Q&A with Rew Hanks

In order of appearance: Rew Hanks, A Touch of Home, 2015, linocut, 75 x 111 cm; Captain and his Bunnies, 2015, linocut, 104 x 75 cm.

‘Now I make art to try and fulfil a continual creative pursuit. I usually enjoy solving the intellectual and technical processes and challenges that arise. I seem to have adopted the role of a type of ‘Pictorial Choreographer’ who invents complex narratives that evolve during their execution.’ 

Rew Hanks lives in Sydney, NSW.

Why do you make art?

As a child I intuitively made many drawings and paintings without hesitation or fear of criticism. It was a luxury of uninhibited creative freedom that was never to be repeated as the future became more complex with increased knowledge and continual self-appraisal. As a teenager in high school I was introduced to the history and theory of art and years of very limited practical tuition. The teachers and other students would often comment, ‘Only the dummies and delinquents choose art as a subject’. Fortunately I didn’t fit either of these categories. At art school I was overwhelmed by the endless possibilities of making all forms of art and obtained a broader appreciation of the historical and contemporary concepts of art. Now I make art to try and fulfil a continual creative pursuit. I usually enjoy solving the intellectual and technical processes and challenges that arise. I seem to have adopted the role of a type of ‘Pictorial Choreographer’ who invents complex narratives that evolve during their execution. Many of my friends from art school have given up producing art because of the financial burden, lack of exhibition opportunities and the poor general support from the community. For me making art has become a fundamental and intrinsic part of my life although at times continually being creative can feel a little like a curse.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Like most professional relationships it is good most of the time but it can be frustrating even infuriating, demanding and rewarding. We have a healthy respect for each other. The constant pressure to produce new and engaging works requires discipline, dedication and plenty of hard work. You must constantly challenge yourself to progress. During the many hours taken to cut my intricate linocuts I use this time to prepare new ideas and compositional concerns for the next work by quickly sketching possible images or concepts. Printmaking has become the major vehicle or outlet in which I use to help realise my creative output. This has evolved partially because of time constraints due to heavy teaching commitments. However it allows me the freedom to develop the work of my choice. We all have productive and not so productive days and must accept that not every print is going to sing. This happens to all artists no matter what medium they use. In the future I am very keen to resume my relationship with lithography and pursue wood engraving and embark on a series of small sculptural works.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

Similarly to most Australian school children I was introduced to linocuts in high school when I was about fifteen. The tools were rusty and blunt and the linoleum was brown, crumbling and brittle. We printed by hand rolling up with oil based Sakura inks and then used the back of a wooden spoon rubbing frenetically on the shiny side of a sheet of MG litho paper. Most of the impressions were smudged with the borders covered with inky fingerprints and the occasional splash of blood from nearly severed fingers. What a perfect introduction to a beautiful medium. It’s little wonder when students are reacquainted with the medium they uniformly shudder. I occasionally produced linocuts but was seduced by lithography in art school. After completing further training in America I produced mainly lithographs for many years, both mine and for other artists. However, for the last fifteen years I have exclusively exhibited linocuts because I thoroughly enjoy the physical act of carving and printing of the medium and also it gave me freedom to interrupt its execution at will unlike lithography.

Who is your favourite artist?

An impossible question to answer. There are too many to list.

Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Honoré Daumier, William Hogarth, George Stubbs, John Glover, Red Grooms, Edward Hopper, etc. They all offer something unique that might inspire an idea or maybe just to simply admire.

What is your favourite artwork?

Another impossible question to answer. It changes regularly. The process of discovering a ‘new’ favourite artwork keeps it exciting and refreshing. Visiting the Louvre, Uffizi, Rijks and MoMA museums is why I can’t attempt to answer this question.

Where do you go for inspiration?

As an artist you are continually absorbing images and ideas from everything around you. It might come from newspapers, journals, books, TV, the internet, exhibitions or just from a simple conversation. All of which are stored in your memory waiting to be reactivated when needed. Mobile phones and  iPads are also regular methods of instantly capturing a spectacular bank of clouds or unique shadow. However being surrounded by too much stimulus, both cognitive and visual, occasionally leads to frustration because of the lack of time to bring some of these ideas to fruition.

What are you working on now?

I have just shipped off thirty-five linocuts to Redcliffe Art Gallery in Brisbane for a survey exhibition that opens on 7 May. I’m a finalist in the Basil Sellers Prize which opening on 22 July at the Ian Potter Museum in Melbourne. The work must relate to sport in Australia. All the prints I have produced portray Captain Cook playing cricket, golf and surfing with a satirical contemporary twist. This sporting theme will continue but with Indigenous references for my first solo exhibition in Melbourne which opens at Nicholas Thompson Gallery on 22 September. I have just been awarded Third Prize in the Bietigheim-Bissingen’s Graphic Arts Prize Linocut Today X and hope to attend the award ceremony on 15 July in Germany.