Q&A with Robert Avitabile

‘I became interested in prints because I like drawing. The simple expression of marks on a surface is both a beginning and an end and is very satisfying. Drawing can be a beautiful evolving statement of an idea and I like it when printmakers carry this freshness and energy into their work.’ 

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

Art wasn’t part of my childhood in semi-rural Ashwood – I was inclined to be outside most of the time, with the only distraction from this being early black and white TV after dinner.

My father’s night class charcoal drawings of Voltaire and The Discus Thrower, etc., from the National Gallery School in the late 1930s to early 1940s weren’t on our walls, but lurking in the back of his wardrobe.

Art came along when I was ready and ironically it was my father’s hidden drawings that sparked my earliest interest and attempts at drawing. The serendipitous opening of the NGV on St Kilda Road in the late 1960s had a profound effect on me since we were now living in St Kilda East. A beautiful world had opened up before my eyes. I could easily walk or catch a tram there and it all made sense.

I began Preliminary Year in Art and Design at Prahran Tech in 1972, and was able to develop ideas and techniques that I had no way of pursuing earlier. I did three more years of a Graphic Design major, with ongoing Life Drawing and electives in Printmaking and Photography also being an important part of my studies. After four years of drawing and the influence of wonderful teachers like Glenys McIntosh and Pam Hallandal, I cannot imagine my life without it and I mourn the downgrading of Drawing in educational institutes today.

I became interested in prints because I like drawing. The simple expression of marks on a surface is both a beginning and an end and is very satisfying. Drawing can be a beautiful evolving statement of an idea and I like it when printmakers carry this freshness and energy into their work.

How do you view the role of curator?

I am an artist and I became a curator by default. I like how art objects interact and (as a classic Libran) I like to arrange them. I also like stories of artists and their careers and I strive to tell these stories in the context of their art. This is how I work and I imagine it’s how others work. However, a gallery owner’s work as a curator is only part of a big job description.

When I was about 16-years-old I curated my first show in my father’s shed – it was a collection of my own Picasso copies. I have now been fortunate to put together some major shows at Metropolis Gallery in Geelong, working with a number of amazing artists including Marco Luccio, Adrian Lockhart and Andrew Chapman; the many prominent Australian printmakers around whom I have curated a number of Collectable Print shows; emerging local artists like Michael Gromm and Steve Salo; comprehensive retrospectives of Kenneth Jack, David Newbury and Bill Harding; and exhibitions in association with a number of prominent Aboriginal art centres. When I look back at each exhibition, it’s the artists’ stories that bring their exhibitions together to connect with viewers. And so it’s the role of a curator to help tell these stories in more ways than simply finding pictures to hang on the wall.

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

A curator understands how people will ‘read’ a group of works by an artist and how they can be presented in the gallery space to best advantage. An exhibition is a partnership between the artist and the gallery, with mutual respect necessary for a great result.

A simple answer might be that there are no challenges, only solutions.

What does a work day look like for you?

My working day starts at home and after the usual activities I check my diary and social media, but sometimes when hot weather is forecast, checking a bonsai before work is more important – apologies.

I usually drive but also regularly walk our dog to the gallery, so we both get a good half hour exercise. I check emails and chat with our gallery assistant if she’s working that day. After replying to emails while serving early customers and attending to anything immediate, I settle into the current exhibition management as well as keeping an eye on future planning. A lot of my day is ‘on the run’ and no two days are the same or predictable.

Upstairs we’re lucky to have our own in-house Geelong Picture Framers, so I also spend time there having a chat and making sure it’s looking good and running smoothly.

I enjoy interacting with customers, as this is an important part of running a gallery. Sometimes I might visit an artist’s studio or some galleries, or spend a quiet day working from home.

Most of my time is spent thinking of the future and staying one step ahead of what’s happening, while keeping my feet firmly on the ground in the present. You could say the drawing beneath all this is constantly changing and that’s how I like it.

Who are your role models?

While I believe that once the exhibition is on the wall the curator, exhibition designer and anyone else should be invisible, there are many anonymous curators in public and private galleries whose ideas I must have absorbed over many years – some reminding me what is good and some not so good. I am probably more influenced by many years working as a freelance designer, producing many interpretive design projects for historical, natural heritage and indigenous art sites. Many of those projects incorporated writing, illustration and design and many talented people for whom I worked were specialists in presenting beautiful visuals and stories in exciting, cohesive and innovative ways.

Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for, and process of, putting together your current group exhibition Mono?

When I look at monotypes the freshness of creation is still there: the energy of drawing is embedded in these works. Any artist brave enough to be involved in making monotypes must surely have been drawing for many years. You’ve only got one chance to pull the perfect mono and it seems artists like the adrenalin rush of this medium: not knowing exactly what’s going to happen when their painting on a copper or plastic plate goes through the press in union with a sheet of paper. You could say the artist and the print are both under a lot of pressure! If you are able to see this show, I hope the results achieved by Tony Ameneiro, Kim Barter, Anita Iacovella, Bruno Leti, Debra Luccio, Janice McBride, James Pasakos, Linda Robertson and Wayne Viney explain this better than words.

This exhibition was the brainchild of Wayne Viney who came to an opening of Linda Robertson’s here last year and said: ‘Why don’t we do a Monotype show?’ and I said ‘OK why not? Who else does Monos?’ So we stood around scratching our heads and put down a few names. Then with the help of Dr Thomas Middlemost (over the phone while agreeing to open the show), we finalised the exciting list of artists for Mono. Thanks Wayne and thank you Tom!

This early stage was one of introductions and pulling all the artists together and getting them working towards a common exhibition date, with exhibition details and gallery requirements emailed and positive replies received. Every stage of an exhibition is important – it’s like an organism that grows and grows and on the opening night of Mono there was a very positive response from artists and guests. The artists were there to celebrate, but the magic is that most people see this as the start of the exhibition – it really started last year!

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m talking to Mono visitors and passing on what I know about monotypes, the artists and their art processes. The exhibition is open and so it’s all about our visitors to the show.

But of course we do have another exhibition coming up in October, so preparations for Robert Ingpen’s Storybook Art has been a concurrent priority for some time at Metropolis Gallery involving cataloguing, photography, writing press releases, framing and presentation of about eighty works, then designing advertising and other printed materials.

In November we are presenting Panoply, a major exhibition of printmaking curated by Rona Green and including forty emerging and established Australian artists.

Between these two shows we have just slotted in an exciting little Collectable Works on Paper show, which came to us recently out of the blue. This is where flexibility as a curator is important to get it all done. Without the help of my partner Ilze, gallery assistants Amber Daly and Alex Game, and our framers upstairs, none of what we do would be possible.

Running a commercial gallery anywhere is probably one of the hardest things to do; however, it’s an occupation that incorporates everything I’ve ever learnt and experienced in art, design, life, business and so on, and importantly how to work within your means without becoming burdened.

 

Mono is on display at Metropolis Gallery, Geelong, until 3 September.

Afterlife at West Gallery, Thebarton

Review by Geoff Gibbons

Afterlife is the inaugural exhibition for a new gallery in the western suburbs of Adelaide that features spacious well lit exhibition spaces occupying the first floor of a modern building. The gallery is the initiative of Margie Sheppard, whose vibrant multi-plate colour etchings can be seen in several interstate galleries.

Margie SheppardCherish, 2016, etching, 62 x 79 cm.

This exhibition of prints brings together a selection of work by many of Adelaide’s leading contemporary printmakers. Curated by Christobel Kelly artists were asked to consider the theme of ‘afterlife’, invoking the analysis of ruins and ruination as described by Walter Benjamin in his Arcades Project.

A number of the fourteen artists represented have explored the potential of working with the randomness of marks left as a trace of earlier projects. Lorelei Medcalf’s exquisite artist’s book comprises collaged segments from etchings that take on hybrid forms constructed from industrial landscapes and plants, all made from a richness of mark making textures. Similarly Simone Tippett has explored the ghost print‘s relationship to its source, in this case a heavily corroded metal plate. She achieves a sense of transience in the subtle traces made on strips of monoprinted paper that seem to hover somewhere between real time and remembered time.

Olga SankeyBloom: Burn, 2016, digital/intaglio, 23 x 40.5 cm.

Olga Sankey references a key concept in Benjamin’s analysis, that of the capacity of ruined objects to divulge insights into their former life. Her paired images can refer to the aftermath of actions, the consequent transformation from abundant life (bloom) to alternate states (burn/blush). Altered states feature in Aleksandra Antic’s long scroll-like silkscreen, giclee and monoprint. Taking as her point of departure an eroded fence that separates a section of the Botanic Gardens from the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the perforations become points of connection providing glimpses into very different social spaces.

Michele Lane’s series of intaglio prints reference the destruction of the Baalshamin temple at Palmyra in Syria. If Benjamin believed that ruination could lay bare the truth of an object one truth is surely that it is impossible to maintain permanence and continuity in a mutable world. Sandra Starkey Simon engages with a related subject in her large screenprint, collagraph and stencil print Firestorm which references the periodic destruction of the city of Magdeburg. Amid the piles of rubble signs of former lives can sometimes be found and even new life in the form of chrysalises.

Sandra Starkey-SimonFirestorm, 2016, screenprint, collagraph and stencil, 76 x 56 cm.

Suzie Lockery’s frieze like print evokes cosmic realms complete with an oval shaped portal that suggests access to other states, even to other parts of the universe. The shimmering points of light on the surface of the portal evoke the myriad of stars in our galaxy. Flanking images recall the background static that is now believed to be the aftermath of the big bang when the universe was a cauldron of intense heat.

Joshua Searson plays with screenprinted images of early film posters. Their fragments recall the layers of torn and over-pasted prints that once adorned the walls and display stands of cities throughout the world. These prints also reference Benjamin’s concept of the Dream World to describe the way that consumer goods and mass culture epitomised by Hollywood films can become the source of an alternative fantasy world that is both seductive and illusory.

This exhibition exemplifies a renewed interest in finding new forms of visual language derived from printmaking that are richly allusive yet capable of engaging the viewer for their graphic qualities.

Afterlife will be on display at West Gallery Thebarton until 10 September.

Geoff Gibbons is a foundation member and chairperson of Bittondi Printmakers Association Inc. that was formed in 2008 to provide an access workshop for artist-printmakers. He has taught printmaking in TAFE and at the Adelaide Central School of Art where he currently lectures in art history and theory.

Q&A with Clayton Tremlett

‘Originally I studied as a painter but the processes of printmaking, particularly the excitement of the reversed and uncontrolled magic of the first proof, eventually got me.’ 

Image: Clayton Tremlett with life mask, 2016. Photo: Carrington McArdle.

Why do you make art?

For me art making is about identifying connections and commonalities in life experience. In more recent years my practice is about examining history and drawing from events or people that influence my identity, to make works that encourage others to reflect on who they are.

I enjoy aesthetic challenges and also like to make print projects that use the printing industry or printed matter like wallpaper or stamps as a historical context.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

It’s about experimentation with materials and processes, by challenging or corrupting a traditional technique and cultivating something personal.

When I started printmaking, my focus was multi-colour reduction linocuts (up to twenty colours) because of the textural beauty I found in the layering of ink.

For my most recent series Beard and Influence I have advanced a technique I’m calling Laser Resist Etching which combines photography, Photoshop and the photocopier to make a new form of photo etching.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I suspect it was subconscious connection with my father’s practice of carving leather. As a child, I recall watching him use a swivel knife and tools to effortlessly cut and sculpt leather which has many parallels to carving lino with a scalpel and then removing the waste with gauges.

Originally I studied as a painter but the processes of printmaking, particularly the excitement of the reversed and uncontrolled magic of the first proof, eventually got me.

Who is your favourite artist?

Favourite is a transient thing. Many artists have been very influential depending on their ideas and technical skills. I admire artists for their individual pursuit of a personal expression and this translates across many disciplines. If I had to name a favourite sustained influence it would be the electronic music of Kraftwerk and their conscious aesthetic as it relates to visual art.

 What is your favourite artwork?

This too is transient and dependant on a particular changing set of receptive moments in life. Recently I travelled with my family to Vietnam and was overwhelmed with the technique of lacquer engraving on panels. Although it is an old technique it was a new experience for me and for a time my most favourite type of work because of its combination of carving and painting.

In my hall at home is a portrait of Captain Cook by Rew Hanks. I particularly enjoy looking at this work because of its technical skill and confidence with the medium.

Where do you go for inspiration?

More recently that would be the Public Records Office in Melbourne.

History is tangible when you are holding a book that is over a hundred and forty years old with detailed information on a prisoner’s appearance, crime, punishment, religion, occupation and tattoos.

Crime and Punishment and Inking Up are artist book projects that explore prisoners held in the old Castlemaine Goal. Crime and Punishment focused on the types of sentences you could get for misdemeanours like riding your bicycle on the footpath (one day), while Inking Up highlights tattoos favoured by a selection of prisoners in the 1890’s – the most common being an anchor between the thumb and forefinger.

What are you working on now?

My current exhibition has taken four years to produce. The works are large scale self-portrait linocuts in the guise of twelve bearded Australian Bushrangers. This was my first performative series where I grew diverse hirsute appearances in order to re-create the original photograph of each bushranger.

After each project, I like to flip the concept to see what is revealed on the other side. Following on from Bushrangers it seemed logical to research the phenomenon of being lost in the bush.

I am also documenting central Victorian ANZAC memorials (the lone soldier) as the central image for a series of anti-war linocut prints.

Collection as Nexus: Community, Culture, Connections

John Coburn, Sacred site, 1987, screenprint. Image courtesy of the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.

Wagga Wagga Art Gallery is the home of the Margaret Carnegie Print Collection, which holds over fifteen hundred original works by Australian artists. For the past three years this collection has been used as a nexus for education and engagement programs, making connections through printmaking.

These broad ranging programs have built upon and expanded successive iterations of outreach initiatives that have used printmaking to involve community and cultural perspectives. The success of these programs has also been founded upon partnerships across multiple institutions, particularly between the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), and the Arts Unit of the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities.

One of the programs, Ngulagambilanha: be returning home, has used artworks by Indigenous artists H J Wedge, Tommy McRae, and Lorraine Connelly-Northey from the AGNSW collection, and, from the Margaret Carnegie Print Collection, Wiradjuri artist Roy Kennedy’s prints My original mission – Darlington Point and Booligal weigh station. These etchings have been used as a catalyst for students to explore techniques and ideas at the on-site workshops at Wagga Wagga, which also drew heavily upon the AGNSW education kit Home: Aboriginal art from New South Wales.

Kennedy also participated in a video-excursion from the AGNSW during this program. Kennedy provided a particularly strong focus as he grew up on Police Paddock Mission during the Depression, then moved away when his mission closed in 1941. His work draws on ‘his mother’s stories and his own experience … documenting a life of dislocation and deprivation, from the Depression years up until the abolition, in 1940, of the notorious Aborigines Protection Board that managed the missions in New South Wales.’[1]

Roy Kennedy, My original mission – Darlington Point, undated, etching. Image courtesy of Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.

Another education program KaPOW! (Kids and Print Outreach Workshops) has featured a broad range of prints from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, including G. W. Bot, Jock Clutterbuck, John Coburn, Rona Green, Treahna Hamm, Arone Raymond Meeks, and Judy Watson. These works have provided models for different printmaking techniques which were then integrated into participatory workshops. For example, John Coburn’s Sacred site screenprint was used to model the reduction relief printmaking process.[2]

This expansive suite of programs has generated a synergistic flow of energy, creativity and expertise across a broad range of regional, remote and rural communities. The Gallery itself has provided a welcoming environment to bring together local Indigenous representatives, specialist print educators, curatorial staff across multiple disciplines, and learners of all ages. In addition, the development of complementary outreach programs has brought the Gallery out of the institutional framework and into the wider region – significantly encouraging participation from community groups lacking previous experience of arts-focused education activities.

Engagement programs such as KaPOW! and Ngulagambilanha demonstrate how the use of well-established collections can provide an innovative and rich means of reaching out into communities, as well as extending the traditional exhibition focus of galleries. Many different programs can be initiated and structured around these collections, relating to cultural contexts, art making and appreciating. Such programs also enable the development of strong connections between the art gallery and its collections, and the community not just within the artistic sphere but well beyond. In turn, this provides opportunities to open up a greater discourse around cultural practices, community engagement and artistic practice in reference to collections.

 

Gulbalanha: know and understand each other is the culmination of the second utilisation of the partnership between AGNSW, The Arts Unit and WWAG. On display at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery from 17 September to 20 November 2016.

 

References

[1] Hetti Perkins in Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2014

[2] Linda Elliott, ‘Catalysing Collections’, Imprint Vol. 48 No. 3, 2013.

Linda Elliott is Curator Education and Public Programs at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.

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.