Clockwise from top: Exploring stitching; visiting Cicada Press;
investigating laser press effects; and, below, some new ideas.
In June 2016 I received an email from the Print Council of Australia to advise that I had been awarded an ArtSpace residency for my commission screen print The Stack. Coincidently it was my birthday and I would have been hard pressed to think of a nicer present. I haven’t spent much time in Sydney so it was very exciting when in October, I found myself in the heart of the city, occupying a spacious self-contained studio at ArtSpace. I remember, having moved all my materials into the studio, I sat down on the sofa, taking in the silence and pondering the remarkable opportunity I had been presented with.
The spaces are fantastic, with high ceilings and large floor areas, exposed brickwork and big timber beams. The building, known as The Gunnery was built about 1900 and was used at one time by the Australian Navy as a gunnery and training facility. The Australian Navy is still present with their fleet base just nearby. In fact the view from my studio window looked directly out to some of these huge naval ships. Given my practice has focused so much on the machines of war and our relationship with them, it seemed so fitting that I should be occupying such a space.
ArtSpace is in Woolloomooloo; the suburb is a surreal mix of creeping gentrification and remaining public-housing stock. The wealth that exists in the area emanates from Finger Wharf where multi-million dollar apartments sit above fine-dining restaurants. Just a few blocks back is a very different world where the homeless gather their day’s pickings behind boarded-up terrace houses. Just a five-minute walk in the opposite direction is the Royal Botanic Garden where groups of children gather on the lawns, eating sandwiches on their school excursions. Turn back nearer the city and you can retreat into the Art Gallery of New South Wales or walk further on to the State Library of NSW. It’s an exceptional environment to take time to wander and think.
An artist residency is as much about thinking as making and having the space to experiment. In residence my days lose their structure as I am consumed by practice. I work till 3am, sleep till 9am, work till 4pm, gather food and return to work through the night. I used my time while undertaking this residency mainly to draw and plan for future works. I also spent a lot of time stitching on paper and mark-making. These are elements of my practice, which help me to work through ideas and allow me to absorb myself completely in process.
In addition to being in residence at ArtSpace I was also given access to the UNSW Art and Design department workshops where I was given a generous tour of their facilities. They showed me through several studios, Cicada Press and their ‘Maker Space’. I was particularly keen to learn more about their collaborative making area where they foster an interdisciplinary environment for learning and sharing through technology. I was able to develop samples using their laser-engraving machine, which I hope will be the foundation for further experimentation with different substrate materials for printmaking. The ArtSpace staff were very welcoming, especially Lola Pinder who took time to take me over to UNSW and gave me lots of useful information about the area.
Late in the residency I held an open studio, prior to the Hungry Eyes Symposium at the Art Gallery of NSW. I enjoyed being able to discuss my practice with the group, which included members of the Print Council, ArtSpace staff and some of the other ArtSpace residents. I’m very grateful to the Print Council of Australia for providing me with this opportunity and to ArtSpace for being so supportive and accommodating. The experience has left me with plenty of new ideas and direction and I’m looking forward to spending more time in Sydney in the future. – KATY MUTTON
Katy Mutton is an interdisciplinary visual artist based in Canberra, Australia, working across drawing, painting, print and installation.