba tribe. This collaboration resulted in two lithographs.[11]

The Second Briennial Conference of the Institute of Aboriginal Studies held in Canberra at the Australian National Gallery in May 1984, brought together large numbers of Aboriginal artists, craft advisers, teachers, historians and anthropologists. It was the venue for much trading of information. Banduk Marika was one Aboriginal artist who attended the conference and her meeting with Tremblay resulted in her being appointed artist-in-residence at the Canberra School of Art later that year.

Marika was born in 1954 at Yirrkala Mission, near Gove in Eastern Arnhem Land, and moved to Sydney in 1973 (at about the same time that Nabalco started mining). After a time in Darwin and a broken marriage, she returned to Sydney in 1980 and began painting. With the support of Jennifer Isaacs she began to produce linocuts, the technique she is primarily known for today (although she has also worked successfully in lithography). The cutting of her blocks is closely linked with the engraving of designs on wood, common to people along the coast of North Eastern Arnhem Land. Marika first exhibited during the Women’s Art Festival in Sydney in 1982 where, together with Isaacs, she collected and presented an exhibition of Aboriginal women’s craft work.[12]

Western society has marginalised women’s art including that produced by Aborigines. It is slowly being acknowledged by Europeans that Aboriginal women, due to their relationship to the Dreaming, are the custodians of certain ceremonies, stories, music, dances and images. If Aboriginal women have been acknowledged at all in the arts it has been for functional wares. Baskets and string bags, often woven in intricate patterns or decorated, have been produced by women since the Dreaming. More recently the art of fabric dyeing has been introduced, the best known being the batik fabrics produced at Ernablla since 1972. In 1980, the Pitjantjatjara Women’s Council was established, and Aboriginal Women’s Arts Exhibitions held. However, encouragement for Aboriginal women to produce paintings and prints has been relatively slow.

The only community to promote women printmakers is at Indulkana. Situated in the north west of South Australia it is a settlement of about two hundred and fifty Pitjantjatjara and Yankuntjatjara people. The linocut process was introduced to the community in 1982, by a Flinders University student, Adrian Marrie, and since then many women have been producing prints. Initially, the prints were monochrome, but now multicolour works are also produced. The introduction of an old proofing press has speeded printing. In 1983, an exhibition of linocuts by Lippsie Everard, Kanakiya, Josie McArthur, Eileen King, Suzie Presley, Sylvia Derose, Margo Brown, Sadie Singer and Joanne Winjin was held at the Women’s Art Movement Gallery in Adelaide.[13]

In Western Australia a number of Aboriginal artists have made their first prints at classes run through the Prisons Department Art Programme at Fremantle. Linocut printing has been taught since 1979, and from 1984 etching. The workshop is currently run by Steven Culley and David Wroth. Some Aboriginal artists trained at the centre are now producing work on outstations, and other Aborigines are learning the processes from them.[14]

As with the Indulkana community the prints cross cultural styles. Some images are traditional, some are in a western manner, others a mixture of the two. Prints by Jimmy Pike have been exhibited widely in Australia over the last two years and he is the best known of the Western Australian group.[15] Born in the Great Sandy Desert, Pike’s early life was spent as a member of a nomadic group, with his family living in a traditional style, hunting, gathering and moving according to the seasons. Later when his family moved north he began working as a stockman in the Fitzroy Valley.

In 1980, while at Fremantle, Pike began to paint, drawing upon the lore of his ancestral country and the stories he had absorbed as a youth. He mostly works in the simple linocut technique but engraves his blocks with such vigour that they are in danger of breaking up. For this reason most of Pike’s prints have been transferred to screenprints for editioning. Some such as Mirnmirt, are translations of traditional sand drawings while other prints have more recent events as their subjects. Jarlujangka Wangki deals with irresponsible bomb-dropping exercises held in the desert during the Second World War. The non-traditional subject matter produces a corresponding change in imagery. Since 1985 Pike has also produced colour screenprints.

Dennis Phillips Deeaggidditt was born in Leonora, four hundred kilometres north-east of Perth. His linocut The Blind Man tells one of the stories of his people, some of which have been passed on to him by his great grandfather. Mervyn Street, another Aboriginal artist who has worked at Fremantle, has also recently begun making linocuts based on traditional stories.

One of the few traditional Aboriginal artists to produce etchings is Martin Dougal, from the Broome area. His paintings, etchings and linocuts convey the intensity of light, colour and heat found in ‘the breakaway country’.

Another innovative project being undertaken by the Western Australian Aboriginal artists is the illustration of the story The Girl who danced with Brolgas. Jackie McArthur, Dennis Phillips, Wilbur Porter and Jimmy Pike – all artists from different areas – have pooled their feelings about this particular story and their land and expressed them in a series of monotypes, which will be published shortly in book form.

 

Urban Koories

In her introduction to Koori Art ’84 the Aboriginal rights activist Bobbi Sykes commented that

While the world would rather think of Aboriginal artists as frozen in the pre-Cook era, contemporary black artists confront the conscience of the global public with images of our modern reality … this provides the black artists with their subject matter, and, often their means.[16]

Koori art is produced by urban Aboriginals who are often trained in western traditions but, as Sykes notes, have ‘one foot firmly in each world’.

Most of the urban Koories are younger artists (born in the 1950s or early 1960s) who grew up after the breakdown of the government’s ‘assimilate at all costs’ policy. But the distinction between traditional and Koori art is not hard and fast; for instance Banduk Marika, whose traditional prints have already been discussed, lives in Sydney. She exhibited in Koori Art ’84 as did Ernabella Arts Inc, Alice Springs, which promotes Pitjantjatjara women’s art.

It is not always easy for Koori artists, much criticism coming from within Aboriginal society. Some are criticised for not being the rightful owners of the images they use and are sometimes regarded as little more than fashionable image scavengers.

Raymond Meeks was born in Sydney in 1957 and after gaining a Certificate of Art in Queensland, completed his Diploma and post-graduate studies at Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education in Sydney. He was awarded his Bachelor of Arts from City Art Institute, Sydney, in 1984. Although primarily a painter and printmaker, Meeks has also produced illustrations for the Aboriginal newspaper AIM, posters for Koori Art ’84 and Jack Davis’ play Honey Spot, and he was commissioned by Australia Post to design the Australia Day stamp for 1986.[17] His linocut Mimi displays the crisp cut and the immediacy that he likes in this technique. It also shows his use of often familiar Aboriginal motifs from different tribal areas. He explains, ‘I am obsessed by that imagery – Papunya, Maningrida, Yirrkala. I am trying to blend them because it works for me. I am hunting for lost pieces of myself.’[18]

The Koori art movement is strongest in Sydney. Fiona Foley, born 1964, studied at East Sydney Technical College, and Sydney College of Arts. During 1983 she was a visiting student at St Martin’s School of Art, London, and on her return to Australia worked as an assistant at Max Miller’s printing workshop in Sydney. She has frequently produced etchings that have been printed in a monotype manner. Sea Shells on the Sea Shore is typical, with the realistically depicted shells floating over a nebulous background of sand, sea, spray and stars.[19]

In 1985 Foley travelled to Aboriginal communities at Bathurst Island and Raminginging in Arnhem Land, where she developed a few drawings which she would later use for etchings. ‘Watching the freeness of the children paint and the political subject matter they painted has also enabled me to feel free to choose topics and styles in which I can depict another view on Australian history.’[20]

 

Political posters

The political poster has been the main vehicle for overt political statements by Aboriginal printmakers. In this respect they take over the work begun by the Earthworks Poster Collective and others who produced posters demanding Aboriginal Rights in the 1970s, some of whom are still active in this field. Ray Young works at Tiwi Designs, Marie McMahon has worked for Mimi Arts and Crafts in Katherine, and Chips MacKinolty works for Jalak Graphics in the Northern Territory.

Avril Quail, a 1985 graduate of the Sydney College of the Arts, participated in the first Truth Rules OK?, a national touring exhibition of socially/politically orientated posters. Her screenprint No Tresspassers – Keep Out was produced at the Tin Sheds, University of Sydney, where the Earthworks Poster Collective originated. In Koori Art ’84 she exhibited a linocut portrait of a Christian and a screenprint Wulula, My Mother’s Land. More recently she has been working on a mural at The Settlement in Chippendale, an inner Sydney suburb.[21]

Community-based screenprinting workshops and projects have given many artists the opportunity to produce posters. Alice Hinton-Bateup was first employed by Garage Graphix in 1983 under the Wage Pause Programme and later under the CEP Scheme. She was able to continue her work in 1985 when the workshop received grants from the Aboriginal Arts Board. She has worked closely with the local Koori community, printing t-shirts, calendars, jigsaw puzzles and posters.[22] Dispossessed and Lost Heritage, both colour screenprints combining hand drawn and photo images, focus on the Aborigines’ loss of rightful heritage as they are distanced from their traditional land.

This theme of loss is also evident in the work of Byron Pickett. Originally from Western Australia, Pickett was appointed a trainee community artist with the Eyre Peninsula Cultural Trust from August 1984 to July 1985. His position was funded by the National Employment Strategy for Aboriginals and the Aboriginal Arts Board. During his period of training Pickett worked with many groups including Port Lincoln school students, the Community College, Port Lincoln Prison and Adult Aboriginal classes.

Research for his prints took Pickett to Adelaide, Port Augusta and the Flinders Ranges where he studied photographs and books and talked to many Aborigines. His colour screenprints often combine photographic imagery with text. Family painfully describes the dilemma of many Aboriginals.

In all these political posters the recurring theme is the loss of, and the need to protect, Aboriginal land. This is not surprising considering how little has been achieved since the Land Rights proposal of 1972.

Compared to the number of Aboriginal artists producing paintings on bark or canvas, there are only a few who have so far worked as printmakers. However, the very nature of printmaking – its ability to replicate an image – has enabled these few to reach a wide audience. Prints using traditional images, those produced by Koori artists, and political posters, will all contribute to the increasing self-determination of the Aboriginal people.

 

Notes

[1] The title of this article is taken from Trevor Nickolls’ exhibition From Dreamtime to Machine Time, Canberra Theatre Gallery, 1974. Nickolls is a Koori artist presently living in Sydney.

[2] Father Pat Dodson, ‘MSC in Report of the Third Annual Queensland Conference of the Aboriginal and Islanders Catholic Council of Australia’, January 1976: 16, quoted in Lorna Lippmann Generations of Resistance, Melbourne, Longmans Cheshire, 1981, p.46.

[3] See Adrian Newstead, ‘Tiwi Aboriginal Designs’ in Craft Australia, Spring 1983. Tiwi Designs, Sydney, Hogarth Galleries, 1982. Bede Tungutalum exhibited 2 woodcuts in the Print Council of Australia’s Second Western Pacific Biennale, 1978.

[4] Information from Theo Tremblay who also printed the blocks.

[5] Jean Kennedy, ‘Printmaking in New Guinea’ in Artists Proof, Vol. 11, 1971; for Printmaking in Nigeria, see ibid., Vol. 7, 1967. It might also be noted that the best known American Indian artist Fritz Scholder began making prints in 1970. See Clinton Adams, Fritz Scholder, Lithographs, Boston, New York Graphic Society, 1975.

[6] Information from Jörg Schmeisser, who printed the plates.

[7] Discussions with Anthony Wallis and Bea Maddock, August 1986. See also brochure accompanying Commonwealth Print Portfolio, This was supplied to me by Anthony Wallis.

[8] See Ernst Roch (ed.), Arts of the Eskimo: Prints, Montreal, Signum Press.

[9] Telephone interview with David Rankin, August 1986.

[10] Theo Tremblay has supplied the following details of this lithograph’s production:

Hand printed stone lithograph. Johnny applied gum acacia to areas designated white first. He then applied oleified bitumen in areas designated black. Finally a tone was created by air brushing the bitumen into areas traditionally reserved for areas of tone such as yellow ochre. An edition of fifty was printed onto Fabriano No. 5, 300 gsm cotton paper, as were five additional proofs reserved for the printers, the print workshop collection, and Joe Croft, publisher. An additional five proofs were pulled on bleached bullrush paper, made by Gaynor Cardew especially for the project.

[11] Discussions with Theo Tremblay, 1986.

[12] Biographical information derived from Urban Koories, Sydney, Workshop Arts Centre, 1986, and conversations with the artist.

[13] For information on the Indulkana community see the article by Janet Maughan on pages 16–17 of this issue. See also Minymaku Council Kulintja, Alice Springs, Pitjantjatjara Women’s Council, No. 1, 1985; Setting the Pace, Adelaide Women’s Art Movement, 1984; ‘Aboriginal Women: Ritual and Culture’, Diane Bell. Interviewed by Lesley Dumbrell in Lip 1978/79, Melbourne, 1979, pp. 5-9.

[14] Information about this Western Australia group of artists was provided by Steven Culley and David Wroth.

[15] See Jimmy Pike, his art and stories, Perth, Desert Prints, 1985.

[16] Bobbi Sykes introduction to Koori Art ’84, Sydney, Artspace, 1984.

[17] See Stamp Bulletin – Australia, Melbourne, No. 182, January 1986.

[18] Quoted in Urban Koories, Sydney, Workshop Arts Centre, 1986.

[19] Illustrated in Koori Art ’84, Sydney, Artspace, 1984.

[20] Urban Koories, Sydney, Workshop Arts Centre, 1986.

[21] Biographical information derived from Koori Art ’84 (where her work is illustrated) and conversations with the artist.

[22] Urban Koories, Sydney, Workshop Arts Centre, 1986.

2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: John Ryrie

‘I have been interested in printmaking since I was about nine or ten years old. Picasso’s etching and lithographs were the first prints I looked at.’

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Printmaking is my main medium. I am also a painter, sculptor and a musician.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I have been interested in printmaking since I was about nine or ten years old. Picasso’s etching and lithographs were the first prints I looked at. I was eighteen before I made my first print.

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

The ‘Waiters’ Race’ was part of the Lygon Street festival back in the 1990s.

Whose work have you been enjoying lately?
This year there have been a lot of good print exhibitions: at the NGV we’ve had DegasWhistlerJan Senbergs and, in the member lounge, Piranesi; in Ballarat, William Kentridge and Pam Hallandal. I have also been looking at Laura Knight, Stanley Anderson, Robert Sargent Austin, Günter Grass and Bruegel.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a folio of prints based on Punch and Judy. It was started in 2006 as a State Library fellowship project. There is an exchange folio called Panoply organised by Rona Green and another for the Scarlet Fund. I have one print in each of these. I am also working on another limited edition book that I hope to have finished by the end of this year.

To view this year’s commission prints visit the PCA website, pick up a copy of the spring 2016 issue of Imprint (Vol. 51 No. 3), or visit one of the participating venue galleries listed below:

2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: Rona Green

From today until 31 October, our fabulous 2016 PCA Print Commission prints will be available to view at a range of venues around the country (please see details listed at the end of this interview). To celebrate and to offer a little peep into the worlds of the artists selected for the commission by our esteemed judges – Roger Butler, Senior Curator of Australian Prints and Drawings and Illustrated Books at the National Gallery of Australia, and master printer John Loane of Viridian Press – today we also kick off an interview series in which we will highlight one of the ten prints and artists involved in this year’s commission each week.

‘From looking at my work it is probably fairly easy to tell what is of most interest to me: animals, appearances, stories.’

Why do you make art?

It is deeply amusing to do so.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Involved and intense. It’s a very close friend.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

At La Trobe University in Bendigo during the early 1990’s I was taught by a couple of excellent printmaking lecturers (Peter Jacobs and John Robinson) who totally infected me with their enthusiasm for the medium.

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

A lot of handsome cats have been drawing my attention of late so it seemed like a good opportunity to use one of these as a reference for the purpose of the print commission. The dapper cat character I conjured up lives a wild life. Hopefully he will provide interesting company for those who choose to have him come live with them.

Whose work have you been enjoying lately?

Derek Boshier, Michael Craig-Martin, Lee Lozano, Pauline Boty, Dorothy Iannone, Paul Compton.

Where do you go for inspiration?

From looking at my work it is probably fairly easy to tell what is of most interest to me: animals, appearances, stories. Artists whose work I admire include Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Francis Bacon, John Brack, David Hockney, Peter Blake, Diane Arbus, Philip Guston, Ida Applebroog, Leon Golub, and Ed Paschke. And I am particularly keen on Egyptian art and the Dutch Golden Age. Not to mention TV …

What are you working on now?

Preparing for a solo exhibition of printmaking at Bendigo Art Gallery and a solo exhibition of painting, drawing and printmaking at Australian Galleries, Melbourne. Both shows are scheduled for late 2017.

The 10th Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair: A Postcard from Laura Taylor

Images clockwise from top: DAAF map; Naiya Wilson (Durrmu Arts Aboriginal Corporation); Jean Baptiste Apuatimi, tungas.

Greetings!

As part of my day job with the Aboriginal Art Centre Hub of Western Australia (AACHWA) in Perth, WA, I had the opportunity to travel to Darwin at the start of August to attend the 10th Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF).

This popular three-day art fair is held each year to coincide with the prestigious National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (held at MAGNT), and provides visitors, galleries and serious collectors with an opportunity to buy art directly (and ethically) from Aboriginal-owned and incorporated art centres.

In 2016 DAAF hosted approximately sixty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned art centres from across Australia – an astounding number presenting a mind-boggling offering of 2D and 3D arts and crafts. And since I was there I happily wandered around during the three days to check out which art centres were presenting works-on-paper.

Unfortunately I can share only a few images here of the otherwise hugely diverse and incredibly exciting selection that was on display at the Fair. And, to be honest, until then I didn’t fully realise just how many artists and art centres have engaged in printmaking either independently, or with the assistance of a master printer and/or print studio. Worthy of further research!

Paul Bong, vinylcuts.

So, my teaser selection of art centres and works are:

Top l-r: James Gaston, At the Show, Linocut, Larrakia Nation Arts; Lisa Michl, Ntarr I, 2009, etching, Umi Arts.
l–r: Timothy Martin, Leon Pungili and Cyril Modikan (Durrmu Arts Aboriginal Corporation).

There were also numerous art centres from WA; however, I hope to blog about them separately next year (in April 2017) when Warlayirti Artists from Balgo, WA, hold a print exhibition at Mundaring Arts Centre to coincide with the annual Revealed – WA Emerging Aboriginal Art Exhibition and Art Market – held at Fremantle Arts Centre. Until then!

Cheers – Laura

PCA Committee Representative, WA.

Q&A with Marco Luccio

I don’t tend to wait for inspiration to strike, I just go in my studio and work. I do, however, take time away to restore my energy and allow space for new work to come into being.‘ 

How did you start out as an artist?

I started out as an artist by doing VCE art then completing a fine arts honours degree at RMIT. I was always encouraged to be an artist by family, friends and teachers from very early on so it gave me a strong sense of what I wanted to do with my life. It hasn’t always been easy to pursue an art career, as most artists will attest, but it’s never been boring! It’s very fulfilling and at times absolutely thrilling.

What is it about printmaking that attracts you?

 I love the marks, the directness, the chances, the accidents, the absolute joy of the first proof, the satisfaction of completing a challenging piece, the unique possibilities of expressiveness, the relationship printmaking has to drawing, the integrity of the medium and the fact that, for me, the subject and the medium are often the same, interconnecting quite often with the themes I pursue and the manner in which I create the plates.

I love the way it feels to gouge deeply into a plate to create powerful and rich velvety blacks, and the contrast of sensitivity that a light touch allows. Each plate offers a new passport to exciting new worlds … and, of course, it’s plain great fun.

Can you tell us about the process of making work for New York Mythic?

It all began with my first trip to New York in 2007. I have made several trips to Manhattan over the years. This is a very large show. It features three bodies of work and around eighty-five artworks.

It pulls together a selection of the 2008 drypoints from the series Citscapes of New York. Also it includes a body of etchings that were started in 2013 but etched this year and will be shown for the first time in Australia as part of New York Mythic. Then there is the forty or so artworks made just this year, a collection of paintings, charcoal drawings, drypoints and mixed media.

To create New York Mythic I started by making sketches in situ in New York from various vantage points such as the Chrysler Building but also, for the first time, used photos as a reference. These were snapped whilst white knuckled and terrified (I’m afraid of heights!) in a helicopter flight over the City of New York.

I wanted this show to capture New York as an imagined and expressive construct, views that may give the viewer a new perspective not only literally but also in the use of mediums and approaches.

Some of the works are very big – up to eleven and a half feet. I think this engages the viewer in a way that smaller works don’t.

With these big images I poured ink and water and built layers over and over until the images started to guide me. I wanted to have a sense of scale that I had not previously explored. I also have drypoints in this show that are four by six feet. They are deeply gouged and were incredibly physically challenging to scratch, ink and print – though I think this physicality, this exertion of energy is fitting. The subject and the medium, as mentioned earlier, become one. New York has this monolithic sense of imposing power and a formidable presence and I was driven by these feelings in making the work.

Do you have particular rituals or routines that contribute to your creative process?

Yes I do. If I have time I like to start with a coffee at my local cafe and write in my journal. Sometimes I like to plan my day and have an idea of what I may tackle but other times that may change completely. I like to be organised but it generally doesn’t last longer than two minutes, and that’s if I’m lucky! When I’m right in the middle of producing a whole body of work it’s often a bit chaotic with a constant reordering to make sure I’m on track.

I like to have all sorts of music playing, classical, pop and lots of jazz or sometimes the football … I’m a sad Collingwood supporter, but it offers me a nice break from the studio. Cricket also gets a run at times.

I like to work regularly in my studio but also have great enjoyment making paintings and prints in situ on worksites or in landscapes. 

I don’t tend to wait for inspiration to strike, I just go in my studio and work. I do, however, take time away to restore my energy and allow space for new work to come into being.

What do you hope people will get from the experience of viewing your work?

I hope people get the feeling that they are not only seeing an image that represents the physical place but also a sense of what it’s like to be there, what your body might feel like when it’s in front of these cities or landscapes. What your senses tell you about a place. I hope the viewer might feel a sense of connection to the marks that represent the subject as much as the subject itself. I hope that they also may get a sense of me in the work too, and of themselves as much as the places I draw.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a new book with the great author John Hughes.

Previously we worked on the book The Garden of Sorrows together, which featured sixty of my etchings, and are now collaborating on a new book. I have been making new drawings for that project. 

Also, The Garden of Sorrows is in early production to become a theatrical performance by the wonderful Snuff Puppets. The first introductory performance was performed at the NGV Australia last year and the further complete performances should be ready for touring next year.

New York Mythic will be on display at fortyfive downstairs from 13 September to 8 October.

Portland Bay Press: A Postcard by Kate Gorringe-Smith

Images clockwise from top: installation of Kate Gorringe-Smith’s work in the Portland Bay Press gallery window; Hertha Kluge-Pott, PBP Patron, printing on the new press 2003, photo by James Wallace; Carmel Wallace, Untitled, 1993, relief print, 120 x 80 cm (see exhibition details below).

Portland, Victoria’s oldest European settlement, lies four hour’s drive west of Melbourne and six hour’s drive east of Adelaide. Despite its geographical isolation, Portland has a thriving and outward-looking artistic community that in 2002 ambitiously decided to set up a public-access etching workshop and gallery.

The idea for Portland Bay Press (PBP) was born when a couple of presses became available from a local university print facility that was being closed down. In the end those presses did not find a home at PBP, but by then the idea had taken root, resulting in Carmel Wallace and Karl Hatton jointly submitting a successful grant application to Arts Victoria to establish an etching studio. At that time Carmel was the administrator of the Portland Emerging Artists Residency program and Karl was the Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Services Officer.

The energy that surrounded PBP’s beginnings was as volcanic as that which formed the local landscape. As a creative force it came into being fully-formed, boldly claiming its place on Australia’s printmaking map: it was opened on 19 July 2003 by Australian Print Workshop Director Anne Virgo and its champion and patron is renowned printmaker Hertha Kluge-Pott. Even before its official opening, PBP had already hosted six workshops with local and international artists: New York-based printmaker Denise Kasof; master printer Bill Young; Byron Bay artist Jay Pearse; retired head of printmaking at Deakin University Ron Quick; founding artist Carmel Wallace* and PBP patron Hertha Kluge-Pott. In its first months it also held three major exhibitions!

PBP is a facility that would be enviable in any city, let alone in a remote town with a population of under 10,000. The studio houses four presses: two Enjays (with beds 82 x 160 cm and 45 x 92 cm), a third smaller press, and a Wilson hand press. Based in the building of an old Hotel (the Union Inn, opened in 1849), the studio has beautiful natural light and the walls have been restored to create a professional gallery space.

To make PBP an even more enticing destination, artists can apply to use the two-bedroom apartment above the studio through the Portland Artist Residency Program. The program creates a mutually enriching opportunity for visiting artists and the local community. An original internal staircase gives artists immediate access from the apartment to the studio, providing the perfect opportunity for printers to stay in Portland and make use of the print facilities.**

A shopfront and an additional gallery space next door provide a hub for other branches of Portland’s creative community, and together with PBP and the apartment, these facilities form the Julia Street Creative Space arts complex. Portland is also home to Portland Arts Centre that has a gallery, a theatre and a studio space.

Since its ambitious beginnings thirteen years ago, PBP has confidently maintained its identity as a significant Australian art hub. Blessed by the proximity of the upstairs apartments and the strong artist-in-residence program, PBP continues to benefit from an ongoing flow of top-quality printmakers and other artists who are drawn to this inspiring part of the world.

*The founding members of PBP were: Carmel Wallace (Convenor), Therese Dolman (Secretary), Catherine Francis (Treasurer), Pat Jarrett, Deborah Bunce, Andy Govanstone,  Rebecca Marriott, Debby Punton, Jan Frost, Mel Halz, Annette Taylor, Pam Beinssen, Bronwyn Mibus, Mimi Murrell, David Burgoyne and Gordon Stokes.

**See the Portland Artist Residency website for further information.

Carmel Wallace: Printed in Portland – a survey of prints including early screenprints developed at portland community access print studio, and etchings, relief, and monoprints made at Portland Bay Press and in the artist’s studio – will be on display at Portland Bay Press from 2 September to 2 October. Opening: Saturday 3 September, 4 pm.

Kate Gorringe-Smith is an artist and the Vice President of the Print Council of Australia.

Q&A with Robert Avitabile

‘I became interested in prints because I like drawing. The simple expression of marks on a surface is both a beginning and an end and is very satisfying. Drawing can be a beautiful evolving statement of an idea and I like it when printmakers carry this freshness and energy into their work.’ 

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

Art wasn’t part of my childhood in semi-rural Ashwood – I was inclined to be outside most of the time, with the only distraction from this being early black and white TV after dinner.

My father’s night class charcoal drawings of Voltaire and The Discus Thrower, etc., from the National Gallery School in the late 1930s to early 1940s weren’t on our walls, but lurking in the back of his wardrobe.

Art came along when I was ready and ironically it was my father’s hidden drawings that sparked my earliest interest and attempts at drawing. The serendipitous opening of the NGV on St Kilda Road in the late 1960s had a profound effect on me since we were now living in St Kilda East. A beautiful world had opened up before my eyes. I could easily walk or catch a tram there and it all made sense.

I began Preliminary Year in Art and Design at Prahran Tech in 1972, and was able to develop ideas and techniques that I had no way of pursuing earlier. I did three more years of a Graphic Design major, with ongoing Life Drawing and electives in Printmaking and Photography also being an important part of my studies. After four years of drawing and the influence of wonderful teachers like Glenys McIntosh and Pam Hallandal, I cannot imagine my life without it and I mourn the downgrading of Drawing in educational institutes today.

I became interested in prints because I like drawing. The simple expression of marks on a surface is both a beginning and an end and is very satisfying. Drawing can be a beautiful evolving statement of an idea and I like it when printmakers carry this freshness and energy into their work.

How do you view the role of curator?

I am an artist and I became a curator by default. I like how art objects interact and (as a classic Libran) I like to arrange them. I also like stories of artists and their careers and I strive to tell these stories in the context of their art. This is how I work and I imagine it’s how others work. However, a gallery owner’s work as a curator is only part of a big job description.

When I was about 16-years-old I curated my first show in my father’s shed – it was a collection of my own Picasso copies. I have now been fortunate to put together some major shows at Metropolis Gallery in Geelong, working with a number of amazing artists including Marco Luccio, Adrian Lockhart and Andrew Chapman; the many prominent Australian printmakers around whom I have curated a number of Collectable Print shows; emerging local artists like Michael Gromm and Steve Salo; comprehensive retrospectives of Kenneth Jack, David Newbury and Bill Harding; and exhibitions in association with a number of prominent Aboriginal art centres. When I look back at each exhibition, it’s the artists’ stories that bring their exhibitions together to connect with viewers. And so it’s the role of a curator to help tell these stories in more ways than simply finding pictures to hang on the wall.

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

A curator understands how people will ‘read’ a group of works by an artist and how they can be presented in the gallery space to best advantage. An exhibition is a partnership between the artist and the gallery, with mutual respect necessary for a great result.

A simple answer might be that there are no challenges, only solutions.

What does a work day look like for you?

My working day starts at home and after the usual activities I check my diary and social media, but sometimes when hot weather is forecast, checking a bonsai before work is more important – apologies.

I usually drive but also regularly walk our dog to the gallery, so we both get a good half hour exercise. I check emails and chat with our gallery assistant if she’s working that day. After replying to emails while serving early customers and attending to anything immediate, I settle into the current exhibition management as well as keeping an eye on future planning. A lot of my day is ‘on the run’ and no two days are the same or predictable.

Upstairs we’re lucky to have our own in-house Geelong Picture Framers, so I also spend time there having a chat and making sure it’s looking good and running smoothly.

I enjoy interacting with customers, as this is an important part of running a gallery. Sometimes I might visit an artist’s studio or some galleries, or spend a quiet day working from home.

Most of my time is spent thinking of the future and staying one step ahead of what’s happening, while keeping my feet firmly on the ground in the present. You could say the drawing beneath all this is constantly changing and that’s how I like it.

Who are your role models?

While I believe that once the exhibition is on the wall the curator, exhibition designer and anyone else should be invisible, there are many anonymous curators in public and private galleries whose ideas I must have absorbed over many years – some reminding me what is good and some not so good. I am probably more influenced by many years working as a freelance designer, producing many interpretive design projects for historical, natural heritage and indigenous art sites. Many of those projects incorporated writing, illustration and design and many talented people for whom I worked were specialists in presenting beautiful visuals and stories in exciting, cohesive and innovative ways.

Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for, and process of, putting together your current group exhibition Mono?

When I look at monotypes the freshness of creation is still there: the energy of drawing is embedded in these works. Any artist brave enough to be involved in making monotypes must surely have been drawing for many years. You’ve only got one chance to pull the perfect mono and it seems artists like the adrenalin rush of this medium: not knowing exactly what’s going to happen when their painting on a copper or plastic plate goes through the press in union with a sheet of paper. You could say the artist and the print are both under a lot of pressure! If you are able to see this show, I hope the results achieved by Tony Ameneiro, Kim Barter, Anita Iacovella, Bruno Leti, Debra Luccio, Janice McBride, James Pasakos, Linda Robertson and Wayne Viney explain this better than words.

This exhibition was the brainchild of Wayne Viney who came to an opening of Linda Robertson’s here last year and said: ‘Why don’t we do a Monotype show?’ and I said ‘OK why not? Who else does Monos?’ So we stood around scratching our heads and put down a few names. Then with the help of Dr Thomas Middlemost (over the phone while agreeing to open the show), we finalised the exciting list of artists for Mono. Thanks Wayne and thank you Tom!

This early stage was one of introductions and pulling all the artists together and getting them working towards a common exhibition date, with exhibition details and gallery requirements emailed and positive replies received. Every stage of an exhibition is important – it’s like an organism that grows and grows and on the opening night of Mono there was a very positive response from artists and guests. The artists were there to celebrate, but the magic is that most people see this as the start of the exhibition – it really started last year!

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m talking to Mono visitors and passing on what I know about monotypes, the artists and their art processes. The exhibition is open and so it’s all about our visitors to the show.

But of course we do have another exhibition coming up in October, so preparations for Robert Ingpen’s Storybook Art has been a concurrent priority for some time at Metropolis Gallery involving cataloguing, photography, writing press releases, framing and presentation of about eighty works, then designing advertising and other printed materials.

In November we are presenting Panoply, a major exhibition of printmaking curated by Rona Green and including forty emerging and established Australian artists.

Between these two shows we have just slotted in an exciting little Collectable Works on Paper show, which came to us recently out of the blue. This is where flexibility as a curator is important to get it all done. Without the help of my partner Ilze, gallery assistants Amber Daly and Alex Game, and our framers upstairs, none of what we do would be possible.

Running a commercial gallery anywhere is probably one of the hardest things to do; however, it’s an occupation that incorporates everything I’ve ever learnt and experienced in art, design, life, business and so on, and importantly how to work within your means without becoming burdened.

 

Mono is on display at Metropolis Gallery, Geelong, until 3 September.

Afterlife at West Gallery, Thebarton

Review by Geoff Gibbons

Afterlife is the inaugural exhibition for a new gallery in the western suburbs of Adelaide that features spacious well lit exhibition spaces occupying the first floor of a modern building. The gallery is the initiative of Margie Sheppard, whose vibrant multi-plate colour etchings can be seen in several interstate galleries.

Margie SheppardCherish, 2016, etching, 62 x 79 cm.

This exhibition of prints brings together a selection of work by many of Adelaide’s leading contemporary printmakers. Curated by Christobel Kelly artists were asked to consider the theme of ‘afterlife’, invoking the analysis of ruins and ruination as described by Walter Benjamin in his Arcades Project.

A number of the fourteen artists represented have explored the potential of working with the randomness of marks left as a trace of earlier projects. Lorelei Medcalf’s exquisite artist’s book comprises collaged segments from etchings that take on hybrid forms constructed from industrial landscapes and plants, all made from a richness of mark making textures. Similarly Simone Tippett has explored the ghost print‘s relationship to its source, in this case a heavily corroded metal plate. She achieves a sense of transience in the subtle traces made on strips of monoprinted paper that seem to hover somewhere between real time and remembered time.

Olga SankeyBloom: Burn, 2016, digital/intaglio, 23 x 40.5 cm.

Olga Sankey references a key concept in Benjamin’s analysis, that of the capacity of ruined objects to divulge insights into their former life. Her paired images can refer to the aftermath of actions, the consequent transformation from abundant life (bloom) to alternate states (burn/blush). Altered states feature in Aleksandra Antic’s long scroll-like silkscreen, giclee and monoprint. Taking as her point of departure an eroded fence that separates a section of the Botanic Gardens from the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the perforations become points of connection providing glimpses into very different social spaces.

Michele Lane’s series of intaglio prints reference the destruction of the Baalshamin temple at Palmyra in Syria. If Benjamin believed that ruination could lay bare the truth of an object one truth is surely that it is impossible to maintain permanence and continuity in a mutable world. Sandra Starkey Simon engages with a related subject in her large screenprint, collagraph and stencil print Firestorm which references the periodic destruction of the city of Magdeburg. Amid the piles of rubble signs of former lives can sometimes be found and even new life in the form of chrysalises.

Sandra Starkey-SimonFirestorm, 2016, screenprint, collagraph and stencil, 76 x 56 cm.

Suzie Lockery’s frieze like print evokes cosmic realms complete with an oval shaped portal that suggests access to other states, even to other parts of the universe. The shimmering points of light on the surface of the portal evoke the myriad of stars in our galaxy. Flanking images recall the background static that is now believed to be the aftermath of the big bang when the universe was a cauldron of intense heat.

Joshua Searson plays with screenprinted images of early film posters. Their fragments recall the layers of torn and over-pasted prints that once adorned the walls and display stands of cities throughout the world. These prints also reference Benjamin’s concept of the Dream World to describe the way that consumer goods and mass culture epitomised by Hollywood films can become the source of an alternative fantasy world that is both seductive and illusory.

This exhibition exemplifies a renewed interest in finding new forms of visual language derived from printmaking that are richly allusive yet capable of engaging the viewer for their graphic qualities.

Afterlife will be on display at West Gallery Thebarton until 10 September.

Geoff Gibbons is a foundation member and chairperson of Bittondi Printmakers Association Inc. that was formed in 2008 to provide an access workshop for artist-printmakers. He has taught printmaking in TAFE and at the Adelaide Central School of Art where he currently lectures in art history and theory.

Q&A with Clayton Tremlett

‘Originally I studied as a painter but the processes of printmaking, particularly the excitement of the reversed and uncontrolled magic of the first proof, eventually got me.’ 

Image: Clayton Tremlett with life mask, 2016. Photo: Carrington McArdle.

Why do you make art?

For me art making is about identifying connections and commonalities in life experience. In more recent years my practice is about examining history and drawing from events or people that influence my identity, to make works that encourage others to reflect on who they are.

I enjoy aesthetic challenges and also like to make print projects that use the printing industry or printed matter like wallpaper or stamps as a historical context.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

It’s about experimentation with materials and processes, by challenging or corrupting a traditional technique and cultivating something personal.

When I started printmaking, my focus was multi-colour reduction linocuts (up to twenty colours) because of the textural beauty I found in the layering of ink.

For my most recent series Beard and Influence I have advanced a technique I’m calling Laser Resist Etching which combines photography, Photoshop and the photocopier to make a new form of photo etching.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I suspect it was subconscious connection with my father’s practice of carving leather. As a child, I recall watching him use a swivel knife and tools to effortlessly cut and sculpt leather which has many parallels to carving lino with a scalpel and then removing the waste with gauges.

Originally I studied as a painter but the processes of printmaking, particularly the excitement of the reversed and uncontrolled magic of the first proof, eventually got me.

Who is your favourite artist?

Favourite is a transient thing. Many artists have been very influential depending on their ideas and technical skills. I admire artists for their individual pursuit of a personal expression and this translates across many disciplines. If I had to name a favourite sustained influence it would be the electronic music of Kraftwerk and their conscious aesthetic as it relates to visual art.

 What is your favourite artwork?

This too is transient and dependant on a particular changing set of receptive moments in life. Recently I travelled with my family to Vietnam and was overwhelmed with the technique of lacquer engraving on panels. Although it is an old technique it was a new experience for me and for a time my most favourite type of work because of its combination of carving and painting.

In my hall at home is a portrait of Captain Cook by Rew Hanks. I particularly enjoy looking at this work because of its technical skill and confidence with the medium.

Where do you go for inspiration?

More recently that would be the Public Records Office in Melbourne.

History is tangible when you are holding a book that is over a hundred and forty years old with detailed information on a prisoner’s appearance, crime, punishment, religion, occupation and tattoos.

Crime and Punishment and Inking Up are artist book projects that explore prisoners held in the old Castlemaine Goal. Crime and Punishment focused on the types of sentences you could get for misdemeanours like riding your bicycle on the footpath (one day), while Inking Up highlights tattoos favoured by a selection of prisoners in the 1890’s – the most common being an anchor between the thumb and forefinger.

What are you working on now?

My current exhibition has taken four years to produce. The works are large scale self-portrait linocuts in the guise of twelve bearded Australian Bushrangers. This was my first performative series where I grew diverse hirsute appearances in order to re-create the original photograph of each bushranger.

After each project, I like to flip the concept to see what is revealed on the other side. Following on from Bushrangers it seemed logical to research the phenomenon of being lost in the bush.

I am also documenting central Victorian ANZAC memorials (the lone soldier) as the central image for a series of anti-war linocut prints.