PCA Member Q&A: Jenny Peterson

Merge, 2015, intaglio and relief, 70 x 56 cm. This print was selected for the 2015 PCA Print Commission.

‘I love the fact that working on a metal plate is NOT spontaneous. You have to push and pull with marks; there is trial and error, chemistry and physics.’ 

Jenny Peterson lives in Victoria

Why do you make art?

Making art exercises my brain and body while connecting my heart to the world around me, through the objects and ideas I work with. Making art is about problem solving the challenges you create yourself or those that present themselves to you. I grew up on a dairy farm in Gippsland. I’ve always felt that being a visual artist is like being a farmer: you work hard with what you’ve got, usually independently, working with natural or elemental factors. You set your own routines and ways and then at some stage you negotiate the market with your product. You need perseverance, resourcefulness and resilience to achieve. You do it because you enjoy the work and the lifestyle.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

I love the fact that working on a metal plate is NOT spontaneous. You have to push and pull with marks; there is trial and error, chemistry and physics. Once you know that something will create the texture or tone you want, you have some control and it becomes yours. I have worked for many years as a studio technician so these processes have become second nature. On the other hand there is always a new way to do something or a way to adapt the rules for new work.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

At art school as a mature age student in the early 1980s I did ceramics and printmaking. Something about the need for process is fundamental for me. I set up a screenprinting studio in our rented house after graduating as a cheaper alternative to setting up a ceramics studio. Soon after that I worked full time as a printmaking and photography technician for several years and gained a lot of experience working with lecturers and students. Eventually I purchased my own etching press in 1994.

Who is your favourite artist?

I don’t really have one ‘favourite’ but I enjoy looking at skilful watercolours made by local artists; perhaps because I don’t paint myself, these types of paintings hold mystery and innocence at the same time. I’ve always enjoyed Rosalie Gascoigne’s assemblage work and in my recent writing I reference her ‘driving and looking’ in her local region. Her works with road signage and her collecting and assembling of objects are interesting.

What is your favourite artwork?

Botticelli’s Birth of Venus – since I saw it at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence in 2013. Such a famous and much referenced image I’d seen many times before – but to stand in the Botticelli room with this large work (and the Primavera nearby) and many other people gazing, it had quite an impact on me. Slightly grimy with a film of age, it had the impact of a real object at the same time it had an aura of a beautiful picture. It is a beautiful picture!

Where do you go for inspiration?

I get inspiration generally from things around me, my work is about my response to the environment – the natural landscape and objects within it. My recent Masters project and the exhibition at Latrobe Regional Gallery is a collection of intaglio prints and photographs which document road signs and a journey in the Gippsland landscape. It is about driving and looking. I’ve used broken signage, inked them like etching plates to create prints on paper. Mimicking signwriting techniques I’ve also collected and printed words that describe the activity of collecting objects and taking a road trip.

What are you working on now?  

Following this latest project I also have a collection of photographs of signage from an overseas trip. Rather than bringing home the actual metal I now want to investigate photo etching to recreate these images as ‘found objects’.