A Postcard from Melissa Smith: Printed Stuff

All images were taken during the opening of Printed Stuffcourtesy of Melissa Smith.

Hi All,

Great opening at the s.p.a.c.e. Gallery in Launceston on Thursday (5/5) for the show Printed Stuff, one of the shows on the calendar for the Year of Print … wonderful turn out. David Marsden had accumulated an incredible collection of prints … almost a museum of print!! He had borrowed works form the University of Tasmania collection, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, private collectors and more! There was even a 1987 PCA poster on display! He had printed fabrics, toys, ceramics … it really is a fantastic exhibition!!

Have a read of Printed Stuff curator David Marsden‘s statement:

Before there was Banksy there were stencilled handprints in Australia and other places, followed a long time later in China by stamps and seals carved from stone, and, later again, in Europe by playing cards carved from pear wood. Then sometime later a Bible printed by Gutenberg and then Apocalypse by Dürer, and quite a while later by William Morris wallpaper and the floating world of Hokusai and then the German expressionist woodcuts.

The elaborate engravings of the silversmiths and armour makers became the Battle of the Sea Gods by Mantegna, then Dürer’s  Knight, Death and the Devil. In later times, along came engraved postage stamps and banknotes and maps and calligraphic letterheads and the Melbourne Cup. With chemistry came etched copper plates by Rembrandt and Goya and Piranesi and then Willow pattern plates and, by and by, the halftone plate for photographs and Bea Maddock. Somewhere along the chemistry line Aloys Senefelder quickly made a laundry list lithograph on limestone, a process which languished commercially until artists got hold of it and proved its worth – Benjamin West, Fuseli and Goya again, and Toulouse Lautrec, Kevin Lincoln and Jan Senbergs. Stencils in Japan became silkscreen in Britain, which became Liberty prints, enamelled street signs and then Reg Mombassa and Eat Your Garden posters and Chameleon.

The letterpress, which came down the linotype line from Gutenberg, became the The Illustrated London News with wood engraved illustrations, which gave way to the chemical etching of photographic plates and gravure and reigned supreme until Senefelder’s process lithography became offset onto everything from tin toys to Willow pattern tins, jam labels, book covers and The Examiner.  Now in its fiftieth year, the Print Council of Australia has long been devoted to print as art. This exhibition, Printed Stuff, celebrates this and the art of printing.

Melissa Smith is an artist and a PCA Committee Member.

Printed Stuff will be on display at s.p.a.c.e Gallery until 27 May.

Regionalism–Localism: The Debate Goes On

A page from the original article published in Imprint Autumn 1992, Volume 27 Number 1.

‘Anyone living and working as a visual artist in Central Victoria encounters difficulties similar to those artists working in almost any isolated area of Australia, be it Perth, Townsville, Mildura, etc.’

Cover for Imprint Autumn 1992 Volume 27 Number 1 featuring Filomena Coppola’s Retrospect, colour Xerox print, 28 x 38 cm.

The following article was written by Barry Weston, author and former Head of Printmaking at LaTrobe UCNV, Bendigo, and published in the Autumn 1992 issue of Imprint Vol. 27 No. 1.

In 1986, four Western Australian printmakers put together a funding submission, presented to the government, to establish an access print workshop in Perth. That year was not a good year for financial support towards print workshops – however, Mr Chris Prater, master printer and founder of Kelpra Studios, London, was in Perth (the final venue for a series of PCA organised workshops) and in his letter of support for the original submission, in part, stated that of the printmaking he had seen in WA, he was pleasantly surprised at the high level of technical proficiency and also of the strong conceptual content of the prints, given limited resources away from the mainstream of contemporary printmaking in a geographically isolated city such as Perth.

Anyone living and working as a visual artist in Central Victoria encounters difficulties similar to those artists working in almost any isolated area of Australia, be it Perth, Townsville, Mildura, etc.

It is extremely difficult for artists working in geographically remote areas not to be affected by the very vastness of this country, well away from what is regarded as the ‘centre’ of contemporary art practice and debate. It is easy to withdraw artistically and to create works whose criteria rely upon the standards of interest, originality, forcefulness and quality which exist and are nurtured outside of our own backyard – becoming regional – within this context, the meaning of regionalism is one of acceptance – the acceptance of simplistic answers to complex artistic questions – an art form not of identity but of artefact.

In fact art is culturally dependant, if artworks do perform a didactic function by reflecting the values, taste, sensitivities and concerns of a particular artist’s socio–cultural environment, it is very difficult for artists working in remote areas of this country, confronting contemporary art concerns, to have support and interest from that community for an art form whose criteria of relevance is not only visual but also conceptual.

Ironically it is not a geographic/isolation factor alone, nor is it one of population density which makes a city/town develop an exciting, stimulating community with sincere interest in the arts – this depends upon the quality of the artists themselves, the dialogue and interaction between themselves and the community and the community’s support and understanding. The town of Castlemaine in Central Victoria is an excellent example of this, sustaining an aware and enthusiastic interaction between artists and community, and also hosting an annual arts festival with diverse artists invited.

Bendigo and its region are served by Artspace Incorporated, an alternative gallery for contemporary art which also offers studio space. In the past Artspace has attempted to produce a quarterly art journal, specifically for addressing contemporary art ideas and debate. Little finance but great enthusiasm has kept this alternative venture going.

In an article in the December–January 1991-92 issue of Art Monthly Australia, Mr David Hansen reports on the recent ‘Off Centre’ conference organised by Umbrella Studios, Townsville, which addressed a number of issues raised here. In part, the article states – ‘Naturally, there was no consensus in this debate. Sarah Follent warned against regionalism as rhetoric, while Helen Waterman insisted that art is a silent practice. Some called for workshops, residences and seminars to bring the regions “up to speed” on current issues … All called for better utilisation of local media to promote and review regional art making.’

I would tend to agree with the consensus of this conference – that it should be possible to be confident of ‘making good art, right here, right now.’ However, the making and understanding of art is not a simplistic endeavour. It requires effort, imagination and an ability to articulate those specific concerns pertinent to the artist.

A good analogy is that of learning a second language – but a language which constantly changes its rules of grammar. In learning this language one has to accept constant re-learning as one works and views, for art is a self-conscious language, and understanding, describing and relating to the world is a very important part of its function. Sad to say there are numerous people in both city and township who see no relevance in ever attempting to learn a second language.

Nevertheless, there are artist/printmakers who produce strong work both technically and conceptually outside of the hermetically sealed Melbourne–Sydney axis, and those do address issues not of a localised phenomena, but, through the force of their own vision and determination, produce work that is of an international standard. Many of these are young women artists who have a commitment to content and expression as their foremost concern; they seem to have a more coherent attitude to the need for content and relevance in their art. The reasons may be varied, but this attitude has become a positive source of energy and intention for the present generation of emerging artists.

Two printmakers working in Central Victoria who readily come to mind are Ms Karen Hepworth and Ms Filomena Coppola.

Karen Hepworth works predominately in the mediums of screen, relief and corborundum prints. Her work deals with a broad and subjective analysis of the issues and social problems which concern her. Through all of her work there is an underlying feeling of black humour – these works revolve around exploitation, sexuality and sensuality. They become an attempt at resolving the dilemma of what is the difference between eroticism and pornography, of sexuality and sensuality. Is sexual behaviour (whether portrayed or enacted) anything to do with morals? Her work also attempts to visually represent gender differences specifically involving differences of emotional response.

Filomena Coppola works in the mediums of lithography, and screen, although she has worked in suites of colour Xerox prints. Thematically her work revolves around multiculturalism – the problems of an ethnic upbringing in an Australian environment, of attempt of reconciling a European cultural heritage with a white Anglo-Saxon tradition, a tradition which, until quite recently, has been intolerant of anything ‘foreign’.

In recent debates on multiculturalism issues, little has been addressed towards assimilation and its affect upon the first generation of migrants born in this country. Ms Coppola’s work addresses these issues with compassion and sensitivity and serves as an explanation from her point of view.

Her work attempts also to reconstruct a cultural identity, to answer specific questions of identity by utilising images, memorabilia, family photography, etc., in an attempt to clarify, to some degree, her confusion; to find answers to questions and simultaneously find her own specific identity. Her large screenprint A1 loves Betty and Betty loves A1 probably comes closest to resolving some of these questions.

In Decline of the West, Oswald Spangler wrote that art – ‘is a seismograph that gives advance notice of subtle changes in rhythm, the stirrings and rumblings from within a culture.’ Both of the artist/printmakers mentioned are among a large number of artist/printmakers, working in central Victoria, away from access print studios, contemporary art debate, major exhibitions, interactive dialogue, etc., but who nevertheless have addressed themselves to contemporary visual art concerns of our time and culture.

The regional artist who attempts to address such issues constantly find themselves in a frustrating dilemma; however, there are a number of strategies which can be utilised to overcome these problems.

Networking – loose associations of artists with similar interests and concerns; exchange print exhibitions – utilisation of local media to stimulate community support; co-operatives of pooled resources – utilisation of electronic media (e.g. fax exchange prints, etc.).

It is interesting and surprising for the artist who believes that they are living and working in a geographically isolated area to discover that within their own community there is enormous peer group and community support if they make that initial move to locate, explain, exhibit and discuss their work. Australian printmaking as an art form, has hopefully passed through the era of being the poor cousin to painting and sculpture, passed through the concept of being seen merely to be about its own internal dynamics of technique. Hopefully it has now reached the point of maturity to discover its true potential; to respond to the cultural, social, economic and political development of our society/culture at large.

A Postcard from Sonya Hender: Print Week at Quick Whippet Studio

All images were taken during Print Week at Quick Whippet Studio and are courtesy of Sonya Hender.

The Quick Whippet printmaking studio at Port Elliot is located at the creative hub of Factory Nine, conveniently next to a coffee roaster. Port Elliot is small seaside town in the Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia, with a population of about 2000 people during winter. It possibly has some similarities to the fictional Portwenn in Cornwall!

One of the aims of the studio is to provide a printmaking experience through
community events and open access studios. The doors to our large shed were open for five days and we had a number of visitors who came to learn screenprinting, non-toxic etching, lino and wood carving. Many young participants are employed in the town in a combination of part time work and study. The person who works at the bakery in the morning may serve you coffee at a café in the afternoon or dinner at the local restaurant. The ‘word of mouth’ about Print Week through these informal networks worked very well and the numbers of novice printmakers increased throughout the week.

We were also fortunate to have the participation of two very talented art teachers from local schools who have attended a series of workshops at the Quick Whippet Studio and know how to quickly locate specific materials. Workshops by Kathy Boyle, Geoff Gibbon, David Frazer, Christobel Kelly and Simone Tippett have been a great base for our open studios. Continuing interest in these artists and their various techniques contributed to our Print Week accompanied by much laughter and very inky hands.

Emma Sirona-MacDonald and I facilitated the various sessions and we enjoyed the fresh approach and problem solving of our participants. We learned that it was important to be flexible, supportive and to match different processes to individuals through a brief consultation on arrival. Some have done specific techniques at school and wanted to try something different, though specific iconography and screenprinting were very popular with our younger group. Some just wanted to work in companionable silence to music and the cosy wood fire. We enjoyed participants developing non-traditional techniques or creating new ways to print. The studio now has an interesting collection of objects, which were used as a starting point for a print.

We had to learn not to worry about ‘inky’ equipment and benches, while substitute and less expensive felts were useful. At the end of the day, we didn’t always have time to restore the studio, but in the mornings we were met with the welcoming sight of drying prints waiting to be collected, the beginning of new work and the rearrangement of work spaces, which made it all very rewarding. The Quick Whippet Studio will be relocating to a heritage building (formerly the Post Office), at 41 ‘The Strand’, Port Elliot, which is in the main street leading to the beach. We will be able to offer some evening sessions in our next Print Week to be held in October 2016. From 1 August, there will be a permanent exhibition of works from South Australian printmakers in the adjoining ‘Strand Gallery’. Given local enthusiasm and support of wonderful artists and teachers, the interest in printmaking in our town may rival other activities, although perhaps not surfing!

Q&A with Rew Hanks

In order of appearance: Rew Hanks, A Touch of Home, 2015, linocut, 75 x 111 cm; Captain and his Bunnies, 2015, linocut, 104 x 75 cm.

‘Now I make art to try and fulfil a continual creative pursuit. I usually enjoy solving the intellectual and technical processes and challenges that arise. I seem to have adopted the role of a type of ‘Pictorial Choreographer’ who invents complex narratives that evolve during their execution.’ 

Rew Hanks lives in Sydney, NSW.

Why do you make art?

As a child I intuitively made many drawings and paintings without hesitation or fear of criticism. It was a luxury of uninhibited creative freedom that was never to be repeated as the future became more complex with increased knowledge and continual self-appraisal. As a teenager in high school I was introduced to the history and theory of art and years of very limited practical tuition. The teachers and other students would often comment, ‘Only the dummies and delinquents choose art as a subject’. Fortunately I didn’t fit either of these categories. At art school I was overwhelmed by the endless possibilities of making all forms of art and obtained a broader appreciation of the historical and contemporary concepts of art. Now I make art to try and fulfil a continual creative pursuit. I usually enjoy solving the intellectual and technical processes and challenges that arise. I seem to have adopted the role of a type of ‘Pictorial Choreographer’ who invents complex narratives that evolve during their execution. Many of my friends from art school have given up producing art because of the financial burden, lack of exhibition opportunities and the poor general support from the community. For me making art has become a fundamental and intrinsic part of my life although at times continually being creative can feel a little like a curse.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Like most professional relationships it is good most of the time but it can be frustrating even infuriating, demanding and rewarding. We have a healthy respect for each other. The constant pressure to produce new and engaging works requires discipline, dedication and plenty of hard work. You must constantly challenge yourself to progress. During the many hours taken to cut my intricate linocuts I use this time to prepare new ideas and compositional concerns for the next work by quickly sketching possible images or concepts. Printmaking has become the major vehicle or outlet in which I use to help realise my creative output. This has evolved partially because of time constraints due to heavy teaching commitments. However it allows me the freedom to develop the work of my choice. We all have productive and not so productive days and must accept that not every print is going to sing. This happens to all artists no matter what medium they use. In the future I am very keen to resume my relationship with lithography and pursue wood engraving and embark on a series of small sculptural works.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

Similarly to most Australian school children I was introduced to linocuts in high school when I was about fifteen. The tools were rusty and blunt and the linoleum was brown, crumbling and brittle. We printed by hand rolling up with oil based Sakura inks and then used the back of a wooden spoon rubbing frenetically on the shiny side of a sheet of MG litho paper. Most of the impressions were smudged with the borders covered with inky fingerprints and the occasional splash of blood from nearly severed fingers. What a perfect introduction to a beautiful medium. It’s little wonder when students are reacquainted with the medium they uniformly shudder. I occasionally produced linocuts but was seduced by lithography in art school. After completing further training in America I produced mainly lithographs for many years, both mine and for other artists. However, for the last fifteen years I have exclusively exhibited linocuts because I thoroughly enjoy the physical act of carving and printing of the medium and also it gave me freedom to interrupt its execution at will unlike lithography.

Who is your favourite artist?

An impossible question to answer. There are too many to list.

Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Honoré Daumier, William Hogarth, George Stubbs, John Glover, Red Grooms, Edward Hopper, etc. They all offer something unique that might inspire an idea or maybe just to simply admire.

What is your favourite artwork?

Another impossible question to answer. It changes regularly. The process of discovering a ‘new’ favourite artwork keeps it exciting and refreshing. Visiting the Louvre, Uffizi, Rijks and MoMA museums is why I can’t attempt to answer this question.

Where do you go for inspiration?

As an artist you are continually absorbing images and ideas from everything around you. It might come from newspapers, journals, books, TV, the internet, exhibitions or just from a simple conversation. All of which are stored in your memory waiting to be reactivated when needed. Mobile phones and  iPads are also regular methods of instantly capturing a spectacular bank of clouds or unique shadow. However being surrounded by too much stimulus, both cognitive and visual, occasionally leads to frustration because of the lack of time to bring some of these ideas to fruition.

What are you working on now?

I have just shipped off thirty-five linocuts to Redcliffe Art Gallery in Brisbane for a survey exhibition that opens on 7 May. I’m a finalist in the Basil Sellers Prize which opening on 22 July at the Ian Potter Museum in Melbourne. The work must relate to sport in Australia. All the prints I have produced portray Captain Cook playing cricket, golf and surfing with a satirical contemporary twist. This sporting theme will continue but with Indigenous references for my first solo exhibition in Melbourne which opens at Nicholas Thompson Gallery on 22 September. I have just been awarded Third Prize in the Bietigheim-Bissingen’s Graphic Arts Prize Linocut Today X and hope to attend the award ceremony on 15 July in Germany.

 

 

Photocopy Transfer for Lithography and Relief Processes

The original article published in Imprint Summer 1995 Volume 30 Number 4.

‘I first used the wintergreen oil in Albuquerque during a four-week workshop at Tamarind Institute of Lithography. I purchased a small quantity at a local ‘drugstore’ and brought it home carefully wrapped in my hand luggage.’

Cover for Imprint Summer 1995 Volume 30 Number 4 featuring David Brand‘s Blue Bird, 1995, etching, 29 x 22.5 cm, printed by Martin King and Rob Dott at the Australian Print Workshop.

This article was written by artist Kaye Green, former lecturer in Printmaking, Monash University College, Gippsland (now Federation University), and published in the summer 1995 issue of Imprint, Volume 30 Number 4.

After using thinners or acetone for many years for transferring photocopies onto lithographic plates and stones, I was pleased to learn that Methyl Salicylate (wintergreen oil*) gives a better result and is much safer to use. Recently I needed to transfer a great deal of detailed information onto lino and as I pondered over the time consuming task ahead of tracing the information, I decided to try using the lithographic photocopy transfer technique with my lino blocks. The transfer worked perfectly and I have also successfully tried the process on wood. The process is similar for both litho and relief print transfer.

Transferring onto lithographic plates or stone
Prepare a reasonably fresh photocopy (24 hours) of the material to be transferred. Place the matrix onto the bed of the press and set up normal printing pressure. Pour the wintergreen oil onto a clean soft rag and spread evenly onto the stone or plate using enough to leave an even film of the oil on the surface of the stone. Position the photocopy face down and cover with a sheet of acetate and newsprint. Position the tympan and run the press through three times in the same direction, fan dry and either process or add further drawing.

Transferring onto lino or wood
Prepare a reasonably fresh photocopy (24 hours) of the material to be transferred. Place the matrix onto the bed of the press and set up a normal printing pressure. Pour the wintergreen oil onto a clean soft rag and spread evenly onto the lino or wood using enough to leave a smooth even film on the surface of the lino or wood. Position the photocopy face down and cover with a sheet of acetate, newsprint, a sheet of cardboard and one blanket. Run the press through once and check the transfer. If necessary, run the press through again for a stronger impression.

The transfer can be washed off with turpentine (lino or wood) or wintergreen oil (stone or plate) within ten or fifteen minutes but if it is left for any longer it is very difficult to remove.

I first used the wintergreen oil in Albuquerque during a four-week workshop at Tamarind Institute of Lithography. I purchased a small quantity at a local ‘drugstore’ and brought it home carefully wrapped in my hand luggage. When I arrived home I realised I would need more. I started worrying that I might have to have emergency supplies sent to me from the USA if I had trouble finding it in Australia. I need not have worried. My precious bottle of wintergreen oil purchased in Centre Avenue, Albuquerque, had been manufactured by Boronia Oils, Batemans Bay, New South Wales!

*Wintergreen oil may be obtained at pharmacies or health food shops.

Kaye Green now lives and works as a full time artist in Hobart.

Q&A with Samuel Tupou

Samuel Tupou, Evermore Repeata, 2015, silkscreen on magnani litho, 50 x 70 cm.
Samuel Tupou lives in Queensland. His print Falé Machina, produced as part of the 2014 PCA Print Commission, is available to purchase through the PCA online store.

Why do you make art?

To exorcise the inner dialogue.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Screenprinting has been a constant in my practice ever since I became interested in making art. I enjoy the craft of printmaking, using tools, equipment and process to convert ideas and thoughts into realised artworks.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

My high school art teacher suggested that I try screenprinting some of my drawings, I was immediately captivated by the colours, sharp edges and smooth finishes of the ink.

Who is your favourite artist?

Howard Arkley

What is your favourite artwork?    

Green Stripe by Henri Matisse, I had a poster of this painting on my wall  as a teenager, it really stood out, the rest of my room was wallpapered with early 90s heavy metal posters.

Where do you go for inspiration? 

Everyday stuff: catching a train with my kids, listening to music, yarning with friends, photo albums, moments in time.

What are you working on now? 

I am finishing of a new series of colour halftone works for an exhibition at Pine Rivers Art Gallery in Brisbane and later in the year I have a show at Linden New Art in St Kilda.

Samuel Tupou‘s exhibition Duplikator will be on display at Pine Rivers Art Gallery from 30 April to 4 June, and at Linden New Art from 20 July to 9 October. www.samueltupou.com

Q&A with Winsome Jobling

In order of appearance: Winsome Jobling, Lunar globe – res communis, 2009, drypoint on handmade paper from recycled mooring rope of Manila hemp using a taser-cut shaped deckle, 70 x 171 cm; Watermark Moon, 2011, handmade pigmented paper from cotton and abaca with stencil and watermarks, 55.3 x 20.3 cm.

‘Paper is a ubiquitous material, a carrier of world history, stories and economy – we take it for granted and the computer age hasn’t dented its production. My print works begin with the focus idea and then making the paper substrate – the material adds to the story.’ 

Winsome Jobling lives in Darwin, NT.

This is a busy time for you with your recent exhibition Ground at Nomad Art and your current survey the nature of paper at the Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory (MAGNT). Can you tell us more about these exhibitions and the process of putting them together?

I have had an exhibition at Nomad Art annually for the past seven years. This year’s exhibition focused on the surface of the earth, the ground as soil, the substrate for plant growth, and life on the planet. Imagery of plant root structures mimic the branching structure of plants above the ground, the bifurcation of river systems form the source to the sea, and the pathways of the blood via veins and arteries in our bodies. Family trees follow the same branching patterns and link us to our beginnings. The tree of life. Throughout the development of this body of work the handmade paper ‘ground’ became more suggestive and experimental. The papermaking ‘set the scene’ for the print plate vocabulary. For me, the ground for my prints is the most important part of the work.

Winsome Jobling: the nature of paper is a major survey exhibition at MAGNT that covers twenty-six years of my practiceThe exhibition took over a year in development and is also testament to the inspiration of Director Marcus Schutenko, as well as Exhibitions Manager Wendy Wood, curator Angus Cameron and the Museum team who put this exhibition together. There are sixty works in the exhibition: prints, sculptures, drawings and installations as well as a 100-page catalogue. I am still bemused but thrilled by the attention!

How did you start as an artist?

As a kid my sister and I had an Art Club on Saturdays – just us two! I did bits of courses in industrial and graphic design and advertising and then went to art school where I majored in painting and fibre arts. Then I went to Darwin and a whole new world, learning from people whose knowledge stretches back over 40,000 years, whose links to the land and the natural world transcend the physical realm. This experience has combined with and underpins my work. If I don’t make art then my world is not right.

What is it about paper that attracts you?

Paper is a ubiquitous material, a carrier of world history, stories and economy – we take it for granted and the computer age hasn’t dented its production. My print works begin with the focus idea and then making the paper substrate – the material adds to the story. I was inspired by the power of paper when handed a piece of paper by John Risseeuw at a conference. It was a petition to the US government demanding the end to land mines – at the bottom it said ‘this paper made from the pulped clothes of land mine victims’ – I dropped it.

In my own work, for example, I have used hemp mooring rope to make the paper for Lunar Globe – res communis (2009) which alludes to major explorations in the past to plunder new world discoveries and the proposed mineral exploration on the moon.

The possibilities of the final sheet are endless: each plant fibre lends intrinsic qualities, pigments and images can be embedded in the sheet forming process and watermarks that can be hidden or exposed.

Do you have particular rituals or routines that contribute to your creative process?

The seasons have become a routine when making paper. Simplistically according to white fellas we have only two seasons in the top end but age old Indigenous knowledge recognises the nuances of six seasons. I collect fibre plants over the wet season when plants are verdant and supple with sap making them easier to harvest and prepare. I often rinse the fibre in monsoon rainwater under the downpipe after cooking.

What do you hope people will get from the experience of viewing your work?

I hope people make links between the material and the image to extrapolate the bigger picture of the interconnectedness of all things.

What is next for you?

I am making two bodies of work: one more print-based looking at the local and iconic sand palm Livistona humilis, the other larger and more experimental works are continuing to focus on the ‘chatter’ or vibrations in the negative spaces between everything around us as well as the recently discovered gravitational waves that distort spacetime. Past, present and future all at once.

Canzone – Music as Storytelling

Wendy Garden, Curator of Australian Art at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, reviews Angela Cavalieri‘s current exhibition, the result of a five-year exploration of Monteverdi’s madrigals, now on display at the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, Parap, NT.

In order of appearance: Angela Cavalieri, Canzone – Music as Storytelling (installation view showing left to right: Combattimento, 2013, and Il ritorno, 2015); Canzone – Music as Storytelling (installation view showing left to right: Ragionando, 2015; Gira …, 2014; and Giro, 2015). Below: Ragionando, 2015, hand-printed linocut, acrylic on canvas, 212.5 x 150.5 cm; All images courtesy of the artist and NCCA.

Opera today is loved for its melodrama and the expressive scores that give life to its narratives. It is essentially musical storytelling and this is what interested Angela Cavalieri in her investigations into the music of Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), brought together in the exhibition Canzone – Music as Storytelling currently on display at the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art in Darwin.

Monteverdi is often credited with creating the first opera, L’Orfeo in 1607, but this is incorrect. What he did do, however, was create the first great opera, which gave rise to the modern form as we know it today.[1] Frequently hailed as the father of opera, Monteverdi changed opera by creating musical drama based on real people and historic events. He placed human emotions at the fore seeking a union between words and sound.

Monteverdi was an obvious choice when the Arts Centre in Melbourne commissioned Cavalieri to create a work about opera five years ago. Cavalieri has long been interested in the spoken word: the language of gossip; of love; of the tales we tell; of the things that we say and don’t say; of the things better left unsaid; of the words that can hurt or heal – and the magic of storytelling itself. Her recent foray into musical narrative, inspired by Monteverdi’s operas and madrigals, has enabled her to develop this further and draws upon her own experiences of her father singing stories to her as a child.

The Arts Centre commission was followed by a State Library of Victoria Creative Fellowship from 2012 to 2013. This enabled Cavalieri to research more thoroughly the musical scores and original sixteenth century texts and the Italian poets that inspired Monteverdi.

In 2015 Cavalieri undertook a residency in Venice at La Scuola Internazionale di Grafica and this enabled her to explore the city where Monteverdi was based in the last decades of his life. One of the significant works to come out of this residency is Il Ritorno, 2015, based on Monteverdi’s opera Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria – the story of the return of Ulysses after the Trojan wars. Constructed as a double-arched bridge over the water that swirls beneath, it calls to mind the bridges of Venice and makes reference to the twin movements of departure and return. But it also powerfully underscores the way in which words fundamentally create bridges between people. Without language and the level of deep communication it allows, we would, in many ways, remain somewhat isolated from each other. It is through words that we connect together forming bonds that encompass a broad and nuanced range of emotions.

While some of her images can be seen as a more literal response to the music and the occasion of its performance, for instance Pur ti miro, pur ti godo, 2012, other images are more abstract in their treatment. An example is Ragionando, 2015, from Monteverdi’s Seventh Book of Madrigals. It is a response to the moment in the story when the two lovers kiss. They lament that while declaring their love they cannot kiss and while they kiss they cannot speak of their love – what joy if they could ‘kiss the words and to speak the kisses’. Cavalieri gives visual form to the dilemma entwining text in ribbons that interlace to create forms that have a roundedness vaguely reminiscent of pursed lips. Likewise Giro, 2015, is a play with the visual form of rounded sounds that repeat and pivot creating spirals.

Cavalieri has built an international reputation for her formidable lino-prints that give visual form to sounds, rhythms and tempos. This compelling exhibition allows us to enter into the music of Monteverdi and reflect upon the timeless narratives at the heart of his moving scores.

 

[1] Tom Ford, ‘Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and the invention of opera,’ Limelight, August 2012. Accessed 5 April 2016.

Canzone – Music as Storytelling will be on display at NCCA until 7 May, 2016.

 

Bea Maddock: A Lifetime of Innovative Printmaking

The original article published in Imprint Winter 2013 Volume 48 Number 2.

‘For Maddock the process of creating the work of art is an essential element of the final result, requiring concentration, stamina and conceptual rigour.’

Cover for Imprint Winter 2013 Volume 48 Number 2 featuring Tony Ameneiro‘s Floral Head with Infinity Ear, 2013, multi-plate colour monotype, 76 x 56 cm.

Following the sad news of Bea Maddock’s death last weekend, and as a tribute to this inspiring artist, we revisit an article written by Alisa Bunbury, Curator, Prints and Drawings, NGV, and published in the winter 2013 issue of Imprint, Vol. 48 No 2. It appeared during the NGV‘s survey exhibition Bea Maddock, 14 February to 21 July, 2013.

Bea Maddock is one of Australia’s most significant artists, recognised in particular for her innovative and evocative prints. Through her art Maddock explored issues of loneliness, vulnerability and autonomy, and in her later work pursued investigations into place, environment and Australia’s contested histories. Maddock’s name and art are less widely known than might be expected for an artist of her stature. Although she exhibited widely over many years, she never catered to the art market. Her printed editions were small and her art was acquired more frequently by institutions than by private collectors, and in her later years she opted out of the commercial gallery system. A survey of her art was held at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1980 and major exhibitions were organised by the National Art Gallery, Wellington, which toured New Zealand in 1982–83, and jointly by the Queensland Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Australia, which toured Australia in 1991–92. Thus the current exhibition of Maddock’s art at the NGV is the first to survey her entire output. Based on the Gallery’s strong holdings, it inevitably omits some key examples of her art held in other collections, but nevertheless spans from the earliest etchings to her last great panoramic work, completed in 1998.

Born in Tasmania in 1934, Maddock trained and worked as an art teacher before heading to London to undertake post-graduate study at the Slade School (1959-61) where she first had access to printmaking facilities and training. Her earliest prints include a number of painterly lithographs and prints exploring the tonal possibilities of hard- and soft-ground etching and aquatints, primarily based on life studies undertaken at the School and strongly influenced by the prints of Georges Rouault.

On her return to Tasmania Maddock taught art at the Launceston Teacher’s College, painting, drawing, printing, making ceramics and creating the occasional sculpture in her own time. Lacking access to a press, she printed relief prints and lithographs by hand. She held her first solo show in a Launceston shopfront in 1964. The positive reception of this exhibition encouraged her to move to Melbourne, where fellow Slade student and friend Murray Walker included her work in Six Young Printmakers, at the Argus Gallery later that same year. However the move did not result in opportunities for employment and exhibitions as she had hoped; instead it was a period of great loneliness and introspection. This is apparent in the woodcuts and drypoints Maddock made at this time, which are powerful investigations into isolation and identity. Always frugal, Maddock used wood from fruit packing crates for roughly cut woodcuts, inspired by German Expressionist prints that she had seen on visits to the NGV. The small drypoints, and full editions of the woodcuts, were printed on her return to Tasmania.

For the next five years Maddock continued to work in Launceston, exhibiting in group exhibitions, being selected for print shows and winning several art prizes. Survey exhibitions of her art were shown in Ballarat in 1969, and in Launceston in 1970. During this period Maddock began to explore screenprinting, which had principally been a commercial process but was proving to be the perfect medium for pop art’s incorporation of advertising and contemporary visual culture, and the current movement of Colour Field painting, with its bold use of solid colour. Despite the lack of a darkroom, Maddock’s desire to incorporate photography into her prints was such that she even hand-copied enlarged dots onto screens, one of many examples that show her determination to achieve the desired result, however laborious the process may be.

In 1970 Maddock moved to Melbourne again when she was appointed as lecturer in printmaking at the NGV Art School (in 1973 this became part of the VCA). Here she had access to state-of-the-art facilities including a darkroom, with students keen to learn new methods. However, Maddock soon abandoned screenprinting in her own art and turned to photo-etching. One of the very first artists in Australia to explore this technique, Maddock learnt from a commercial photo-engraver. Using photographs selected from newspapers and magazines, and later her own photographs of personal items and surroundings, she then worked onto the plates by hand, creating powerful representations of contemporary life, ranging from images of war, such as Gauge (1976), to objects of daily use such as Chair II (1974). These enigmatic prints were challenging to many, but soon gained Maddock widespread recognition – three prints were acquired for the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1973, and by the end of the decade she was selected to represent Australia in Indian and Canadian art exhibitions and projects. In 1979 a substantial twelve-part mural was commissioned for the newly built High Court in Canberra.

As a counterpoint to the large-scale prints and commissioned works, in the later 1970s Maddock began producing art that was increasingly tactile and textural. She returned to painting, which she had ceased since moving to Melbourne, and began to combine techniques and media such as paper making, book binding, letterpress text and encaustic wax. For Maddock the process of creating the work of art is an essential element of the final result, requiring concentration, stamina and conceptual rigour. The inclusion of text in her art became increasingly evident, as in paintings such as Disquiet (1981) which was influenced, as was much of her work, by the art of Jasper Johns. Maddock resigned from the VCA in 1981 and taught part-time, inviting students to share the facilities at her Macedon house and studio. This was destroyed in the disastrous Ash Wednesday fires, thirty years ago this year, and her house, possessions, equipment and art collection were lost. Maddock stoically continued with plans to return to Launceston later that year, while also establishing a studio in the Victorian goldfields town of Dunolly, which she visited regularly until 1990.

A forty-day voyage to the Antarctic in the summer of 1987 inspired a return to the landscape as subject matter, for the first time since her student days, and encouraged an increasing awareness of Tasmania’s Indigenous history, which she explored in subsequent works of art. Panoramic multi-panel landscape paintings and prints form the majority of Maddock’s later work, few in number but each the result of considerable thought, preparation, research and sketches. The most magnificent and overwhelming of these is her final panorama TERRA SPIRITUS … with a darker shade of pale (1993-98), a view of the entire coast of Tasmania depicted from the sea in which issues of traditional ownership, British colonisation, recognition and reconciliation are evoked with great beauty, simplicity and power. Made from local ochre mined and prepared by Maddock herself, the work comprises an extraordinary fifty-one sheets (plus title page) which, when installed, spans forty metres, and was made in an edition of five, plus an artist’s proof. Maddock called on her decades of printmaking expertise and created the work using stencils to impress the outlines into the paper, working the ochre either into the lines, like an intaglio plate, to create the dark forms of the mountains, and leaving the lines free of pigment, like a relief block, for the highlights of the sea. The geographical locations are named, in letterpress text for the English place names, and in cursive script for the Indigenous names that appear to float across the sheet. While its vast size limits its exhibition (the NGV has twenty sheets displayed) and its reproduction, and thus a more widespread awareness of this drawing-print, it is, without doubt, a master work.

Since completing TERRA SPIRITUS in 1998 Maddock has been working to record her life’s output, in conjunction with many staff at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston. Through her generosity, QVMAG holds the most substantial collection of her art, including prints, paintings, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, studies and numerous sketchbooks. A result of this diligent cataloguing and researching was published in 2011 in the catalogue raisonné of Maddock’s art from 1951 to 1983, edited by Daniel Thomas. This weighty tome is both informative and accessible, containing an overview of Maddock’s oeuvre, a biography, and an analysis of her materials and techniques during these decades, followed by entries for over 900 works, many with comments by Maddock herself. Volume two, examining Maddock’s art from 1984 to 1998, is currently being prepared by Irena Zdanowicz. In addition to these, a small publication accompanies the NGV exhibition.

The Unstable Image

Christobel Kelly reviews a new printmaking exhibition at SASA Gallery (South Australian School of Art Gallery), Adelaide, in which artists explore and challenge the inherent qualities of the medium.

Above: Aleksandra Antic, Lapse, 2013, screenprint on drafting film, 350 x 240 x 80 cm (approx). Below left: Paul Coldwell, Conversation II, 2014, inkjet and relief, 55 x 70 cm (image) 59 x 84 cm (paper). Below right: Joel Gailer, Hotmetal, 2016, screenprint on reflective mylar, 179 x 124.5 cm.

For printmakers, engagement with transparency functions on many different levels. Maybe the artist is making work that invites the viewer to look through something in order to see something else. Or maybe, as suggested by Professor Paul Coldwell in his catalogue essay for the The Unstable Image, the artist is laying bare the process by which the image is constructed. For each of the participating artists there is a sense that their work is somehow multilayered in terms of the constructed image, as well as multilayered in terms of meaning attached to the sociopolitical origins of printmaking itself.

In Aleksandra Antic’s screenprint Lapse, veils of translucent drafting film hang breezily from the ceiling, a dark silhouette of a person’s head at the base of each strip sweeping the floor. The shifting materiality of this diaphanous work belies the voicelessness of the sweeping silhouettes: a kind of cultural muteness inherent in the experience of geographical and linguistic displacement.

Language and text also sit at the core of Marian Crawford’s bibliophilic work Antiquities. Taking the transparency of archived glass lantern slides, Crawford has captured these images of ruined arches from ancient buildings and augmented them with letterpress text in an artist’s book, which juxtaposes the charm of glass slide images with the searing contemporary vicissitudes of the Middle East.

Joel GailerAlso concerned with the site of conflict, Paul Coldwell’s work plays with our viewpoint. Coldwell’s two-plate etching Plane presents a visual conundrum wherein photographic dots are enlarged to the point where we are not quite sure whether we are looking at them or through them. We are somehow looking down from above, and through the plane to the building. Thus a tiny shudder is enacted where the image slips from large scale to small scale, and then back again.

The exciting physicality of printmaking is revealed in the work of Performprint. This Melbourne based duo, Joel Gailer and Michael Meneghetti, engage in a roistering performance of the act of printmaking using, among other things, a skateboard as matrix. Another work in the exhibition is Gailer’s mirrored screenprint Hotmetal, which casts a pool of warm light down on to the gallery floor. This pellucid puddle of light shining on the harsh concrete elicited one of the audience to comment, ‘It felt wrong to step on it.’ Is this the print? Certainly the text on the floor now reads the right way round.

An engagement with ethereal text can also be seen in Olga Sankey’s work Ghostwriting where the acrylic sheets are transparent to the point where we are able to see through each finely printed layer. In that sense perhaps this palimpsest of transparencies leads us, the viewer, through each delicate layer to the point where the shadow is the print.

And so this disarming exhibition, which engages with unstable images that reveal and obscure at the same time, perhaps fulfils a longer definition of transparency: the ability to transmit light without substantially scattering it, so that things lying beyond are clearly seen.

The Unstable Image will be on display at SASA Gallery until 22 April, 2016.