PCA Member Q&A: Peter Ward

Purple Lost, 2015, linocut, 50 x 50 cm (image size) 75 x 57 cm (paper size). This print was selected for the 2015 PCA Print Commission. It is available to purchase through the PCA store.

‘When I returned to Australia I began making relief prints because the technology is simple, economical and clean, and could be done in the small converted bathroom of my home in Sydney.’ 

Peter Ward lives in New South Wales

Why do you make art?

The simple answer is that it’s the thing I’m best at. And I make linocuts because after many years of creating works in lots of different media I decided to select just one medium and concentrate on it, to try and be really good at one thing rather than fairly good at many things. I’ve received some critical success over this last year, so I guess I’m making progress.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

I enjoy the physicality of printmaking. And there’s the challenge of thinking the process through, grappling with the limitations of the medium and my own limitations as an artist to arrive at an aesthetic result I’m happy with. The best part is when I manage to transcend these limitations and produce something magical. It happens just often enough to get me back into the studio for another go.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

My interest in printmaking was stimulated by the screenprinting part of the graphic art course at Swinburne when it was a college. Later when I was living and working in Queensland in the eighties I took to screenprinting in a serious way. My approach was simple and direct. I drew on the screen with wax crayons, blocked out with water soluble filler and washed out the crayon with turps to create the stencil. I used lots of bright transparent colour. Colour has been a constant in my work. A couple of my prints from this time won the Suncorp and the Gold Coast Prizes. When I went to live in Italy, small graphic screenprints were the bread and butter in the private gallery my wife and I ran in Volterra. When I returned to Australia I began making relief prints because the technology is simple, economical and clean, and could be done in the small converted bathroom of my home in Sydney. Now I live in the New South Wales Southern Highlands and have graduated to a considerably larger studio where I create very limited editions along with unique woven and quilted works.

Who is your favourite artist?

I don’t really have a favourite artist but there’s a whole heap of printmakers that when I see their work I wish I could make prints like them. Rew Hanks and Roman Klonek spring immediately to mind. Jose Guadalupe Posada’s work is hard to beat and his social/political commentary adds greatly to the appeal for me. And I’m drawn to graphic ‘pop’ artists like Tadanori Yokoo.

What is your favourite artwork?

Ken Unsworth’s Suspended Stone Circle II at the Art Gallery of New South Wales is a knockout and the gallery’s collection of small Mughal paintings is fantastic too.

Where do you go for inspiration?

I find visual stimulation anywhere and everywhere. Around where I live in the Southern Highlands I find the incongruity of electricity pylons in sublime landscape fascinating. The pylons make such a strong industrial statement against the manicured dairy farmland. And you can’t beat the internet and social media to see what everyone is up to, how they approach ideas and solve aesthetic problems.

What are you working on now?  

I’ve just finished a woven linocut entitled The Apocalypse Tattoo Parlour Does The Christian Democrat. The idea of political tattoos was inspired by some of the work I saw recently at the Quai Branly’s Tattoo exhibition. Next up is a self portrait, which I hope to deconstruct over three prints. That’s the plan, but at a certain stage the work always takes on a life of its own and begins dictating outcomes.