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.

Fred Genis: Master Printer

A page from the original article published in Imprint Winter 2010 Volume 45 Number 2.

‘Genis provided his own model for the modern printmaking studio. Contrary to the communal atmosphere of Stanley Hayter’s Atelier 17 model, where both emerging and established artists often worked side by side, Genis preferred working with one artist at a time, creating the right environment to work in and produce art at a peaceful, unhurried pace.’

Cover for Imprint Winter 2010 Volume 45 Number 2 featuring GW Bot‘s Paddock Glyphs – Garden of Poets, 2008, linocut on Korean Hanji paper, artist’s proof, 94.5 x 61.5 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Australian Galleries.

This article was written by the current PCA President Akky van Ogtrop and published in the winter 2010 issue of Imprint, Vol. 45 No 2.

Akky van Ogtrop presented a public ‘conversation’ with retired master lithographer Fred Genis at Tweed River Art Gallery in Murwillumbah, NSW, in conjunction with the exhibition Printer’s Proofs: From the Fred Genis Collection. Here she reflects on Genis’s career and its effect on Australian printmaking.

When lithography was established in the late eighteenth century in Germany and spread throughout Europe, it became a known fact that the European printers always kept the mysteries of lithographic processing firmly to themselves. In the 1950s a number of lithographic studios were set up in America to explore and de-mystify these processes. Treating lithography as a science, they exposed all the wonderful techniques now available to others. By 1960 the USA took the lead in the advancement of lithography as a fine art form, as important graphic workshops were established: Universal Limited Art Editions [ULAE] on Long Island, founded by the late Tatyana Grossman, and the Tamarind Workshop, starting in Los Angeles and now located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, under the direction of June Wayne. These provided opportunities for collaboration between artists and master printers, which frequently resulted in innovative prints of great technical complexity. Other printing studios experimenting with combinations of photolithography and offset lithography have further expanded the potential of this medium.

The career of master printer Fred Genis coincided with this high point in printmaking. After studying in the Netherlands at the Amsterdam Graphic School[1], and many years of travelling and working mostly as a commercial lithographer around the globe, Genis went to the USA, where he was able to realise his dream of working as a lithographic printer in a number of fine art lithography studios.

Genis tells the story that, after reading an article in Newsweek[2] about June Wayne, the founder of Tamarind Workshop, he wrote her a letter asking if it was possible for him to study at Tamarind. To his surprise he received a letter back from her. She could not give him a grant but offered him a fellowship at the studio. His experience at Tamarind allowed him to develop skills through research and practice[3]. There he met Ken Tyler and worked in his workshop, Gemini in Los Angeles, before joining Irwin Hollander in partnership to form Hollander Workshop. Hollander Workshop printed the majority of the most important American Abstract Expressionist prints of the late 1960s. Painters such as de Kooning and Motherwell made some of their first lithographs in this innovative workshop.

According to Genis, de Kooning hated working directly on lithographic stone when he first tried it. He also quickly rejected aluminium plates. Genis and Hollander offered him transfer paper so that he could work in a manner more familiar to him. De Kooning spread his drawings on the sheets of transfer paper on the floor. He then cut them up and re-aligned sections of them to make collages. These collages were then transferred to plates for printing.

Genis has an impressive American track record but after eight years in the USA and then a further five years of working in the Netherlands, he finally decided in 1979 to move to Australia permanently. It was the right time because custom-printing had become a significant part of contemporary Australian printmaking practice. In the mid-to-late 1970s Sydney was the hub of custom-printing, mainly due to the activities of Port Jackson Press, established in 1975 by David Rankin.

Genis brought with him his complete lithographic workshop and settled with his family in Kenthurst in NSW. There he created a studio in the most idyllic environment. Since settling in Australia he has worked with Lloyd Rees, Brett Whiteley, Robert Jacks, Colin Lanceley, John Olsen, Guan Wei and many others. As each artist brought their individual talents and ideas to the studio, wherever his studio was, Genis was able to facilitate and extend the possibilities available to them.

As with Willem de Kooning, some of the Australian artists like Lloyd Rees also took some urging to try out lithography. But in 1980, after much persuasion from David Rankin from Port Jackson Press, Rees agreed to work with Genis and created The Caloola Suite, a suite of 67 lithographs. Genis continued to work with Lloyd Rees and printed his entire lithographic oeuvre.

His first Australian assignment was with John Olsen for a print commissioned by the Print Council of Australia. Genis recalls that the stone broke in two. He rang the Print Council to tell about this disaster. After some thought, the Print Council person asked him if it was possible to glue the stone together again.

Olsen lived close to Genis’s studio in Kenthurst. Genis invited Olsen to make a series of lithographs: Down Under. As with de Kooning, Genis introduced Olsen to transfer paper, and the directness of the process allowed the prints to have a freshness and spontaneity not possible with etching. For Olsen this method was ‘fabulous for picking up brush marks, any stain or blot’.

More than other printmaking techniques, artists using the lithography medium still largely depend on access to a good printer, and the development of the medium has been greatly influenced by when and where master printers have established their studios. Colin Lanceley remembers, when he came back to Australia in 1981, one of the first people he met was Fred Genis: ‘Fred is a wonderful lithographer. I’m sure you know his work. It’s been a tremendous privilege to work with him. I don’t think I could really, sort of, make prints at all – I have no equipment at home, for instance. I depend very heavily on the technical help and expertise of masters like Fred Genis.’[4]

Genis provided his own model for the modern printmaking studio. Contrary to the communal atmosphere of Stanley Hayter’s Atelier 17 model, where both emerging and established artists often worked side by side, Genis preferred working with one artist at a time, creating the right environment to work in and produce art at a peaceful, unhurried pace.

Teaching was another part of Genis’s career. From 1980–1982 he was employed as a lecturer by Sydney College of the Arts, where he set up the lithography studio, and in 1997 was appointed Head of Printmaking at the National Art School, Sydney. During these years lithography still formed an important part of printmaking education. However, with the introduction of new techniques, many art schools have since stopped teaching lithography and training opportunities are no longer available[5].

In 1993 Genis moved his studio to Blackwattle studios at the end of Glebe Point Road, overlooking Blackwattle Bay, where he continued printing and publishing until the studios were pulled down to be replaced with apartments. In 1999 he relocated with his family to Possum Creek in Northern NSW, where he continued to print for some of the artists that he had worked with previously.

Genis has now retired from printing. As he tells it: he started his printing career in Australia with John Olsen and he finished with John Olsen[6].

Fred Genis sold his entire workshop to The Art Vault in Mildura, where one of the focal points of the gallery is the hundred-year-old lithography press.

His story is an extraordinary account of artist/printer collaboration in the post-war era of printmaking.

 

The exhibition Printer’s Proofs: From the Fred Genis Collection showed prints made by eminent Australian artists in collaboration with Genis over a period of 15 years. It was displayed at Tweed River Art Gallery, Murwillumbah, NSW, 26 March – 9 July 2010.

Fred Genis published many portfolios in partnerships that aimed to encourage artists to use lithographic processes and promote lithography to the public. In 1995 he established Sherman Genis Graphics in partnership with Sherman Galleries. He also worked closely with publisher Lou Klepac from Beagle Press.

 

Additional notes from Fred Genis’ conversation with Akky van Ogtrop at Tweed River Art Gallery, Murwillumbah, 28 March 2010.

[1] On the advice of a family friend, Genis went to the Amsterdam Graphic School to learn lithographic printing with Coen Hafkamp: ‘As soon as I saw the hand presses I realised that I liked this medium and would focus on becoming a steendrukker (stone printer) and not a machine printer … I realised that I liked working with [artists] and I had skills in adapting to each artist’s style’.

[2] In conversation, Genis credited Newsweek with this article but Julianna Kolenberg refers to it in Time in her introduction to From the Studio of Master Lithographer Fred Genis, a retrospective exhibition 1963-1995, Melbourne: Westpac Gallery, 1997.

[3] ‘At Tamarind I needed a chop mark. Most printers used two letters but I wanted something different. I like chooks so I thought: why not a chook? That’s how I have a little chook chop mark. At Tamarind it also was customary to acknowledge the printer in the description of the print, something which is becoming more recognised now in museums and galleries.’

[4] Colin Lanceley, transcript of paper presented at the First Australian Print Symposium, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1989.

[5] ‘Lithography is disappearing at the moment at art schools. It is a medium which is hard to learn and it takes a long time … so the failure rate is high. With lithography you have to keep on doing it.

[6] ‘When we moved to Possum Creek… I thought that it was a good idea to make a print with John Olsen again. This time I decided that I would … take it easy. No large edition and no hurry. But the strange thing was that everything in the printing of the edition went wrong … Finally it clicked though, and I thought: I am going too slow. In printing an edition rhythm is very important. So I decided that instead of seven prints I would finish this one and quit. I told Rina (my wife) I have stopped printing, this is it and, yes, now I have to get used to this idea of retirement.’

A Postcard from Simone Tippett: 50 Prints in 50 Hours

During the first weekend of March 2016, over sixty printmakers and five studios in Auckland and South Australia printed simultaneously and collaboratively for nearly 100 hours. Participating studios:

Adelaide, AUS
Union St Printmakers (Simone Tippett)
Tooth & Nail (Jake Holmes & Joshua Searson)
Quick Whippet Studio (Sonya Hender, in Pt Elliot SA)
Studio Nick (Nick Falkner, in a Singapore Hotel)

Auckland, NZ
Blue Bathtub Press
(Toni Mosley)
Nathan Homestead

Clockwise from top: prints produced during the print marathon by the Union St Printmakers; participating printmakers at Blue Bathtub Press; participating printmakers at Union St Printmakers.

The idea of a community print marathon was conceived by Toni Mosley and Simone Tippett at the Eighth Australian Print Symposium at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, in May 2015. Toni and Simone swapped notes and got excited about Prue MacDougall’s (NZ) and James Pasakos’s (AUS) travelling print exchange Thinking of Place. They decided to organise a community print marathon, to happen simultaneously in Auckland and Adelaide, aiming for fifty prints in fifty hours, to celebrate the Print Council of Australia’s fiftieth anniversary in 2016. At the same time they hoped to bring people together to hang out over their presses, do something a little crazy and have fun.

Prints produced during the print marathon by Tooth & Nail.

Together, participants created monoprints by playing with each other’s plates and paper, randomly printing over each other’s work. From the results, fifty completed prints will be selected from each city, twenty-five of which will be swapped with the other city. Later this year each city will exhibit their twenty-five prints alongside the twenty-five prints given by the other city. All of the prints will be available for sale at the exhibitions. And all participants will receive a zine commemorating their involvement. (The zine will consist of prints from both regions.)

The theme of the print marathon was Compass, in part because of the different locations of the participating studios, and also because compasses look great on prints.

A print produced during the print marathon by the Union St Printmakers.

The prints are fabulously and unpredictably layered, having evolved in random and unspecified ways. Small groups of artists collectively made intuitive decisions, responding to each other and making their choices aesthetically. A print was declared ‘finished’ when a small number of the group (or an individual) decided the image felt complete. Each studio evolved its own unofficial aesthetic and, as the marathon played out, aesthetics developed and changed within studios over the course of the day as the participants came and went …

Prints produced during the print marathon by Blue Bathtub Press.

In all, it was a seriously fun and rewarding weekend. We plan to do it again, with even more studios next year. We hope it will become SOOOOO popular that we will awake one day to discover we’ve taken over the world with gatherings of folk monoprinting. Let’s face it, what printmaker doesn’t like to hang out and have fun? Yay!

Prints produced during the print marathon by Quick Whippet Studio.

Final Tally

Over sixty printmakers (ranging from kids and beginners, to experienced printmakers).
Five printmaking studios.
Auckland: over sixty finished prints in thirty-eight hours at one location (in two stretches of thirty-three and five hours respectively).
South Australia: over ninety finished prints in fifty-nine hours, in four locations and with fifty-eight people involved.
Most unusual print: carved soap print from coffee grounds by Studio Nick in a Singapore Hotel (see his account of printing recycled coffee grounds from hotel soaps below).
Consumed: hundreds of cups of tea and coffee, many pizzas and a few beers.
Happiness and joy: beyond words!
Likelihood of it happening again: absolutely!

Prints produced during the print marathon by Tooth & Nail.

Tips for Hotel Room Printers

Nick Falkner, a Union St Printmaker, was overseas at the time of the print marathon. Not one to miss out, he participated from his Singapore studio (ahem, hotel room) with found materials and limited art supplies:

Prints produced during the print marathon by Studio Nick (Nick Falkner) and process images from Nick Falkner‘s hotel room printing session.

I had so much fun doing this. The next time you are on a trip, it’s a real blast to run off some quick prints from soap and coffee grounds, on the run. Then, during clean up, you can use what’s left of your printing block in the shower. Total recycling! 

  1. Almost every hotel room has teeny tiny soaps that are almost useless. It turns out that this is because they are designed for printmaking and make excellent blocks.
  2. Tea spoons make quite acceptable carving styluses and barens (if you have a small brush, use the hard end as that’s great).
  3. Hotel windows make great light boxes (during the day).
  4. Soap is absorbent (duh) so watch your liquid levels as you have a limited time to print and, the more you print, the softer the block gets unless you let it dry out. When in doubt, just print.
  5. Coffee grounds make a tolerable sepia, with 3D effect.
  6. Poster colours and coffee don’t mix well but they do mix. Use that opacity in your favour!
  7. Coffee cups and saucers can be used as mixing stations.
  8. Hotel rooms are full of textures for rubbing, to add background.
  9. The space above the bar fridge is toasty and makes a great drying rack.
  10. Work in the bathroom, if you can. Everything in there is designed to be cleaned easily and you won’t make any mess for the cleaning staff.

It’s awesome fun. I’m going to do this again!