Q&A with Bridget Hillebrand

‘As a child I was fortunate that sketch books and charcoal were always at hand. My mother attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna before immigrating to Australia and introduced me to art at a young age. She always encouraged me to draw from life and drawing is still a large part of my practice.’ 

Why do you make art?

My earliest memories as a child are of climbing over the back fence and drawing in my neighbour’s garden. My neighbour’s yard was always far more interesting than my own. It was wild and overgrown and I spent many hours contemplating how to draw the curve of a leaf or the angle of a falling roof gutter. As a child I was fortunate that sketch books and charcoal were always at hand. My mother attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna before immigrating to Australia and introduced me to art at a young age. She always encouraged me to draw from life and drawing is still a large part of my practice.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Constantly evolving!

How did you get interested in printmaking?

After finishing my painting degree in the early 80s I travelled overseas for a year. I remember the first time I viewed prints by Dürer, Kokoschka, Kiefer, Schiele, Kollwitz and Rauschenberg to name a few, at the Albertina in Vienna. Some of the works resonated with my senses so strongly that I went back numerous times to view them. On my return to Australia I was committed to making prints and rarely picked up a paint brush again.

Bridget HillebrandRites of Passage, 2014, linocut printed with crushed quartzite and limestone, 30 x 113 cm.

Who is your favourite artist and do you have a favourite artwork?

A large range of artists and artworks inform my practice at different times. I am open to encounters that not only inspire but also challenge my way of thinking. I enjoy artworks that provoke a variety of responses. James Turrell’s Skyspace Within without is on my list of favourites along with many others.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Most recently Mt Arapiles, but inspiration can come from a variety of sources: a conversation, a passage from a book, music, exhibitions or an encounter in the landscape. Most importantly the act of making inspires me to explore and experiment with new ideas.

Bridget Hillebrand, Site Unseen, 2015, hand-stitched artist book, bind embossing and chalk, 17 x 39 cm (closed).

How has the experience of completing your PhD affected your practice?

Completing a PhD provided time and focus to develop a body of work related to my experience of the landscape and more specifically to rock climbing. It encouraged me to articulate my thoughts and experiences, which in turn enriched my experiences in so many areas. Writing an exegesis allowed me to rediscover my love of reading. I also researched a wide array of material that I may not have looked at otherwise. The research also stimulated my interest to further challenge and explore the corporeal and spatial aspects of my work, to increase the kinaesthetic nature of my creative research, and to further explore an interactive engagement between viewer and artwork.

What’s next for you?

My solo exhibition Touchscapes will be exhibited at MADA Gallery, Monash in August and comprises the practical component of my PhD research. In developing artworks that reflect a rock climber’s intimate and sensory encounter with rock, the exhibition presents new possibilities for seeing and looking, where the viewer is invited to engage with the works through touch.

 

Touchscapes will be on display at MADA Gallery, Monash Caulfield, from 10 to 16 August. bridgethillebrand.com

A Postcard from The Big Print, Inkfest 2016

Clockwise from top: InkMasters and Mistresses at the Big Print event; unveiling the Big Print; The Big Print in progress with the 1.6 ton tandem compactor press. Images courtesy of Frei Films and Inkmasters Cairns Inc.

At the Tanks Markets an eager crowd looked on as the InkMasters BIG PRINT production team carried out the biennial Big Print this time using a 1.6 ton tandem compactor as the press. A successful project, which was months in the planning, left many smiling student faces and happy memories. Yorkey’s Knob, Redlynch and Worree primary schools and St Mary’s, St Augustine’s and Trinity Anglican School secondary students took part in this project. Inkmasters Hannah Parker and Theo Tremblay worked with the art teachers in their respective schools, and REACH (Regional Excellence in Arts and Cultural Hubs) supported the project. Jessica Roelofs coordinated the whole Big Print project for Inkmasters, and has installed the finished prints 7 x 1 x 2 m) at Cell Artspace, Cairns, where they can be viewed until 21 August. Visit the InkMasters Facebook page for the full story!

Margaret Genever is an artist and President of InkMasters Cairns Inc.

Q&A with Jonathan Tse

‘My inspiration comes from things I collect. There are many things I love including early children’s toys. When my family migrated to Australia from Hong Kong in 1975, my parents only bought the necessities and much of our childhood belongings were left behind.’ 

Why do you make art?

I always enjoyed drawing and making things as a child. In 1978, while in primary school, my mum submitted an application for a Creative Art Scholarship offered by the Trustees of the Queensland Art Gallery and I was offered a place at Kelvin Grove Primary School on Saturday mornings. Ever since then I have always had the itch to create and today I still love it.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

From 1987 to 1989, I completed my degree at the Darling Downs Institute of Advance Education, Toowoomba, now USQ, in (Creative Art) and then QUT in Brisbane in (Visual Arts). I am currently working at Queensland College of Art in Brisbane as the technical officer in Printmaking.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

My interest in printmaking, specifically screenprinting, began at USQ, back in 1987 under the guidance of Normana Wight, lecturer and Head of Printmaking at the time. She was the one who got me interested in making prints and since then I have been fascinated by print and all its techniques.

Who is your favourite artist?

That’s a tough question – there are many artists/printmakers who I admire and draw inspiration from. If I had to narrow it down to three, these would be my favourites: George Baldessin, Jörg Schmeisser and Ray Arnold (and yes they are all etchers).

What is your favourite artwork?

My favourite artwork is an etching by Jörg Schmeisser called Looking Back. I have this print on my wall and it was the first print I saved up to buy when I was a student.

Where do you go for inspiration?

My inspiration comes from things I collect. There are many things I love including early children’s toys. When my family migrated to Australia from Hong Kong in 1975, my parents only bought the necessities and much of our childhood belongings were left behind. Today when I find something ‘Made in Hong Kong’ at a garage sale or the flea market, I remember back to the early days when I had one of those. The nostalgia makes me want to collect it again. Today my work is not only about family and connections, but also looking back and finding the past.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on a survey exhibition of prints titled The Collector to open on the 5 August at Queensland College of Art in Brisbane. The show is an insight into the fascinating world of the artist as a collector and the influence this has had on my work. I hope you will be able to see it.

 

Jonathan Tse’s survey exhibition The Collector will be on display at Webb Gallery, Queensland College of Art, from 3 to 13 August.

Trails: Seong Cho’s Works on Paper

Roslyn Kean, artist and Director of The Stables Print Studio, Sydney, writes about Seong Cho‘s work in the lead up to her exhibition Trails at Incinerator Art Space.

Seong Cho, Trail  XII, 2014–15, woodblock, 42 x 81 cm.

It has been a decade since Seong Cho completed studies at Meadowbank TAFE Art School here in Australia, prior to which she graduated as a Graphic Designer in her country of birth, South Korea, in 1978.

Since her arrival in Australia in 1990 the unifying base for this series of works has been established, with focus on memory and journey becoming one.

Her recent works employ very large hand-cut woodblocks where the image is drawn directly on the block with broad expressive brush strokes. These lines capture the childhood memories of the mountainous winding roads of her mother country, and embrace emotions associated with the artist’s visits to sacred temples or family members. The act of drawing becomes the writing of a diary.

Creating a dynamic contrast of light and dark, movement and shadow, the lines take you on a journey of memory. It is not essential for the viewer to know the story but the topographical rendering also creates a link to the written language of Korean characters suggesting a personal story is being told in each work.

Cho wants to establish her vision of the world in a deeper realm: my bold thick lines symbolise the winding and long journey of life we all must take’, but taking time to consider the scenery and various obstacles encountered on the way are of vital importance to the content of her drawings. Now in a foreign country away from immediate family, the path has not always been easy.

Cho is one of many Australians weaving ancestral traditions into a new life for herself here in Australia. This is who we are as a community, so many different cultures and traditions melding together to share in a way forward, while retaining sight of our disparate origins.

These memories help define the person we become. To record in an ongoing series of prints, as Cho has, gives strength and conviction to the ongoing series of works. Working on handmade papers form Korea also helps embody in a tactile way something from home. Hand printing with a baren on this large scale involves a physical engagement that allows you to become very connected to the surface marks of the wood and the intimate way in which the image will be transferred.

There is a spiritual presence in Trails and the viewer is drawn into contemplation and quietness. Cho aims to depict a Zen philosophy, which is often ignored in our busy lifestyle, ‘…we often forget to contemplate our journeys, both where we have been and where we are going’.

Seong Cho’s exhibition Trails will be on display at the Incinerator Art Space, Willoughby, from 27 July to 14 August.

Q&A with Clare Humphries

‘I’m inspired by questions that I can’t answer easily, and by unexpected connections I discover through artworks, experimentation, conversations and reading.’ 

Why do you make art?

What draws me to art – as a maker, and also as someone who experiences the work of others – is its potential to produce a contemplative state formed through the senses. Art allows me to engage ideas through the body and to explore alternative spaces and temporalities. Making is also an act of attention, a way to form questions and to materialise the immaterial. Simon O’Sullivan suggests art engages introspection as a ‘technology of transformation’; this resonates with my experience of working with materials and processes, and it also reflects the kinds of effects an encounter with another person’s practice can have on me.

What is your relationship to printmaking?

Ever since I produced my first print I have been fascinated by touch as both an intimate and yet distanced element within the means of production. I remember my first printmaking experience in which I spent hours making sustained and intense physical contact with the printing plate as I carved an image. I then stood back and witnessed the detached, momentary and mechanical contact between paper and plate as they passed through the press together. I was compelled by the intimacy of plate-making coupled with the fleeting contact necessary to pull a print. Since then, much of my work has been concerned with exploring and re-configuring the relations between the hand and the printed surface.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

My father was an art teacher, so I was exposed to many fields of practice from an early age. Our home was full of artworks including screenprints, linocuts, paintings and hand-forged objects. My father gave me many opportunities to explore different materials and processes and through this I discovered a fascination for what I call the ‘haptics’ of printmaking. Since these experiences I have also uncovered an enduring interest in imaging technologies that function beyond their ‘time’, that is, beyond the time when they function as a commercially viable medium. New possibilities are always uncovered in obsolescence. 

Who is your favourite artist?

Different artists and artworks inform and enrich my practice at different times. Recently I have been looking at Anni Albers in relation to a new body of work I am developing. I’m investigating the potential of cloth to trace a liminal zone between presence and absence, particularly as it might be evoked through the idea of a winding sheet or burial cloth.

I’ve been investigating Albers’ weavings and writings because of their exploration into the materiality of cloth, including the ideas of the ‘path’ and ‘event’ of a thread. It’s interesting to consider her move to printmaking later in her career, and to look at works where she has translated qualities of tactility, tension and pliable surfaces to the two-dimensional picture plane.

What is your favourite artwork?

A number of still life works by Spanish Baroque artists were very influential on the work in my current exhibition. For many years I kept a reproduction of Juan Sánchez Cotán’s Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber (c. 1602) on my studio wall. Whenever I look at this work my sense of worldly vision seems to stop at the far edge of the shelf depicted in the painting. Beyond the ledge the intimately rendered vegetables have no spatial coordinates and the darkness seems to suggest that even gravity may cease to exist there.

In Cotán’s work ordinary objects emerge from dense black fields and appear somehow more than real, transfigured by a dramatic play of darkness and light. 

Where do you go for inspiration?

I’m inspired by questions that I can’t answer easily, and by unexpected connections I discover through artworks, experimentation, conversations and reading. Inspiration, for me, is a desire to act and, like curiosity, it feeds on itself: I find the more I act, investigate and experiment the more I want to act, investigate and experiment. Inspiration also arises when something gets displaced in my thinking, so I find the more I can be open to questions and experiences, the more curious I become about future possibilities.

What are you working on now?

I have just finished hanging a solo exhibition called Exhume at Counihan Gallery in Brunswick. It presents a body of work I produced as part of my postgraduate research and includes some new work that extends on the project. The exhibition addresses the idea that after a person dies their personal belongings enter new systems of circulation and value. I extended a methodology of printing for the project that aims to reconfigure the relation between the hand and the printed surface.

My next project represents a shift of focus that extends on some of my persistent concerns. As I mentioned earlier I’m exploring the space between bodily presence and absence, between ‘here’ and ‘not-here’. My starting point is an investigation of cloth that has potential as a wrapping for the body. I’m interested in how the notion of a winding sheet might suggest the limits of embodiment and evoke notions of ritual and transition.

Clare Humphries‘ exhibition Exhume will be on display at Counihan Gallery in Brunswick from 22 July to 14 August.

TOP TIPS: ZINE MAKING

Today we are privileged to hear from Jeremy Staples, bedroom publisher extraordinaire and curator of Copier Jam!, with his top tips on zine making.

Copier Jam! installation shots.

In one way or another zines have slowly taken over my life since the early two thousands. From creating zines to running workshops, co-funding the Zine and Indie Comic Symposium and most recently curating a zine and indie comic exhibition titled Copier Jam!, which is part of the Print Council of Australia’s 2016 Year of Print celebrations.

I stumbled upon zines – these raw, crudely produced publications – via my love of punk! That said, I had no access to them before I started creating them. I didn’t know what I was actually doing was a zine, to be honest. I was just doing my own thing, with a group of friends who wanted to support the local music and art community. None of us had skills in design, layout or journalism. We did it together and it was completely DIY. The DIY process, complete freedom and lack of rules is what got me into them and why I keep coming back. The accessibility for the creator and consumer is something that continues to draw me to the world of bedroom publishing.

I love that zines are a platform for anyone to document, share a viewpoint or simply share their creativity. These little bits of paper can be on any topic imaginable!

This was one of my main motivations to produce Copier Jam!, an exhibition which highlights current zine and independent comic creators, collectives and distributors from across Australia. The exhibition includes publications alongside original art, layout, workings and even a zine vending machine from the Canberra Zine Emporium collective. On display are zines published from 1992 to the current day from seventeen creators.

Zine tips from Staples!

Have fun, think outside the square, don’t create invisible barriers and work with materials that you have on hand! Use the zine as a tool to showcase your work, document or even share personal tales from your life, travels or your mental health. Copier Jam! features work from outsider artist Philip Dearest. An artist who knows how to shock even the most seasoned fan of underground art. One of Dearest’s most renowned releases to date is the aptly titled Off My Meds, in which he undertakes a study of creativity during a month off his regular medication.

Share what your good at! Ashley Ronning is an illustrator, risograph printer and zine creator based in Melbourne. Ronning’s work was recently plastered throughout Melbourne as part of the promotion for annual Festival of the Photocopier hosted by Australia’s largest dedicated zine shop, Sticky Institute.

Read up! The Copier Jam! exhibition catalogue zine showcases interviews with all the creators in the exhibition and features a cover printed via Japanese toy Gocco printer, which is actually the little sister of the Risograph.

Still stuck for ideas? Vanessa Berry is one of Australia’s most respected zine creators and has been publishing since the mid-nineties. Berry created her Shopping List Stories zine that showcases found shopping lists and fictional tales about the people who wrote them.

Get amongst it! If you’re not comfortable or up to the stage of creating your own zine, why not submit to a collaborative zine. Callouts are made and generally based around a theme or topic. We make Zines is a good start along with following Australia’s renowned Sticky Institute – the Flinders Street zine subway shop and hangout.

The last thing I love about zines is the lack of rules! There are no limitations, no rights or wrongs other than making one solely for creating profit. The world is your photocopier! Dream with your eyes open, step away from the TV, put your dreams down on paper and start writing and scribbling your own revolution!

Copier Jam! poster – art by Philip Dearest; gocco print by Staples.

Copier Jam! will be on display at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery until 7 August. www.thestaples.com.au

We hope you find these gems useful and invite you to send in your top printmaking tips to share to imprinteditor@printcouncil.org.au.

Photopolymer/Solar Plate Printmaking

A page from the original article published in Imprint winter 2010, Volume 45 Number 2

‘All that is needed to make the plate is a UV light source and water to wash out the exposed plate. Simple, quick and safe! No acids, rosin powders or bitumen grounds.’

Cover for Imprint winter 2010 Vol. 45 No. 2 featuring GW Bot‘s Paddock Glyphs – Garden of Poets, 2008, linocut on Korean Hanji paper, artist’s proof, 94.5 x 61.5 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Australian Galleries.

The following conversation between Sandra Williams and Susan Baran was published in the winter 2010 issue of Imprint Vol. 45 No. 2.

In 1972 Dan Welden, a master printmaker from the USA, started experimenting with light sensitive photopolymer plates commonly found in the commercial printing industry. By exposing a plate in the sun, he found he could produce a high quality intaglio image that was a safer and simpler alternative to traditional etching. He coined the term ‘solarplate’.[1]

Sydney-based artist Susan Baran has keenly embraced this printmaking process and has been working with photopolymer plates for over a decade now. She talked with Sandra Williams about her way of working with the plate.

SW: Susan, how would you describe your printmaking before you started using photopolymer plate?

SB: My printmaking experience was firstly with screenprinting using very toxic inks and solvents, then as an etcher using nitric acid, rosin aquatint and more solvents. I was satisfied with this way of working though concerned about the fumes I was being exposed to.

SW: How did photopolymer plates become a key element of your printmaking practice?

SB: I joined Warringah Printmakers Studio in 1999 looking for a place to print. I had vaguely heard of ‘solar plate’ but was not really interested until I saw what was being done at Warringah with this new type of plate. It was a period in my life when my children were young and etching was proving to be too slow for my limited studio time. This new technique appealed to me because I could make plates so quickly.

SW: Was the transition from traditional etching to making photopolymer plates difficult?

SB: No. I just loved the ease of the whole process and was really interested in learning how to work in a safer, less toxic way.

SW: Why is this way of working less toxic?

SB: All that is needed to make the plate is a UV light source and water to wash out the exposed plate. Simple, quick and safe! No acids, rosin powders or bitumen grounds.

SW: Can you explain in more detail your method of working?

SB: Instead of working the plate I prepare a transparency. I photocopy objects, fabrics, drawings and photographs to create a collage on paper. I then make the transparency, again using the photocopier. Finally I draw onto the transparency with an etching needle, working into the black areas, and add to it with crayon, lithographic pencil or Indian ink. This is the stage where I push and pull the image. When I feel it is resolved I expose the plate.

SW: Can the plate be altered after being exposed?

SB: No, not a lot. With an etching you work the plate until you are happy with the image, but with photopolymer plate you must work the transparency before exposing it. However, there are a few things that can be done. The polymer surface is very receptive to drypoint lines so line work can be added at any time after exposure. Gesso or acrylic medium (with or without carborundum for blacker tones) can be painted onto the exposed plate to add tone or to cover up something if desired.

SW: What effects can be achieved with photopolymer printmaking?

SB: I have described the way I choose to work, but it is a very versatile method where a variety of effects can be achieved, for example by drawing and painting either onto acetate/drafting film or directly onto the plate. Prints can have a lithographic feel by painting or drawing onto sandblasted or grained glass just like you would on a stone. Plates can be exposed without a dot screen and washed out for a long time to be suitable for relief printing. Photographic or computer-generated images can be used just like they have for screenprinting in the past.

SW: You mentioned a dot screen. Can you explain what that is and why it is used?

SB: A dot screen is to a photopolymer plate what an aquatint is to an etching. Whereas an aquatint uses tiny rosin particles to create tone the dot screen is a high-resolution film covered with minute, random, opaque dots. The dot screen is exposed first, then the artwork. If a dot screen is not used a type of open bite effect results, and sometimes this is preferred by the artist.

SW: How are the exposure times determined?

SB: There are different brands of plate available (Mavelon, Printight, Torelief) – all with different exposure times. Then it depends on whether you are using the sun or an exposure unit. Generally test strips are done to work out the preferred exposure time for a particular image.

SW: What is the best way to learn about photopolymer printmaking?

SB: Ideally it is best to do a workshop. The process may sound complicated, but it is really very simple and straightforward with enormous potential for making great prints.

 

[1] Solarplate is Dan Welden’s registered brand of photopolymer plate.

Scratch & Pierce

Mei Sheong Wong guides us through Scratch & Pierce, an exhibition of prints and plates by contemporary South Australian artists exploring the nexus between printmaking and scratched and pierced surfaces. Curated by PCA Committee Members Simone Tippett, founder of Union Street Printmakers, and Vicki Reynolds, Head of Printmaking at AC Arts.

Top: Sandra Starkey Simon, 28 Korana St (detail), 2015, drypoint with chine colle. L-R: Jane DisherHearts for Catholic Girls III, IV and V, 2016,  scraper board.

Like previous South Australian grassroots shows such as Low-Brow and Inked, this marvellous collection Scratch & Pierce has mushroomed from an underground mycelium of devoted printmakers. The elegant venue forms a warren of discovery, showcasing forty-one items by thirty-one South Australian artists.

Inside, John Blines’ uncompromising oeuvre is deliberately confrontational with its accusatory text and severely obliterating process, while bold design and confident process manifest in Simone Tippett’s intaglio collagraph Heartlands. Religious relics inspire Jane Disher’s concentrated scraper-board images in Hearts for Catholic Girls. Primitivist, mask-like forms inform Olga Sankey‘s Spoils and, alongside this, metal ‘shields’ with anachronistic inscriptions are depicted in her work Trophies.

Olga Sankey, Trophies, 2016, etched, inked and mounted zinc plate.

Gloves literally come off in the next chamber. Lorelei Medcalf’s grisly home-made tools accentuate the scratchy physicality of her gorgeous etching Hand Work. Geoff Counsell employs inescapably sinister material in Barbed Shadows, and with a material casting process Stephanie Radok explores the bookish interface between positive and negative in Social Policies for Old Age.

Stephanie Radok, Social Policies for Old Age, 2016, mixed media.

Petra Dolezalova Troyn fabricates intricate, cast resin prints, exposed for scrutiny with medical precision. In the Brevity triptych, Kate Bohunnis provides a subtle interplay of colours, textures and shapes, screenprinted on plywood; while Sarah Thame’s meticulous engraving Untitled scintillates with swirling patterns.

Sarah Thame, Untitled, 2016, engraving; Untitled, 2016, engraved plate.

The Landscape series of cyanotypes by Lauren Sutter is derived from rearranged, fragmented negatives, while Joshua Searson’s pop-inspired combination print City Breathing merges layers of appropriated, eye-catching graphics. Extending the vein of Surrealist montage, Andrew Dearman’s absurdist self-portrait dioramas evince quirky materiality via the notoriously fraught process of ambrotype (wet plate photography on glass).

The pace slows with Margaret Sanders’ Landscape, stylised, perforated linocuts; and Michael James Rowland’s sublime Ghost Tree woodblock, carved from reclaimed timber, is imbued with wabi-sabi aesthetic.

Michael James Rowland, Ghost Tree, 2016, woodcut print and woodblock.

Reminiscent of Chagall’s iconic floating figures, Sandra Starkey Simon’s 28 Korana Street, a delicate dry-point on chine collé, offers an intimate vignette. Etched metal breastplates underpin Sonya Hender’s expressive shift into moody, emblematic prints. And Janet Neilson embraces the unforeseen in A Silverfish Perhaps?, her combination print on ‘insect-damaged’ paper.

In the multi-media work Resurface, Georgina Willoughby experiments with unconventional composition and earthy colours, while Liz Butler’s Margins of Place reveals an on-going fascination with grungy material landscapes of rusted steel plates. Jake Holmes highlights humble, scuffed streetscapes in his frottage-inspired Urban Relief monoprint.

Unique states of Palenque, Hanah Williams’ striking vertical etchings, convey intense materiality. While Vicki Reynolds series Run Away evokes the poignant vulnerability of endangered fauna. The works embody an Arte Povera aesthetic: precise mark-making with simple materials – in this case, salvaged/repurposed polystyrene plates (souvenired during a recent Vicarious Press residency in Fabriano, Italy).

Larkworthy’s lithograph Imagined Landscape expresses graphic clarity and lilting modulation. While a penchant for the whimsical emerges in Jamie Alexander’s carefully crafted compositions Creature with 3 Stars and Creature Study for Abandoning. Barbara Coddington’s monoprint Monsters and Robots reveals a Surrealist impulse, with disrupted text snippets amidst haptic scissor shapes, interspersed with disconcerting red embroidery.

Chris de Rosa, Beatrice, 2015, digital inkjet print, etching and pigment stain on perforated magnani paper.

Dark, unsettling silhouettes contradict deceptively soothing hues in Christobel Kelly’s diptych monotype Ravensmutter. Aleksandra Antic’s multi-media installation Flatness Endless, reminiscent of Sally Smart’s extensive stencil/print/wall compositions, skilfully integrates material multiplicity with tonal interplay. In Lepidoptera Victoriana and accompanying hand-crafted brooches, Sue Garrard shifts gleefully between imagery, process, dimensions and reclaimed materials.

Suzie Lockery’s subtle variations in pattern and process shape the composition of Trajectories 1 and glorious hues and complex organic forms surge forth in Beatrice, Chris de Rosa’s resplendent combination print.

This multifarious exhibition Scratch & Pierce is a great opportunity to tap into the buzzing network of South Australia’s vibrant print community.

Scratch and Pierce will be on display at Gallery 1855, Tea Tree Gully, until 30 July.

ON HIRAETH

Above images l–r: Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune, Keepsake I, Keepsake II and Keepsake III, 2016, collagraph and etching, 50 x 37.5 cm.
Right: Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune, Hiraeth, 2016, etching, aquatint and lithography on somerset paper, unique state, 76 x 75 cm framed.

‘We stumbled across ‘hiraeth’ while working on the collaboration and it seemed to define some of the indescribable feelings we each try to capture in our work. The fact that there isn’t a clear-cut definition or translation in English made it even more intriguing and appropriate. ‘ 

An interview with Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune

by freelance writer Kate Ellis

In Hiraeth, a new collaborative series about to go on display at Port Jackson Press’s Little Window of Opportunity, printmakers Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune reflect on their shared experience of relocation.

The artists came across each other’s work in 2013. Despite obvious differences – Stephanie’s etchings being heavily detailed compared to the abstracted works that Danielle produces – they immediately recognised parallels between their landscape-influenced works on paper.

They also recognised that their lives mirror a much deeper connection of relocation. Both have lived abroad in various places – Danielle, originally from Australia, is now settled in Barcelona, and Stephanie, originally from England, lives in Melbourne.

Hiraeth (a Welsh word) does not translate easily to English. It describes a deep longing and nostalgia for home, a home that may not even exist; a yearning of spirit and imagination, though not necessarily a desire to return.

Through the prints in this show, each artist has explored their emotional relationship with their two homes.

Kate Ellis: Having both spent many years away from home, relocation has been a significant part of both of your lives – how has living abroad impacted your work?

Stephanie Jane Rampton: As I grow older I think I have become more sentimentally attached to my birthplace. While I don’t wish to return, there is always a sense of nostalgia. Perhaps memories become more important as we age. I believe my work explores, albeit subconsciously, the dichotomy of feeling an emotional connection to two ‘homes’. Often what begins as an Australian landscape takes on English characteristics. Memories of bare trees against a winter sky seem to encroach on everything I draw.

Danielle Creenaune: I also feel that there is a merging of place in my work. Often the works take on a hybrid form merging past memories of place and the present moment, which is what results in the spontaneous expression/representation.

KE: Why do you prefer the discipline of printmaking over other mediums and how has printmaking assisted in communicating your style and theme?

SJR: I had always drawn, particularly pen and ink drawings, so printmaking seemed a natural fit. Preparing plates allows time to consider what the final image is going to portray. Everything is a bit of a surprise; left-hand drawing becomes right-hand composition. You don’t really know what you’ve got until the very final moment and even then no two prints are the same. The result is a collaboration of artist and process – a synthesis of subject matter, emotion, materials, and techniques – that’s exciting.

DC: Printmaking allows me to ebb and flow through different techniques and means of expression. I work across lithography and intaglio, often concurrently, and find it’s the variation in marks, cause and effect, having control but leaving to chance, which enables me to communicate different emotional responses to landscape. I like the thrill of experimentation and feel there’s always something new to learn.

Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune, Traverse I, 2016, etching, aquatint and lithography on shikishi paper, unique state, 26 x 69 cm framed.

KE: Landscape is a recurring motif within both of your practices – what are the aesthetic qualities of nature and the environment that you find inspiring and what do they symbolise?

SJR: Perhaps it is the sense of solitude, calm, tranquility, and natural balance. Symbolically trees are representative of life. They grow, they reproduce and they die. Images vary depending on the state of mind: open spaces and distant horizons can convey a lightness of spirit; gnarled trunks and twisted roots may indicate the trials and tribulations that the trees have endured, or perhaps express their strength and connection to the earth. The choice is made on the basis of what is emotionally meaningful at that moment.

DC: Landscape represents a multitude of things for me. If I had to pinpoint a key aspect in my current work, it would be the significance of change and the evolving nature of landscape. It’s not static; it’s always in a state of change. I think it’s this state of flux that motivates me to create the type of images I do. The awe of that energy before me is possibly what drives me to try and emulate a similar kind of energy in the work. It also symbolises a connection to family, memory, place, history, present, and the co-existence of perfection and imperfection.

KE: Where did you first discover the term ‘hiraeth’ and why did its meaning become such a significant aspect of the project?

DC: We stumbled across ‘hiraeth’ while working on the collaboration and it seemed to define some of the indescribable feelings we each try to capture in our work. The fact that there isn’t a clear-cut definition or translation in English made it even more intriguing and appropriate. The more we researched, we realised it had everything to do with how one feels in and about place, home and longing.

Stephanie also came across a poem called ‘Hiraeth‘ by Tim Davis which we felt commented on the focus of our project. We made contact with the author who agreed to allow us to use it in conjunction with the works. The poem reads (in part)…

 

Hiraeth beckons with wordless call,
Hear, my soul, with heart enthrall’d.
Hiraeth whispers while earth I roam;
Here I wait the call “come home.”

Like seagull cry, like sea borne wind,
That speak with words beyond my ken,
A longing deep with words unsaid,
Calls a wanderer home instead.

Tim Davis, 2007

Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune, Traverse II, 2016, etching, aquatint and lithography on shikishi paper, unique state, 26 x 69 cm framed.

KE: Please explain your process when developing a new body of work. Do you take a sensory approach?

SJR: Sometimes it is a particular image that captures my attention; sometimes it is a process that I want to explore further. I work from sketches with photographs as references. During the process the original image almost always changes. One of the joys (although sometimes also a frustration) of printmaking is the process itself. The effect of materials on the image and the maker, and how accidental effects might change the experience and the outcome.

DC: I take a sensory approach, I guess. For me, it’s one continuous body of work exploring landscape and emotion developing over time. In a technical sense, I experiment, find new tricks that interest me and learn how to achieve different results, along with researching the place or subject. I feel a need to squeeze something new into each body of work both technically and subjectively as it motivates me to keep making.

I usually have a place in my mind at the time of creating the drawing on the matrix. I rarely use photographs as they contain too much detail for me. I prefer to work from quick line sketches. This allows me to recall the place but also to allow for chance, intuition and immediacy in creating the marks. The image comes from memory, drawings made in situ and the how I feel at the moment of laying down marks. I love the undergrowth and to draw I usually position myself right in the middle of the forest or surrounding. Here I witness nature’s energy through unordered forms and it gives me a lot of compositional ideas.

KE: When working on the project, were you aware of the distance between you and did you feel that you were mindful of each other’s style and technique?

DC: Through various visits and a lot of emails, a lot of mobile phone shots, and really interesting discussion about ideas and the significance of landscape, we have come together on this. We met a few times to pen down technical details, but due to smart phones and new technologies we’ve been able to go to-and-fro responding to each other’s work consciously along the way. It would’ve been nice to have a coffee and a meal together while doing it all but, hey, you can’t have everything.

KE: There are very obvious similarities between your work – how was the experience of working collaboratively and sharing these similarities different to working independently?

SJR: The main challenge for me is the sense of responsibility to an artist whose work I admire. I don’t think it’s changed how I work so much as how I see my own work, through trying to visualise from afar how our different styles can sit together in harmony. Although, I’ve recently begun working on some much larger pieces and they are sparser in detail compared to previous prints. Perhaps there has been a subconscious influence. Rather than fill every available part of the plate I have begun to explore negative space – it’s been liberating!

DC: I enjoy working collaboratively. It’s great to click with people creatively and see that things move with ease. I think a mutual admiration between collaborators is important. Stephanie’s work is so awe inspiring and I cannot fathom how she creates such detail. My work is somewhat contrary, but there are key things binding us and it goes further than style or visual similarities. The best thing for me has been the dialogue regarding what landscape symbolises for us, really getting down to the nitty gritty and asking ourselves what our work actually means. As collaborators, we have become friends who share some profound motivations driving our work. These connections add life and meaning to working each day alone in the workshop.

 

Hiraeth will be showing at Port Jackson Press Print Gallery’s Little Window of Opportunity, Collingwood, from 15 July to 5 August 2016.

Q&A with Jo Lankester and Hannah Murray

Above images clockwise from top: Jo Lankester and Hannah Murray, Forrest Green, 2016, collagraph and etching, 50 x 37.5 cm; Wallflower #1, 2016, collagraph and etching, 1/5, 101 x 60 cm; Field of Dreams #2, 2016, collagraph and etching, 1/1, 101 x 60 cm.

‘Every time I work with another artist I walk away with a deeper understanding of art as a whole. Together we realise work that couldn’t be created individually and inspire each other to think differently.’ 

Jo Lankester is a printmaker, collaborator and exhibition organiser based in Townsville, Queensland. She is a founding member of PressNorth Printmakers, and often collaborates with and editions the work of other artists. In her own practice, she creates large scale works inspired by the natural environment. Her works are represented in the National Gallery of Australia Print Collection, Artbank, as well as numerous public and private collections throughout Australia and overseas.

Hannah Murray is a Magnetic Island based artist who was born in Ayr, North Queensland. She has completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts (2002) from James Cook University, and a Graduate Diploma in Education (2003), The University of Melbourne. A part-time artist, arts worker and art teacher Hannah works across a variety of different mediums including printmaking, painting and illustration.

How did your collaboration begin?

Jo Lankester: I first collaborated with Hannah in 2011 for our exhibition Paper Bird, which was held at the Umbrella Studio of Contemporary Arts. Hints of both of our artistic styles showed through in all of the pieces that we worked on together; however, they were ultimately unique to anything we were able to make individually. The process of working with another artist, a first for both of us, had been an unexpectedly positive and inspiring experience. In 2014 we furthered this relationship by creating a suite of collaborative prints for the PressNorth Printmakers exhibition Wanderlust. This new work saw a shift in our imagery from birds to orchids, combining our distinctive styles to create unique state prints and variable editions with a unique aesthetic approach.

Can you tell me a bit more about the works you will be showing as part of Wallflower and how they developed?

Hannah Murray: Wallflower, as mentioned, is an extension of an ongoing print collaboration that explores the symbolic and aesthetic qualities of Jo’s abstracted patterns found on tree trunks and rock formations with my floral, orchid imagery. Conceptually it is both a play on words and also almost literal in meaning. As with any collaboration an unlikely relationship exists between two seemingly opposing forces. Trees and rocks, like a wall, share ideas of antiquity, enduring strength and protection. In contrast a flower is fragile and fleeting. The exhibition aims to bring these two elements together to present a resolved body of work.

My current body of work explores the aesthetic and symbolic qualities of flora, particularly orchids, as found in history, mythology and literature. My primary practice involves working directly onto reclaimed, vintage wallpaper in mixed media with the deliberate intention to exploit the tactile and distinctly ornate qualities of the wallpapers surface, pattern and colour. Naturally I find Jo’s beautifully rich, textural abstract work a nice extension of this, which I thought would complement my more illustrative imagery well.

Jo Lankester and Hannah Murray, Delicate #1, 2016, collagraph and etching, 50 x 37.5 cm,  1/1.

What do you view as the benefits of working with another artist (or other artists)?

JL: Every time I work with another artist I walk away with a deeper understanding of art as a whole. Together we realise work that couldn’t be created individually and inspire each other to think differently. I found that there was a large amount of experimentation in our collaboration and that both of our artistic styles worked together to create something entirely unique

HM: An artist by inclination spends a considerable amount of time working alone so any chance to make art in collaboration is a welcome and thoroughly enjoyable venture. I love the challenge of exploring and discovering visual solutions that respect and best complement each other’s respective imagery and mark making. It’s an exciting experience where the outcome is strangely familiar yet refreshingly original. I am not primarily a printmaker so I also greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn from more experienced and knowledgeable artists such as Jo. Akin to a master and apprentice, this hands-on sharing of skills and technique is incredibly valuable.

And the dangers?

HM: There are so many variables in printmaking and the pressure of not pulling a perfect print when someone else’s work is at stake can be unduly stressful.

JL: Every time you decide to collaborate with another artist professionally you are taking a risk, even if you have worked with that artist before. Any number of things could go wrong throughout the process due to miscommunication, difference in opinion, scheduling errors, and many other factors. However, this should not deter you from experimenting with collaboration.

How would you describe the mechanics of this collaboration?

JL: Hannah and I worked rather naturally together; we began by brainstorming a concept, number of works, scale, medium and subject matter for the exhibition. We decided to work primarily in intaglio to produce a suite of limited edition prints. However, towards the end of the project we shifted back to working with printmaking mediums that were in each other’s comfort zones using collagraph and relief printing to create the installation. We like to work together in the studio and being available to assist each other technically where required, although we also need a reasonable amount of time to work individually on separate aspects of the exhibition.

HM: The collaboration process seems to occur rather organically and with shared artistic trust and freedom. Depending on who is leading a print or image I think we both work rather instinctively and in a way that respectfully considers and complements each other’s imagery, aesthetic and mark making. Having said that I greatly appreciate and rely heavily on Jo’s technical advice and printmaking experience.

Jo Lankester and Hannah Murray, Wallpaper in studio, collagraph and relief, 100 x 1800 cm (installation).

You mention that either one of you might ‘lead’ depending on the piece – can you talk about these dynamics a bit more?

JL: I feel that Hannah and I were able to work both alongside and in tandem with each other easily due to our professional history. It was Hannah’s idea to work together on Wallflower – she realised that my abstract prints would go perfectly with her orchid illustrations and suggested that we collaborate. Throughout the process Hannah would often be scratching her etching plates while I was printing the backgrounds.

HM: I think we equally contribute to the development of an artwork once we have gained a shared understanding of each other’s imagery, ideas, colour palette and overall aesthetic. For the most part and with my key plate images in mind Jo would set about creating work that carefully considered the scale, composition, shape and line direction of the orchids. In support of this I would then respond in choice of colour for the final key plate. Alternatively some of the smaller prints were developed in reverse whereby I selected a key plate or image specifically with one of Jo’s prints in mind.

If you had to pass on one lesson from the experience, what would it be?

JL: Produce an exhibition that celebrates the strengths of both artists’ individual styles.

HM: Allow the collaboration process to develop slowly and naturally with lots of time to effectively experiment and explore ideas thoroughly. Coordinating collaborations and working to a deadline on individually busy schedules can create undue pressure – the more time the better.

What is next for each of you?

JL: I will be working to regain focus on my artistic practices for the foreseeable future. My mind is bursting with ideas that have been waiting patiently throughout the printing for Wallflower that I am excited to get down on paper.

HM: In between part-time teaching commitments I look forward to returning to my mixed media practice developing new work for a number of upcoming exhibition opportunities.

 

Wallflower will be on display at Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts in Townsville, Queensland, from 8 July to 14 August.