Q&A with Minna Gilligan

Minna GilliganYou’re lovely, but it’s not for sure, 2016, acrylic and collage on found image, 18 x 13 cm. Courtesy the artist and Daine Singer Gallery. Image commissioned for the cover of the Imprint winter 2016 (Vol. 51 No. 2) and produced as an unsigned and unnumbered edition of 100 A3 posters. Posters available for purchase for $15 each through the PCA website.

‘My Grandfather was a watercolour artist, and, although he passed away before I was born, his paintings have adorned every room in every house of all my family members for as long as I remember. I grew up being very used to looking at art, looking beyond what was right in front of me and into framed portals.’ 

Artist Minna Gilligan lives and works in Melbourne. Photograph by Selina Ou for Gallery NGV Magazine.

Congratulations on being awarded the 2016 Nillumbik Prize recently! Can you tell us about some of the moments/encounters that have informed your path to becoming an artist?

Thank you! It was lovely to gain some recognition in my hometown for my art practice.

I wouldn’t be able to define a specific moment that has informed my path to becoming an artist, but I would say it is due to the broader environment I was raised in. My Dad is a garden designer and my Mum is a florist, and I was brought up thinking aesthetically and critically of my surroundings and chosen projects. My Grandfather was a watercolour artist, and, although he passed away before I was born, his paintings have adorned every room in every house of all my family members for as long as I remember. I grew up being very used to looking at art, looking beyond what was right in front of me and into framed portals.

How would you define contemporary printmaking and where do you think your work would fit within this?

I suppose contemporary printmaking sits within a digital realm now. I would go as far as to define saturated reproduction of images on platforms like Instagram and Tumblr as a means of creating a duplication, as a means of extending the original – which is where I see printmaking existing. I think the definition is wider, now. My art exists on the aforementioned digital platforms and is reproduced there. It is also reproduced in digital prints on fabric and paper. I see scanning also as a vital element to contemporary printmaking. It gives you so much control over scale and quality.

How did you approach the winter 2016 cover commission for Imprint?

I wanted to make something that was positive and playful. I struggle with winter as a season and dread the lack of light and the negativity associated. I thought it would be fun to make a painting/collage that is the complete contradiction of the season.

Can you tell us about some of your favourite artworks and where their power lies for you?

My favourite artworks are very disparate, varying from Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World to the work of Yayoi Kusama, Helen Frankenthaler and Matisse. In more contemporary spheres I love the work of Keltie Ferris, Katherine Bernhardt and K8 Hardy. As of this weekend, a specific body of work I saw in the flesh was Paul Yore’s exhibition at Neon Parc. The power in this work lies in the unapologetic generosity of his cornucopias.

What do you hope people will get from engaging with your artwork?

When people look at my work I want them to feel joy, magic and maybe a slight sense of uneasiness. I don’t want to project an entirely utopic realm but I do want what is projected to be optimistic. I enjoy people projecting their own struggles, exhalations, etc., onto the work, too, and I enjoy it when people tell me those thoughts.

Do you have any advice for artists just starting out?

The only advice I ever really can rely on is to work really hard. I repeat that to everyone who ever asks for advice, which is a little contradictory considering at the moment I’m trying to take a step back from my work for a short period of time, just to consolidate and reflect on what I’ve achieved over a non-stop period of four years since graduating.

What are you working on now?

Currently I’m in the final six months of my residency at Gertrude Contemporary, and as I don’t have any specific exhibitions scheduled for the rest of this year, I’m revelling in being able to make work without an end point in mind. I am also beginning work on an artist book with a publisher in Canada, which will be a compilation of collages that I’ve made over the past 6­–7 years. Other than that, I’m taking my first holiday since 2012 in July and I’m going to Japan. I can’t wait!

www.minnagilligan.com

Flashback Friday: An interview with Sharmini Pereira of Raking Leaves

A page from the original article published in Imprint spring 2014, Volume 49 Number 3.
Top l-r: The Incomplete Thombu by T. Shanaathanan (2011); The Speech Writer by Bani Abidi (2011); Name, Class, Subject by Aisha Khalid (2009).

‘The impulse to set up a publishing initiative grew from a fascination with production and how an appreciation of materials and design working in unison with content could result in works that had an inevitability about them as books … Raking Leaves was born out of the simple assumption that everyone was familiar with a book.’

Cover for Imprint spring 2014 Vol. 49 No.3 featuring Ciara Phillips’s A lot of things put together (detail), 2013, screenprint on cotton, 400 x 500 cm.

The following conversation between Trent Walter of Negative Press and Sharmini Pereira of Raking Leaves was published in the spring 2014 issue of Imprint Vol. 49 No. 3.

Raking Leaves is an independent, not-for-profit commissioner and publisher of art projects, founded by Sharmini Pereira. Taking the form of book projects and special editions, Raking Leaves’ publications are marked by a conceptual rigour in both form and content. I corresponded with Pereira, a renowned curator and publisher, about Raking Leaves’ initiation, projects and expanded activity via email while she travelled between Toronto, London and Colombo from late June to early July.

What was the impetus to start Raking Leaves?

Firstly, it was a desire to work with interesting artists without the constraints of an exhibition. As a curator this involved teaching myself how to be a publisher, which I was motivated to do because as an independent curator you are constrained by many factors that I felt shackled by. The impulse to set up a publishing initiative didn’t actually come from a love of books either. It grew from a fascination with production and how an appreciation of materials and design working in unison with content could result in works that had an inevitability about them as books. I liked the exclusivity of something being a book and not an exhibition in order for it to be engaged with in the world. Raking Leaves was born out of the simple assumption that everyone was familiar with a book. Books hold no kind of exclusive membership yet the work contained within Raking Leaves’ book projects is, in most cases, exclusively made to be a book and I’d add, behave as a book.

Is this the kind of conversation you would have with an artist in anticipation of working with them on a publication with Raking Leaves? In so much as the book form can provide a space for a contemporary art project, rather than being a document of it. Can you talk about the various ways that artists have responded to this?

Conversations with artists begin in all kinds of ways but they do tend initially to go in the direction of discussing the merits of a book versus an exhibition. Or the reasons why a book lends itself to presenting a certain kind of work. In the case of Aisha Khalid, for example, her idea for a book project was clear from the start. She wanted to work with the old-fashioned copybooks that were used in school to teach handwriting. We got together lots of samples and studied how they were made: usually poorly printed on flimsy paper and with recycled covers taken from food packaging. At least that’s what the ones we sourced from Lahore were like. By contrast, T. Shanaathanan wanted to create a book project that would make the reader feel like they were ‘holding’ a series of documents or an official file, like the ones you get in south Asia that are produced from buff, recycled paper that fade in the sunlight. Form following function is most clearly displayed in Bani Abidi’s book project The Speech Writer, which consists of 10 flip books. The flip book predates moving film and led to silent cinema. It was obviously a wonderful form to work with for someone that works with video and photography without any dialogue.

What I find impressive about Raking Leaves publications is their conceptual and formal rigour: how the book form emulates the artist’s practise rather than being a sideline to it. These are thoughtful projects and I imagine that their development is an involved one. Can you elaborate on the process of developing Bani Abidi‘s project?

Bani’s project began in 2010, was printed at the end of 2011 and launched in early 2012. We started working with Astrid Stavro early on. She was chosen as the designer because she has produced several interesting books in serial format and became instrumental in the discussions and production process. This was the first time she had designed a flip book but once she knew what it was, she began doing research on the ways in which 10 books could be housed together. Bani wanted to present the books flat so that the first page of each book was shown, as opposed to a series of book spines. Monotype was used on the cover where you find the fictional interview about the character of the speech writer featured in the book project. Again this was something that took several discussions and involved various design options. Creating the box was also involved. Finding a printer that could produce something this intricate that was not over engineered took several months of dummies and print buying in Europe and in Asia.

As a publisher, how involved do you become in the form of the book? Is the artist given carte blanche or are there practical limitations imposed on the artist from the outset of the project? 

I am involved in the book from conception through to delivery. The role begins curatorially and evolves into that of a publisher. I’d like to think that the artist is given full freedom in that the book projects are not based on templates or part of a series. From experience most artists enjoy being given parameters of a kind. As an idea for a book project develops practical limitations do arise. Rather than see them as restrictions, I tend to see them as questions that require solutions. Costs are obviously a big factor, too, but like anything else if the idea necessitates a certain level of investment, and it’s a good idea, then this is what I will work to ensure is produced.

Do you consider Raking Leaves publications within the canon of artists’ books?

They might influence the canon but I don’t know if they sit that comfortably within it. I prefer to view them as belonging to the fields of critical publishing and public art for example, in terms of the etymological relationship between ‘public’ and ‘publish’, which often gets forgotten. The audience for artists’ books is fairly small and of the art world, largely based in Europe and the US. Raking Leaves’ books have a much broader appeal. A number of anthropologists and legal theorists, for example, have been writing about and referencing The Incomplete Thombu in relation to displacement and legal debates around land rights in Sri Lanka.

I imagine, though I may be mistaken, that these are difficult conversations to have given the current political climate in Sri Lanka. Was there any trepidation in deciding to publish T.Shanaathanan’s The Incomplete Thombu? And if so, what was the nature of these thoughts or conversations?

Prior to publication, trepidation arose more out of wanting to be respectful to those that contributed to the project and being careful not to sensationalise the subject matter, but not from any fear of censorship. Since publication the situation has been different. Whichever way I think I choose to speak about the situation it will be interpreted as a form of self-censorship. The reality is more a case of understanding that in Sri Lanka anything can be construed to be something that it is not in the hands of someone ready to jump to conclusions when they see the words ‘Tamil’ or ‘Jaffna’. If this was an artwork in a gallery I doubt it would court any kind of interest from the authorities. By being a book it circulates more readily and freely. It’s accessible to everyone who can interpret it as they want. I don’t think I, or the artist, would want it any other way, in spite of the risks this may or may not involve.

There are a lot of conversations in Australia about the centre and the periphery with regard to the global art world. What influence does being based in Colombo have on Raking Leaves?

Being on the periphery of south Asia informs the situation in Sri Lanka more closely than the relationship with the global art world in terms of the centre/periphery debate.  For Raking Leaves Sri Lanka provides a base and therefore a centre from which its activities are generated and distributed, irrespective of any geo-political centre. There are not any comparable initiatives in the region that are doing similar work which means we exist in a vacuum at times. Being off the radar has its advantages too, however. I don’t think what we do is particularly cutting edge or fashionable in that sense. I think this ensures some kind of engagement and sustainability for when audiences do come into contact with Raking Leaves.

Does having no comparable initiatives in the region mean that Raking Leaves’ activities have expanded beyond publishing?

I established the Sri Lanka Archive of Contemporary Art, Architecture and Design in 2013 as part of a collaboration with Asia Art Archive and their Open Edit: Mobile Library initiative. Interest and support towards the archive was overwhelming and Raking Leaves was approached to establish it as a permanent physical archive in Jaffna. It has a staff of four people and has staged seven talks and five screenings attracting a total of just under 1000 people in it’s first six months. Collecting materials connected to the development of Sri Lankan art, architecture and design remains our primary focus while the talks and screenings act as a way of bringing people to the material. Working with the Asia Art Archive and having the archive in Jaffna have certainly provided Raking Leaves with opportunities to work beyond its publishing activities in a related but broader engagement with printed matter.

rakingleaves.org

Q&A with curator Noreen Grahame

‘A lively cultural scene, be it in an art museum or gallery, is dependant on the curator setting up an exhibition, which stimulates both artists and public. Basically the role is one made for those who look, look and look at work and who are open.’ 

How did you become interested in art and prints in particular?

Like most people I visited galleries and art museums and found I was fascinated by the print and wanted to find out more about how prints were made and who made them. I was living in Zurich in the 1970s, a time when prints were booming, and one could say I stumbled into the scene.

How do you view the role of curator?

A lively cultural scene, be it in an art museum or gallery, is dependant on the curator setting up an exhibition, which stimulates both artists and public. Basically the role is one made for those who look, look and look at work and who are open.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while working as a print curator?

The artists’ books + multiples fair, although not strictly curated, posed many challenges from writing descriptions of artists’ books I had only discussed with the artists to finding that, in one case, the book submitted no longer resembled the catalogue description in any way. The artist decided at the last moment to alter it completely.

Can you tell us a bit about what a working day looks like for you?

It may be a little akin to giving birth. You forget all the pain of ‘that’ working day.

Who are your role models?

Pat Gilmour was the print curator at the Tate when I was in Europe. I had read about her and how she would be all over London visiting even the smallest gallery shows and artists’ studios. When I returned to Australia, I found she was the International Print Curator at the Australian National Gallery – now the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). I phoned her number at the NGA. She picked up and we had a long discussion about the prints of the German artist Friedrich Meckseper, whose work I was showing. She was, of course, completely au fait with his prints. Likewise Anne Kirker, former curator of prints at Queensland Art Gallery, Roger Butler (NGA), Anne Ryan (AGNSW) and Cathy Leahy (NGV) are always open. I hope I am like them.

Which exhibitions or projects are you most proud of?

Always the one I am working on, which is currently Big Impressions, prints from the collections of the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery (TRAG) to celebrate the Print Council of Australia’s fiftieth anniversary.

Can you tell us more about this project?

Originally I spent quite some time making a first selection for Big Impressions from a list of TRAG’s print collections before driving to Toowoomba. With Tiffany Shafran and Eloise Tuppurainen-Mason I went through Solander box after Solander box and found a rich collection including PCA member prints from 1994 onwards. The challenge I faced was to reduce my third selection by fifteen prints and still do justice to the show. The decision was to show three prints – three big prints. Big Impressions reflects the enormous contribution the PCA has made to printmaking in Australia and to Australian culture over the last fifty years.

Michael Schlitz (artist) and Karen Knight (poet), Balancing, 2013, relief woodblock on Kozo paper, triptych, 66 x 264 cm, edition of 4. Courtesy Dick Bett Gallery.

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.

A Postcard from Printing the Page, State Library of Victoria

On Tuesday 31 May, a rhyme of poets and an impression of printers/artists descended on the Keith Murdoch Gallery at the State Library of Victoria (SLV) for ‘Printing the Page’, a special workshop conceived and coordinated by Marian Crawford (artist, lecturer and PCA committee member) on behalf of the Print Council of Australia and in partnership with SLV (with special thanks to Suzie Gasper) in celebration of poetry and letterpress printing.

Marian Crawford typesetting with participating poets; type tray; Greg Harrison typesetting with participating poets.

As well as forming part of the PCA’s fiftieth anniversary program, and acknowledging the important relationship between the PCA and SLV, which houses a complete set of the PCA’s Print Commission archive, there was a particular emphasis on the social dimension of print culture.

In setting the tone of the day, Crawford observed that ‘printmaking as a fine art practice is often extremely sociable, and this is observable both in the way a printmaking studio runs, in the sharing of equipment and of practical tips in process, and in the social nature of the printed image itself.’ She also cited this line from Alberto Manguel’s from The Library at Night: ‘Knowledge lies not in the accumulation of texts or information, nor in the object of the book itself, but in the experience rescued from the page and transformed again into experience, … In the reader’s own being.’

Carolyn Fraser, Andrew Gunnell, Marian Crawford, Greg Harrison and Rosalind Atkins preparing for the poets; Francesca Sasnaitis casting her editorial eye over Andrew Linden’s poem prior to typesetting.

Indeed, this spirit of creating new experiences and discovering a greater range of creative possibilities infused the atmosphere of the day. Workshop participants were invited to bring along a three-line observational poem to set and print. To help out throughout the day with inspiration, typesetting and printing, Marian invited Carolyn Fraser (printer, writer and founder of idlewild press), Richard Harding, Rosalind Atkins, Andrew Gunnell and Greg Harrison (all artists, lecturers and printers); Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison (artists with a special interest in artist books); and Francesca Sasnaitis (poet and founder of Ratas Editions).

Carolyn Fraser sharing her typesetting skills with attending poets.

Following the setting and printing of poems, the space was opened for public letterpress demonstrations, where many curious punters circulated and experienced the setting and printing of their names, or observed Francesca and Louise compiling and hand-binding the results of the earlier poetry workshop in a single edition of ‘Printing the Page’.

Rosalind Atkins displaying type locked up in a chase with one of the participating poets and her freshly printed poem.

Rounding out the day, Marian Crawford spoke about her relationship to the printed page, explaining that her ‘most insistent and persistent fascination within fine art is centred around the printed image, and includes the fine art print, the printed page, and the relationship between text and image on the printed page which then extends to the book and literary studies, poetry and writing’. She then invited Carolyn Fraser and Francesca Sasnaitis to the stage. Francesca explained the collaborative process that lead to her and Crawford’s beautiful publication The Unstable Edge, and performed a reading from its pages. Later, Marian and Francesca also performed readings of the poems produced in the Printing the Page workshop.

Richard Harding printing event participants’ poems on one of the three Adana Presses; Greg Harrison and Marian Crawford sharing their typesetting skills.

Carolyn Fraser gave a short, but tingle-inducing, presentation on the history of letterpress and amateur journalism finishing with a point that cannot be emphasised enough in this time of constant commercial pressure:

‘Rare today is the use of the word “hobby” (other than pejoratively). People have “projects” these days; the pursuit of pleasure has been supplanted in almost every area of life by economic imperatives. We may be witnessing the very last generation of amateur printer/journalists, but the influence of their activity has been vast. Gutenberg‘s press augured the beginnings of the Enlightenment. The toy press gave voice to America’s youth. Experimentation breeds expertise, amateurism breeds passion. America would be as equally impoverished had Thomas Edison not published the Grand Trunk Herald as had he not invented the phonograph, the telegraph or the electric light bulb. The word amateur comes from the Latin – amator – lover. This is what lasts – that which we love. Our culture depends on it.’

Hear, hear!

Printing the Page participants holding their letterpress printed poems (clockwise): Rachel, Fiona and Monique, and Sandra.
Clockwise: Julie De Silva reading ‘Violin’ the poem she brought to set and print; Lou Baxter quoting a popular maxim that she chose to set and print; Andrew Linden reading ‘Dreaming’, his paraphrased version of a verse from the poem ‘Last Night as I was Sleeping’ by twentieth century Spanish poet Antonio Machado.

Q&A with Vanessa Wallace

In order of appearance: Vanessa Wallace, Negotiate 3–7 (installation shot), solvent transfer, chalk transfer and coloured pencil on Fabriano Tiepolo, each print 100 x 43 cm; Fleeting 8–11 (installation shot), heat transferred digital print, stitched block on acrylic shelf with handwritten text, 9.5 x 9.5 x 9.5 cm. Below: Negotiate 5 (detail), solvent transfer, chalk transfer and coloured pencil on Fabriano Tiepolo, 100 x 43 cm.

‘I walked into the print room at the Central Institute of Technology in 1999 and was instantly fascinated by the presses. Throughout art school both at central and then ECU I found print processes the main way I was able to give material form to my conceptual concerns as an emerging artist.’ 

Why do you make art?

I can’t imagine not making – it has become integral to my way of moving through the world.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

It forms part of my everyday. Both through making prints in my own practice and working as an art technician specialising in printmaking at Edith Cowan University.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I walked into the print room at the Central Institute of Technology in 1999 and was instantly fascinated by the presses. Throughout art school both at central and then ECU I found print processes the main way I was able to give material form to my conceptual concerns as an emerging artist.

Who is your favourite artist?

The Boyle Family, Hamish Fulton and Richard Long were all artists that influenced the early development of my work. I don’t have a favourite artist as such and find it changes depending on what I get to see either online or by visiting galleries.

What is your favourite artwork?

Again it changes. One work that I keep being drawn back to is Great Piece of Turf by Albrecht Dürer.

Where do you go for inspiration?

The everyday. A quite moment and a pause to catch something unnoticed. I find if I make one thing a day, even if that is a photograph of the ground that I title it keeps the thoughts flowing somewhat. Working in an art school helps as I’m lucky to be constantly around other artists at various stages of practice.

What are you working on now?

A series of tiny artists books and a few smaller works.

Vanessa Wallace‘s exhibition Shuffle will be on display at the Spectrum Project Space, Edith Cowan University, Mount Lawley campus, until 3 June 2016.

Workshop: The Painterly Print

Top: Bruno Leti, No. 6 from Intonaco Series, 2015, oil monotype (unique), 76 x 56 cm.
A page from the original article published in Imprint Autumn 1997, Volume 32 Number 1.

‘The monotype surface, although flat and relatively smooth, fully records an active and varied manipulation of pigment that precedes transfer to paper, in reverse. This transfer of a fresh painting or drawing is meant to yield just one (‘mono’) print (‘type’). Therefore, they are unique images rather than multiples. So, strictly speaking, they are neither paintings, drawings or prints!’

The following article was written by Bruno Leti and published in the Autumn 1997 issue of Imprint Vol. 32 No. 1.

Monotypes are printed paintings or printed drawings; they resemble no other prints, be they engraved, carved, etched, lithographed or computer-generated. The monotype surface, although flat and relatively smooth, fully records an active and varied manipulation of pigment that precedes transfer to paper, in reverse. This transfer of a fresh painting or drawing is meant to yield just one (‘mono’) print (‘type’). Therefore, they are unique images rather than multiples. So, strictly speaking, they are neither paintings, drawings or prints!

As a painter–printmaker, the monotype satisfies both my urges to paint and print. There is no preparation of a matrix and little if any technique to speak about. Having pulled scores of editions in various mediums over the past thirty years, it is a wonderfully freeing experience not to cut, etch, engrave or chemically treat a plate to resolve an image. With ‘monotyping’ a sequence of images can be attained immediately in the procedure to resolution.

The monotype first came to my notice in high school art rooms in the fifties. I remember a young enthusiastic art teacher and artist, Barry Gange, who, with the help of art students, made a crude etching press from a mangle. He demonstrated to us the many possibilities of attaining an image by pressing one surface against another surface. These early, unique, rough images had a lot of charm and immediacy which inspired my imagination. But it was not until I began to travel in the mid sixties that I first saw monotypes made by Degas in Paris, and those made by Picasso in Barcelona. They beauty and freshness of these prints remained ‘impressed’ in my mind for a long time. Some years later in the United States, I also saw monotypes made by Milton Avery and those by Richard Diebenkorn which reinforced the idea that this medium had great potential.

It seemed to me from the start that making monotypes was another way of making paintings. The ‘push’ and ‘pull’ of creating an image with oil paints and printing ink was an exciting alternative to directly painting on canvas or board. There were obvious limitations of course: you could not apply paint too thickly or it would ‘squash’ under pressure and the image would be reversed after the pressing. However, because I prepared monotypes on the back of discarded etching plates, I was quite comfortable with painting on a hard surface not unlike the Masonite I used in the early days.

Historically, the monotype technique goes back to the mid-1640s, to painter–etchers such as Rembrandt in Amsterdam, and Giovanni Castiglione, a lesser-known Italian from Genoa. It was probably Castiglione who began to manipulate printing ink on copperplates so as to print a continuous tone, analogous to an ink watercolour wash. Both artists were deeply involved with the texture of paint, making hundreds of painterly drawings using brushes or other drawing tools that produced a broad stroke. In their prints, both artists sought tonal effects through the use of drypoint burr, and by utilising accidental or intentional granular biting. The only true printmaking practice available at that time that produced a continuous tone was mezzotint, then still in its early days. Neither artist attempted this method, but instead painted with printing ink on the surfaces of copper plates. Rembrandt left ink ‘smeared’ on selected areas of his etched plates but it was Castiglione who actually made drawings into thick ink spread on a smooth copper plate which produced the first true monotype.

One of my favourite artists, the poet William Blake, developed a method of transferring his handwriting and drawing in monotype onto copper plates, etching these in relief, and printed from the surface of the plate. This evolved from his explorations of printing book illustrations in colour. The first complete book he produced in this method was Songs of Innocence. Blake used the monotype combined with hand-painting and colouring.

From the end of the eighteenth century, when William Black executed his highly original ‘printed drawings’ until nearly the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the art of the monotype largely lapsed into disuse.

Around the 1860s, there was a resurgence of the technique by the painter–printmakers Adolphe Appian and Ludovic Lepic in France. They were interested in the dramatic effects of light and dark and the rich tonalities that could be obtained by wiping and brushing ink over an etched matrix, which provided a linear quality with tonal effects. However, it was left to Edgar Degas, probably the greatest exponent of the monotype in the nineteenth century, to add another dimension which made the technique more viable and important by experimenting with wiping, brushing and often retouching the finished works with pastels. It was a time when Degas was seeking a release from the tradition of precise linear draftsmanship. This new freedom to manipulate paint and printing ink resulted in a different aesthetic, more akin to the Impressionist ideal. Other artists such as Pissarro, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Mary Cassatt, and the American painter-printmaker Whistler, made monotypes near the turn of the century and into the twentieth century.

The modern monotype has attracted artists from Degas to Gauguin to Munch to the German Expressionists. The craftsman-like approach to printmaking by the Bauhaus teachers also encouraged students to experiment with monotypes. Picasso, Rouault and Matisse produced monotypes during their time and when Dada and Surrealism emerged in Europe, the acceptance of any material at hand as a potential ingredient of art cleared the way for many artists such as Dubuffet, Tobey, Ernst and Klee to extend mixed media processes in conjunction with monotype. Frottage, ink-blots and other transfer or pressed methods were incorporated.

The appeal of Oriental art and calligraphy with its scribbles, strokes, drips and smears is seen clearly in the work of Gottlieb, Motherwell, Jasper Johns, Sam Francis and Miro. Their love of free lines and natural textures so much in evidence in their paintings also appears in their monotypes. Today, print workshops around the world have taken an active interest in the monotype, aided by master printers, technical inventions and ongoing experimentation.

It has been said that most artist–printmakers discover the mysteries of monotypes on their own, working along with other mediums and through trial and error. I have found the right balance and comfort zone for me, with an emphasis on the direct and the forthright which requires that a picture’s surface, its pigment, and the presence of the artist be immediately felt. Monotype is a painter’s medium. It was born of a painter’s imagination and restlessness and is a perfect tool for improvisation and realisation.

REFERENCES

Adhemar, J. 1975, Degas, The Complete Etchings, Lithographs, and Monotypes, Viking Press, New York.

Brown, K. 1992, Ink, Paper, Metal, Wood, Crown Point Press, San Fransisco.

Grishin, S. 1994, Bruno Leti’s Monotypes, Transart, Melbourne.

Plows, P. 1988, Collaboration in Monotype, University of Washington Press.

Reed, S. & Ives, C. 1980, Monotypes from 17th Century to the 20th Century Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

NOTE

A monotype is made from a ‘pure’ painted image on a smooth surface (e.g. copper, zinc, perspex, etc.), which is then pressed onto paper to yield one unique impression. A monoprint matrix has some fixed elements together with unique, hand-painted areas on its surface which can be somewhat replicated when painting.

Bruno Leti was recently awarded the Print Award in the 2016 Swan Hill Print and Drawing Acquisitive Awards for his monotype No. 6 from the Intonaco Series (pictured at top).

Marguerite Brown’s Postcard from the Sunshine Coast

Clockwise from top: Judy Watson surrounded by participating artists in the Regional Marks exhibition; viewers admiring the artist books of Helen Sanderson at Regional Marks; full house at Regional Marks opening.

This year the PCA had the good fortune of being invited to hold our Annual General Meeting at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. The event that brought us to this very beautiful part of Australia was the occasion of the Regional Marks exhibition, held at the University of the Sunshine Coast Gallery, as part of our fiftieth anniversary Year of Print celebrations. This region is full of talented artists who use printmaking to explore various thematic, conceptual and technical approaches resulting in a really exciting and diverse exhibition. The opening night on Thursday 19 May was a full house, with opening addresses by Gallery Curator Lou Jaeger, exhibition Curator Catherine Monéy, PCA President Akky van Ogtrop, and contemporary artist Judy Watson.

Following Catherine and Lou’s fantastic introduction, Akky gave the audience an insight into the history of the PCA, from its early formation by Dr Ursula Hoff and Grahame King at the NGV print room in the late 1960s to the vibrant organisation it is today. While Judy spoke of the various works in the show, noting the rich connection to the natural world expressed by many, and describing a sense of the artwork as a nourishing force for viewer and maker alike.

Clockwise from top: Sunshine Coast printmaker Susan Bowers showing Kate Gorringe-Smith one of her exquisite artist books; work by the Cooroora Institute at USC Gallery Regional MarksClaude Jones‘s work at Caloundra Regional Gallery.

The following day Queensland Committee Representative Tory Richards led PCA committee reps from other states and myself on a tour of some of the many artist studios and galleries in the hinterlands of the Sunshine Coast. Taking in spectacular views of rolling valleys and the Glass House Mountains on the way, we were given a sneak peek into the private working spaces of local artists and a great insight into their methodologies and concepts explored. Sincere thanks to Stephanie McLennan, Susan Bowers, Fiona Demptser and Barry Smith for opening their studios to us and for their warmth and hospitality, and for Art on Cairncross gallery for showing us their space.

Glass House Mountains

Between absorbing fabulous artworks plus the natural grandeur of the region, by the end of the day we were approaching sensory overload – but of the best possible kind!

It was back to business on Saturday 21, with the AGM taking place and with new and returning committee members being voted into the PCA Committee. Thanks to all of the PCA members who attended the meeting, and the subsequent Panel Discussion on that always contentious question ‘What is Print?’ With Akky van Ogtrop chairing the discussion as MC, contemporary artist and former PCA Vice President Jan Davis, fellow artists Stephen Spurrier and Russell Craig discussed issues surrounding how we define print in the twenty-first century and the multifarious ways artists engage with printmaking both in traditional forms, and as an expanded practice.

‘What is Print?’ being debated in a panel discussion at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Panelists (from left) Russell Craig, Jan Davis, Stephen Spurrier and MC Akky van Ogtrop.

Then it was off to the Caloundra Regional Gallery, where we imbibed champagne and a delicious spread while listening to the fascinating introduction to the current exhibition Animal fanfare: humans – animals – environment by Gallery Curator Hamish Sawyer. It was great to see the gallery embrace the work local artists by dedicating a special space to the display local printmakers’ work in their feature artist section. A fine way to finish what was a brilliant visit to the Sunshine Coast. Sincere thanks to Tory Richards for her hospitality and tireless work in planning the program of events, and all those involved in welcoming the Print Council with such generosity. We look forward to the next visit!

A visit to the beautiful studio of Malaney printmaker Stephanie McLennan pictured standing, and PCA committee members (from left) Tory Richards, Kate Gorringe-Smith, Jan Davis, Akky van Ogtrop, artist Susan Bowers and committee member Jill O’Sullivan.

Marguerite Brown is General Manager of the Print Council of Australia.

A Postcard from Prue MacDougall: SGCI, Portland, Oregon

Clockwise from top: SGCI Open Portfolio 2016 (Prue MacDougall); SGCI visit to Gamblin InksTrans-Dimensional Exhibition of 2D & 3D prints, SCGI 2016.

I had been looking forward to attending my second Southern Graphics Council International (SGCI) conference for some time. One thousand six hundred printmakers descended on Portland, Oregon, for one of the biggest annual gatherings on the US printmaking calendar.

The theme for this year was ‘FLUX … the edge of yesterday and tomorrow’. This time I knew to make selections that interested me in advance, from the many events on offer. Seventeen Panel Sessions, eight incubator sessions, twenty-one themed Portfolio exhibitions, a mentoring program, gallery exhibitions, four open portfolio rounds, a visit to Gamblin Inks, and the Product and Publishers Fair made it impossible to attend everything in three days!

I loved every minutes of it: meeting likeminded artists, being able to take part, and seeing some really inspirational work and demos.

Next year’s SGCI will be held in Atlanta, Georgia, 15 – 18 March, 2017. The theme is ‘Terminus’. For more information visit the SGCI website or email sgci2017@gmail.com.

Prue MacDougall is an artist printmaker from New Zealand. She was one of the 2015 PCA Print Commission artists.