PCA Member Q&A: Danielle Creenaune

Danielle Creenaune, Pyrophyte III (from the Pyrophyte series), 2015, lithograph and chine collé, 56 x 42 cm, edition of 10. Printed by the artist in her studio. Awarded The René Carcan International Prize for Printmaking First Mention 2016.

‘I tried painting in earnest about sixteen years ago when I had no access to a print studio and the result was very ordinary. I ended up with a series of watercolours in which I used a drypoint needle to incise lines in the paper … then I had to accept the fact that printmaking is my deal.’ 

Australian born artist Danielle Creenaune has lived abroad for the last 15 years. She lived in London for some years before moving to Barcelona in 2006, where she recently set up her own print workshop.

Why do you make art?

I’m not sure if I would ever find a definitive answer to that question. I just know I need to make art or it feels like something’s missing, an uneasiness, as if I’m not doing what I want to be doing. I feel driven to create a response to certain places and explore process mainly via printmaking.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

I see it as a medium with endless possibilities. I always find something stimulating and new to explore. I tried painting in earnest about sixteen years ago when I had no access to a print studio and the result was very ordinary. I ended up with a series of watercolours in which I used a drypoint needle to incise lines in the paper … then I had to accept the fact that printmaking is my deal.

Within printmaking, I wouldn’t say that I specialise in any one particular medium. Although lithography is my passion, I also need to move in and out of other techniques depending on the project or series. I feel each technique gives me different possibilities and allows for different marks and forms of expression. With some techniques it’s the result that feeds me more than the process and vice versa with others. When it comes to lithography, I love every bit of it.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I had always been fascinated by prints in galleries and wondered how the marks were obtained. I started with lino relief printing in high school when I was thirteen and pretty much idolised the work of Margaret Preston. At COFA in Sydney (now known as UNSW Art & Design), the first technique I learned was lithography and I never looked back. After I finished my studies, I received a grant in 1998 to go for the summer to Tamarind Institute in New Mexico to do lithography and this was a great experience. The Tamarind summer school taught me that I wanted to be an artist more than a master lithographer at that point in time.

Who is your favourite artist?

Difficult to name one. Currently I’m tending towards painters, to name a few: Idris Murphy, Elisabeth Cummings, Helen Frankenthaler, Ivon Hitchens.

What is your favourite artwork?

Also a tough question as it changes over time; however, for many reasons I will say Robert Motherwell’s lithograph The Stoneness of the Stone (1974). Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656) comes in not far behind, just its sheer size, light and presence in the Prado has made a lasting impact.

Where do you go for inspiration?

For visual inspiration, I’d say the bush, either in Australia or up here in the Catalan Pyrenees. If I’m camping and seeing the stars at night and waking up to a bush symphony, even better. My parents’ hometown, Gilgandra, looking out to the Warrumbungle mountains in NSW, always hits the spot too.

Seeing other artists pursue their trajectories also inspires me, even if the work may be very different from my own. Having become a mother two years ago made me more aware of empowered women (with or without children) who have been able to pursue their artistic endeavours despite the demands of family and society. Somewhere last week I read a quote by Margaret Olley which oddly inspired me enough to post it up at home, and she said: ‘I’ve never liked housework. I get by doing little chores when I feel like them, in between paintings. Who wants to chase dust all their life? You can spend your whole lifetime cleaning the house. I like watching the patina grow. If the house looks dirty, buy another bunch of flowers, is my advice.’ So, I’m keeping this in mind while watching the patina grow on copper etching plates.

What are you working on now?  

I just got back from four months in Australia followed by a few days in Belgium where my work was awarded the René Carcan International Printmaking Prize First Mention. So now I’m back in the workshop, trying to improve its functionality while juggling having a two-year-old. There is never a dull moment.

I’m going back to traditional lithography for while with a new order of big plates arriving this week. I’ve spent the last few years exploring Mokulito, which is a form of lithography on wood, and I’m still using this for some larger works. However, after a spell with sugar lift and aquatint etching, I’m feeling the call of traditional lithography again. I need some dense blacks and nice reticulated washes. Although I wouldn’t consider myself a master lithographer, I am a bit of a litho nerd and find the process infinitely fascinating.

There is also a collaborative project with Stephanie Jane Rampton, which I’m currently printing up and will be shown at Port Jackson Press in July–August 2016. We are working on notions of place, home, landscape, longing and belonging. I work in a pretty solitary manner in my own workshop and so I really enjoy the sharing of ideas and dialogue with other artists.