Q&A: Keith Lawrence

Clockwise from above:
Janet Goldman, Red Kimono, linocut
& chine colle, 72 x 53 cm
Clare Humphries, Once, and again 2, 
linocut hand burnished
etched glass, 27 x 30 cm,
variable edition of 10
Joel Wolter, The Silent Theatre, 
etching, 30 x 22 cm (image),
69 x 59 cm (framed),
edition of 20

What: Editions annual exhibition

Where: Tacit Contemporary Art, 312 Johnston Street Abbotsford, Vic

When: until 26 February

IMPRINT: Editions has become a go-to event for Victorian printmakers. What is the genesis of the show?

KL: Five years ago, Melbourne printmaker Stephanie Jane Rampton was invited to curate a small group show following an accident that resulted in her having to postpone a solo exhibition with us. But we moved to our current building that is four or five times bigger. That small exhibition of half a dozen or so Melbourne friends with 20 works became the front three galleries and 19 artists with 65 works. That was 2013.

The following year I co-curated with Stephanie as we looked to diversify geographically and artistically. It also became the entire building rather than just the front galleries. I took on responsibility, along with Tim, the overall gallery curator, in 2015: it was strategic for Tacit to build direct relationships with artists and the print world. An open submission was introduced last year to diversify even further and reach new printmakers.

IMPRINT: The work is incredibly diverse. Have you been surprised by the range this year?

KL: Editions strives to celebrate the diverse aesthetic qualities inherent within printmaking media, a celebration of tradition while embracing contemporary innovations within the printed form. A now established exhibition of such scale provides a safe platform for artists ranging from emerging to more established to explore new and exciting print processes and approaches to image-making. That platform also provides the opportunity to exhibit multiple works from current practice, providing audiences with a greater understanding and insight of where the printmaker is ‘coming from’.

The now five editions of Editions have featured intaglio, relief and lithography in a range of substrates and printed on a range of surfaces covering diverse subjects, challenging audiences in their understanding of what exactly is a ‘print’.

IMPRINT: Would you say you’ve contributed to a resurgence in printmaking?

KL: From the outset, Editions provided a commercial outlet that reaches beyond the multiple print focussed galleries by respecting print as print objects within an exhibition context. Past Editions have provided, for example, opportunities ranging from the screen-printed paperbags of Carolyn Hawkins spanning a five metre wall, the light-box installation of Georgina Whish-Wilson whilst still providing an opportunity for the small delicate works by Stephanie Jane Rampton or Shane Jones.

As an exhibition that celebrates Victorian printmaking, Editions has featured a high percentage of regional-based printmakers – particularly from the Goldfields area. It’s an important, high-profile opportunity for increased exposure to these artists. Similarly we look to include recent graduates from the tertiary educational establishments, providing increased opportunities early in their art practice.

Tacit prides itself on the presentation and curation of the work and Editions has now firmly placed itself on the Victorian printmakers cultural calendar.

IMPRINT: What are some of the most striking or original works you have seen since Editions first launched?

KL: What we’ve always enjoyed is that juxtaposing of traditional techniques expertly done (I’m thinking the absolute control of multiple-plate printing by Damon Kowarsky, Kyoko Imazu or Hyun Ju Kim) alongside more innovative approaches (the minimalism of Louise Blyton’s silk screens and T. J. Bateson’s massive multiplate linocuts or Clare Humphries, whose work is addressing both the optical and material potentials of the picture plane).

Pete Gurrie in 2015 presented a 3D printed matrix whilst Paula McLoughlin last year explored CYMK dot matrix in reference to printing history. Within a supportive educational environment facilitating experimentation, graduate work has included the large-scale silkscreen printing on sheet metal by Ying Huang or the incorporation of human hair into the etchings of Scarlett Mellows.

It’s that balance of a mix of the traditional and the contemporary that we’re searching for. But ultimately we like to push the hand-constructed multiple in a digitally saturated world, celebrating the manual, the labour, the craft. Upon visiting the exhibition, we want visitors to be overwhelmed by the sheer sense of labour and time-spent that is worthy of celebration and respect. Editions celebrates the artist and the art.

– Andrew Stephens

Q&A: Terry McKenna

Top: Richard Steiner Birds Ears, 2001, Mokuhanga water based pigments on torinoko paper, 46cm x 31cm

Above, clockwise from right:

Terry McKenna Evening Glow on Impossible Building, 2015, Mokuhanga water based pigments on kozo paper, 23cm x 35cm, Ed. 15; Konomi Honda Man’s Shirt, 2015, Mokuhanga water based pigments on washi, 40cm x 51cm, Ed 10; Tuula Moilanen Six Dreams of Ukiyo Beauty: Speed, 2009, Mokuhanga water based pigments on kozo paper, 28cm x 42cm, Ed. 36

 

Below: Richard Steiner Birds Ears, 2001, Mokuhanga water based pigments on torinoko paper, 46cm x 31cm

 

What: Kyoto Hanga – mokuhanga works by Masahiko Honjo, Konomi Honda, Tuula Moilanen, Richard Steiner and Terry McKenna

Where: East and West Gallery, High Street East Kew, Melbourne

When: 9 February-25 March

Q: What is mokuhanga and why is it rarely seen in Australia?

A: Mokuhanga is the traditional water based woodblock printing technique of Japan, most famously seen in Ukiyo-e prints such as Hokusai’s Great Wave. Outside of Japan it has generally been difficult to learn and to access tools and materials, while top practitioners have tended to exhibit mainly within Japan, often due to language barriers. These factors have made it relatively rare to see quality contemporary work here.

Q: There is a wide range of artists being exhibited – please tell us about Richard Steiner and your work with him?
A: Steiner is a senior practitioner, having lived and worked in Japan for more than 50 years. Only a few other Westerners have lived continuously immersed in traditional art forms for such an extended period. Spending an extended period working with him was a great entry into the world of mokuhanga. While training with Steiner I was able to broaden my technical skills, meet a range of other practitioners and craftspeople that would be otherwise impossible to meet as a visitor, hear lots of interesting stories about the mokuhanga world and its characters within Japan, and experience collaborative ways of working. Being immersed in Japanese life and culture was a great experience for me.
Q: How has your own work evolved since you met Steiner?

A: I see a definite development in complexity and skill over the years. This medium in particular requires practice to master and I see a gradual increase in the level of complexity, with colours, carving and print effects particular to the medium. Thematically my work has been wide ranging as Stiener encouraged me to experiment.

steiner-birds-ears-web

Q: What other influences are important to you?

A: A significant influence on my current body of work “Ballarat Hakkei” is the historical use of this theme in Chinese landscape painting and Ukiyo-e. The Eight beautiful views (Hakkei) are a set of eight themes that I have adapted to explore my responses to returning to live in Victoria after many years abroad. Originally stemming from the enforced solitude of exile, the themes have been given an ironic twist in my work.

Q: Do you see strong connections between the artists in this show?

A: Steiner and Moilanen have a long standing collegial relationship, while Honda worked for Steiner as a printer in his workshop. Honjo, for a time ran Marugo Gallery in Kyoto and has relationships with a broad range of printmakers there, so everyone knows each other, although their work remains somewhat separate. I selected them because of this – to showcase a variety of work, origins and approaches. Steiner’s work stems from the Sosaku Hanga (Creative Print) movement, through his teacher, Honjo is the product of a traditional workshop situation of professional carvers and printers producing a leading artist’s works, Moilanen and Honda are both products of Seika University although at different times and origins. In short, the common ground is the medium of mokuhanga. There are many other mokuhanga artists at work in Japan, in the future I hope to stage a more comprehensive exhibition that can showcase the amazing variety that is possible with this medium. – Andrew Stephens

Q&A: Damon Kowarsky

Top: Paul, etching and aquatint from two copper plates, 22 x 25 cm, 2012.

Above: Jeffrey, etching and aquatint from two copper plates, 13 x 19 cm, 2010

Above, right: Michael, etching and aquatint from two copper plates, 13 x 19 cm, 2010

Damon Kowarsky won the Grand Prize for the Midsumma Men on Men art competition (alongside Scott Thomas, who won People’s Choice). Kowarsky’s etchings are showing at the Laird Hotel. Megan Hanrahan finds out about his process.

 

Q: What were some of the foundation ideas for your work in your new exhibition, Exposed?

The exhibition was a result of a competition earlier in the year, the Men on Men art competition, which involved work about masculinity, and the winner got an exhibition at the Laird, a men-only pub. I picked a selection of work from the last five years that were all portraits of men as I felt that was the most appropriate response.  It is the only male-only pub in Australia, and one of a few in the world. Now, it may not seem so important, however if you look back to the early ’80s when there was a huge amount of stigma against gay men, and the rising problem with HIV, it retains its role as a special space where men who are perhaps still uncomfortable with their sexuality can go. The bulk of my work is architectural and landscape, so this was a chance to have 10 or 11 portraits that fitted together in this exhibition but hadn’t [been] seen before.

Q: The prints have a lot of strong texture – can you explain some of the technical processes at work?

I nearly always work with two-colour or two-plate etchings, so a dark black or brown and then a blue or red as a second plate. I was shown a technique where you lay down an aquatint and then draw into it with chinagraphic pencil, or a waxy pencil, and that wax resists the acid. Etching can be an indirect drawing, but in this way you get the soft crayon marks you perhaps might associate more with lithography, but you get them on an etching plate. That, plus the combination of the two plates, is what picks up the textures. I am always pushing the boundaries of what that particular technique will give. Two-plate etching is reasonably difficult enough if you’re interested in coherent registration, but there is still a lot of scope for exploration.

Q: Do you have a conscious preference for waist-up portraits? Can you elaborate on what prompts this or what you like about it?

I am much more interested in portraiture than drawing the full body. A part of that is how it fits onto the page. There is a long tradition of a head-and-shoulders bust portrait going back to the Renaissance and long before that as well. It gives some clues about the body and the person, while still remaining strongly a portrait, which is much more my interest than drawing nudes. I am interested in who the person is and my relationship to them.

Q: Do you work from life with the people in your portraits? What is the process?

Yes, absolutely. I typically will make a pencil drawing of the subject, and then if I am satisfied with that I will transfer that drawing onto the etching plate. To me that’s really the only way it will work. It’s always a challenge to draw a portrait, and that’s a good way to learn and develop skills. We live in an age where photographic portraiture is everywhere… it can be done so easily, so taking the time to do something that requires practice and skill has a value. There is also a political element – I don’t think the world should only be viewed through the lens. Our eyes were the primary way we looked at the world for a long time, and understood the world, and I think there is also value in that.

Q: What are the sorts of feelings or emotions you would hope to prompt with these works?

I want them to enjoy looking at it. It has got to be interesting to them, and visually rich, and then they are free to develop any ideas they want from it afterwards.

Q: What drew you to art and printmaking? Was the process of creating fostered in you as a child, or did you discover it later in life?

 It was certainly always there when I was young, my mum did drawing when I was a child, and we had a close family friend who was a designer back in the day when that meant a room full of pencils and watercolours, cutting knives, ink, paper and all the kind of things that don’t exist in the design world anymore. I loved the sense of craft that he had. And then I started making art when I as a 19-year-old, and fell in love with printmaking. Printmaking felt the most natural. I liked the combination of craft, and the ability to be artistic and experimental. With printmaking, you need to rely on techniques, but you can push them as far as you want. – Megan Hanrahan

Exposed: Damond Kowarsky and Scott Thomas

The Laird Hotel, 149 Gipps St Abbotsford

Until February 3