Limited Edition: : A selection of PCA commissioned prints from the Burnie Regional Art Gallery Collection
146 ArtSpace, Hobart
Reviewer: Jan Hogan
Arts Tasmania signed off the Print Council of Australia’s 2016 Year of Print celebrations at 146 Artspace, Hobart, with a delightful selection of prints from the Burnie Regional Art Gallery. The curator Melissa Smith had the unenviable task of selecting from an already pared back exhibition of 50 prints, which had aimed to mirror the 50th anniversary of the Print Council. While many favourites were left behind I enjoyed the smaller hang, which invited an intimate view of the works.
The curator’s decision to show a selection of prints covering a broad time period and range of styles and processes gave us a mini-review of the history of print in Australia. There were examples from each decade and included a broad range of printmaking processes, reflecting a democratic approach appropriate for the occasion. A crucial aspect of the exhibition was the sensitive marriage of form with content including an intelligent use of paper ensuring that the substrate became an integral part of the image. One of the finest examples of this was Rona Green’s linocut of Slim, 2005, a cocky, tattooed rabbit, arms folded, staring back at the viewer like a portrait of the black sheep of the family. The matt black ink seeps into the paper mirroring its tattooed character. The white paper pushes the figure forward, with the exquisite hand-colouring accentuating the fluffy texture of the paper. If Slim weren’t so cocky you would want to touch that tattooed flesh to feel the minute shift from flesh to ink. Whilst Green’s strong graphic work is so reproducible this work is a fine example of why prints need to be viewed in the flesh.
In comparison to the bold graphics of Green’s linocut, a lithograph by Peter Lysiottis shimmers with the diffused view of a cityscape. The City; a memory of, 2012, combines digital imagery scraped and reworked on the lithographic plate with muted, subtle tones and small flickers of red that race the eye around the image like flashes of car lights careening around a city. The surface of the print reminds us of the layered, worn and demolished buildings making way for new developments accentuating a city that will always be a memory as it shifts and changes over time.
There were some lovely examples of artist’s earlier works such as Michael Schlitz’s drypoint etching of The Astronomer, 2004, which acts as a precursor to his woodcut figures caught in the stump of trees. The Astronomer is a figure pared back to the essentials of a star gazing head attached to a wandering body. The yellow tonal background accentuates the chaotic plate tone imaging the chaos of the universe the figure is attempting to order. G.W. Bot’s Glyphs, 2007 also reveal an artist whose imagery has emerged from the linocut medium she first developed her forms in. The glyphs dance across the page in a preverbal language that sits on the edge of consciousness. I would highly an annual outing of works from the print collection, as it is so important to be able to engage with their physical presence.
Jan Hogan is the coordinator of printmaking at the Tasmanian College of the Arts.