Richard Harding on curating Out of the Matrix

Above images in order of appearance: Performprint, Bearings, Beauty and Irrelevance, 2015-16; installation view Gallery 2; Andrew Keall and Jazmina Cininas, installation view, Gallery 6; Richard Harding, Queer, 2016, installation view.

‘The expanding print for me talks to the idea that there isn’t one definition of what a print can be or what a print is. There’s lots of different ways of naming works … but the fact that it uses reproductive technology or a matrix is the thing that positions or locates it within the print realm.’ 

Richard Harding is an artist, Senior Lecturer in the Printmaking Studio at the School of Art of RMIT University and Secretary of the Print Council of Australia.

Out of the Matrix, curated by Richard Harding, RMIT Gallery 6 May – 11 June 2016.

Featuring: Jazmina Cininas, Marian Crawford, Lesley Duxbury, Joel Gailer, Andrew Gunnell, Richard Harding, Bridget Hillebrand, Clare Humphries, Ruth Johnstone, Andrew Keall, Rebecca Mayo, Performprint, Jonas Ropponen, Andrew Tetzlaff, Andrew Weatherill and Deborah Williams.

RMIT Gallery: How did the idea for this exhibition come about? What was the starting point for a new exhibition about contemporary printmaking?

Richard Harding: I had discussions with the RMIT Gallery curatorial team about what type of exhibition would be appropriate for a university gallery that would also reflect the work coming from the Print Imaging Practice Studio at RMIT’s School of Art.

Print imaging within our school is an umbrella term for a studio that houses the traditional mediums of photography and printmaking. Out of the Matrix focuses predominantly on notions of printmaking, but within printmaking there are photographic means being employed by practitioners. They don’t identify as a photographer, they identify as a printmaker but they use photographic means or photographs within their practice.

So the practitioners selected for the exhibition have a connection to the RMIT print studio through being staff, students or alumni. In their current practice, they teach, they curate, they do performance. There’s a whole array of different tags or modes of operation that they employ and so as artists are informed by an ongoing print practice.

Andrew Tetlaff, Andrew Teztlaff, Displaced Suspension, 2016  & Rebecca mayo, Merri Creek Zeltbahnen, 2013–16, installation view, Gallery 2.

RMIT Gallery: How important has the history of print at RMIT been in shaping of the exhibition?

Richard Harding: The print studio at RMIT has quite an interesting sense of history through its alumni of not only students and artists but also educators. So people like Graham King, Tate Adams, Hertha Kluge-Pott, and George Baldessin. A lot of people know and identify those names with high end galleries. These people have helped shape what printmaking is today in Australia and also have helped educate the current printmakers that are coming in now.

We’re very proud of our tradition and we maintain our tradition through specialisation and through high-end modes of delivery with regards to technical and conceptual development for our students. So we are putting in place now the next wave of printmakers that will be coming out of RMIT who will have a strong sense of their history, and a really good base in their traditional technical analogue and a digital presence in mediums and techniques.

These techniques are used as vehicle for incredibly complex, sophisticated philosophies and theories that have been spoken about within print and within general art production today, and that is reflected in the exhibition.

You also see strongly in the work the idea of the social artist or the social practise of art and how that’s connected to with current affairs, it’s connected to notions of urban development, it’s connected to the sense of wellbeing and expands further into different modes of making as well.

Jonas Ropponen and Joel Gailer, installation view, Gallery 6.

RMIT Gallery: In an age where you can really print anything off a computer, is there still an interest in traditional forms of printmaking? It seems as though many of the artists in Out of the Matrix are actually using traditional and modern forms together and in different ways.

Richard Harding: The analogue side of art production is alive and well. It’s highly sort after, it’s revered. The students who come through the studios here at RMIT do so because they want to learn the tradition.

Analogue informs what artists do digitally as well. What’s interesting is that many of the practitioners in the exhibition who focus on the digital tend to fall back into analogue too, and utilise photography as a form of drawing. So all these digital devices and notions of the virtual are played out in the act of making and in the processes of making these things move back into the analogue.

Prime examples of this in the exhibition would be work by Jazmina Cininas, Clare Humphries and Andrew Gunnell – as seen in his use of the moving image as a preparatory tool, capturing video and then taking stills from that video and then converting those stills into an analogue print and working over the top of them with a photographic process.

Deborah Williams, who is known predominately as a printmaker within the intaglio genre, is now moving into doing digital inkjet, printing from photographs that she has been taking of mistreated dogs in Asia. In her work there is a great sense of surveillance. By first using a digital camera, she has positioned herself as the viewer that then becomes the maker. It is quite an interesting movement.

Deborah Williams, A single gaze and Looked at, 2016, installation view.

RMIT Gallery: As part of Out of the Matrix there have been a range of public programs at RMIT Gallery exploring ideas such as being ‘print informed’ as an artist and the notion of the ‘expanding print’. Can you touch on some of these?

Richard Harding: The expanding print for me talks to the idea that there isn’t one definition of what a print can be or what a print is. There’s lots of different ways of naming works and naming print that can appear to be camouflage or can appear that people don’t want to say that it is a print for whatever reason but the fact that it uses reproductive technology or a matrix is the thing that positions or locates it within the print realm.

The moment you can make a multiple of an image, it is print informed, it relates back to print. It may not be a brother or a sister maybe it’s a distant cousin but it’s the type of thing that we here at RMIT and specifically in print imaging practice encourage students to consider when they think about concepts and when they are thinking about ways of making.

How does this medium, this specialisation that you are focusing on, how does it add to your idea? Why do a lino cut as opposed to an etching? Why do an etching as opposed to an inkjet or digital print? Can they come together? Will you draw on them? Will you collage on it as well? Will you make it unique? Will you print thousands of them and paste them on the street? And if you are doing that why are you doing that?

Clare Humphries, What remains, what returns, 2016.

Interview courtesy of RMIT Gallery. All images © RMIT Gallery & Tobias Titz Photography, featured in the exhibition catalogue available from RMIT Gallery.