PCA Member Q&A: Emma Stoneman

Spinal Structure in Transformation [L2 + L3], 2015, archival inkjet print on cotton rag paper, 38.5 x 27cm (image size) 48.5 x 33cm (paper size). This print was selected for the 2015 PCA Print Commission. It is available to purchase through the PCA store.

‘I enjoy the meditation of exploring issues, ideas and concepts through a visual language, along with the challenges and restrictions posed by materials and the technical aspects of production that present themselves throughout the process.’ 

Emma Stoneman lives in Victoria

Why do you make art?

It seems so natural and ‘right’ to make art that I don’t really question what motivates me in my art practice. But for the most part, making art is a way of processing life and the world in a quiet and (wonderfully) solitary space – it represents time out of the ‘real’ world. I enjoy the meditation of exploring issues, ideas and concepts through a visual language, along with the challenges and restrictions posed by materials and the technical aspects of production that present themselves throughout the process.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

While my original interest and arts practice was founded in traditional methods of printmaking, I have worked with digitally produced prints since the mid 1990’s. My current practice is anchored by photography with images undergoing extensive digital editing and reworking to the point of abstraction. Even working digitally I approach the work with a very process driven methodology and production is print based.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I was first exposed to printmaking by an art teacher in the middle years of secondary school, and was immediately drawn to the process-driven nature of producing prints. Beginning with linocuts and collagraphs, I was totally hooked after doing a zinc plate etching in Year 10. After secondary school I went straight to university to study art and there was no question what studio to major in – it was printmaking all the way!

Who is your favourite artist?

My favourite art movements are Bauhaus and De Stijl, of which I could single out any one of the myriad artists, architects and artisans that produced such exceptional and ground breaking work during this period. And while I find many of those artists inspiring and among my favourites, my ultimate choice comes from a different time and genre completely.

Bernd and Hilla Becher have long been a source of interest and influence through their collaborative lifetime project of documenting industrial landscapes and the built environment. Their methodology, systematic approach, aesthetic, concept and resultant body of work with their trademark precision, composition and gridded groupings of beautiful images is admirable. Plus touring around Europe and North America in a Volkswagen Kombi Transporter van photographing factories, processing plants, blast furnaces, gasometers, silos, etc., has great romantic appeal to me!

What is your favourite artwork?

It is hard to pinpoint just one favourite artwork as the list of ‘favourites’ keeps developing and expanding over time. However, there are a few constants that are worthy of selection. Jessie Traill’s Building the Harbour Bridge series of etchings inspired me early in my printmaking studies and continues to resonate with me today on many levels. Roy Lichtenstein’s Preparedness is also a long-term favourite from my art school days. Robert Jacks‘s Metropolis series of paintings has been a more recent discovery for me, but one that has had a big impact.

But if I really had to name an outright favourite it would be the Schröder House designed by Gerrit Rietveld. Possibly an unusual choice for favourite artwork, but for me it encapsulates all that I love in art, architecture and design.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Often I turn to art, architecture and design books, galleries and museums for inspiration and motivation. But looking at the built environment, such as architectural, industrial and civil engineering projects through the viewfinder of my camera is when I feel most inspired.

What are you working on now?

I have a series of images underway using harbour cranes as the basis for a set of abstract compositions. This follows on from a series of prints that was completed last year based on the Erasmus Bridge. Both series of works utilise photographs captured on a ‘field trip’ around the Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands. These works form part of an ongoing investigation into the metaphoric comparisons between the built form and the human body. The crane and bridge images are a vehicle to explore and study the role of resistance, force and movement required for the human skeletal system to develop and sustain bone density.

I currently have a print included in the Thinking of Place exhibition which has toured to various venues in Australia and New Zealand. Its last showing is in my home town at the Post Office Gallery, Ballarat, from the 6 April to 21 May 2016.

www.emmastoneman.com

An Interview with Pat Brassington

A page from the original article published in Imprint Winter 1998 Volume 33 Number 2 featuring Pat Brassington‘s In My Mother’s House, 1994, silver gelatin prints, each 65 x 70 cm, collection of the AGNSW.

‘Perhaps without my stint in printmaking I would not have found ‘my way’ around photographic processes and without this engagement perhaps I would not have been prepared to embrace and explore digital technologies.’

This interview was conducted by the Tasmanian writer and curator Diana Klaosen and published in the winter 1998 issue of Imprint, Vol. 33 No 2.

With the Fremantle Art Prize for 1998 soon to be decided, it is timely to survey the work of last year’s winner, Tasmania’s Pat Brassington, nationally and internationally known as a photographer, whose work increasingly utilises computer technology and digital printing techniques. Pat combines her visual arts practice with her work as Co-ordinator of the University of Tasmania’s Plimsoll Gallery, arguably Tasmania’s major non-commercial art space, at the Centre for the Arts in Hobart.

The Centre’s Digital Art Research Facility (known as DARF) has, since its inception only a few years ago, won numerous accolades and major awards and grants. It was set up to capitalise on and promote contemporary interest in the new technologies in art-making and to give staff and PhD students a well resourced, supportive environment to explore the possibilities of this significant new medium. The Centre has several students working at PhD level. Amongst School of Art staff who were instrumental in establishing DARF are printmaker Milan Milojevic, painters Geoff Parr and Mary Scott, computer specialist artist Bill Hart and Brassington herself.

As an undergraduate at the Tasmanian School of Art, Pat specialised in photography and printmaking and her subsequent highly acclaimed work has reflected both influences and incorporated aspects of both.

Her work exemplifies art-making in what Walter Benjamin famously called ‘the age of mechanical reproduction’ – it inherently engages with the idea of the multiple, moreover it is resolutely post-modern in its reworking of a multiplicity of images and its willingness to embrace the new techniques and make of them something original and resolved. I spoke to Pat recently about her current work and her influences.

DK: You are working as a printmaker, using digital imagery, at the moment – manipulating photographic images. Do you see yourself as a photographer still … or a printmaker these days? Given that there’s this ‘need’ to categorise artists …

PB: Neither really. I’m an artist who chooses to use certain media and methods that suit my purpose. I should probably stress the point, though, that I did study printmaking and photography simultaneously and at that time (eighteen years ago) tended to use each process with a distinctly different aim in mind. I did enjoy the etching process very much, I recall, but there came a point when I had nothing to ‘say’ to the ‘inert’ plate. I guess clicking a shutter took over.

I remember you saying (to me, some time ago) that whilst studying Photography you came across the work of Julia Margaret Cameron and thinking, This is better …

Yes, there was a hint of something in her work that attracted me. I was intrigued by Bellocq’s and Weegee’s output also. Contemporary photographers whose work I also liked at the time included Peter Peryer, Grant Mudford, Ralph Gibson and some of Lee Friedlander’s ‘interior’ works. Then came Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Laurie Simmons, Barbara Kruger et al. But amongst all of this I was also particularly drawn to aspects of Surrealism and this abides with me still. I did not feel comfortable with the prevailing conventions, or the canons of photography if you like, that tended to dominate the filed at the time – ‘photography for the sake of photography’, the religiosity or the mystique about modelling the light, the laborious editioning of a fine print, the prevailing aesthetic criteria and concerns, and the role models offered to aspire to.

It seemed too prescriptive?

Yes, a rigid way of working. I think I was probably still carrying with me the desire to just get on with it, after the relatively gay abandon with which I had approached an aluminium plate with my burin and the concurrent acid bathings. But by doing all the ‘wrong’ things in photography I eventually landed on procedures and processes that best suited my needs. It was a frustrating time, but fortunately I was not discouraged by my supervisors and I began to see ‘a light at the end of the tunnel’. One thing that sticks in my mind from that time – I was seduced by the monochrome image.

In part, the procedures I felt most comfortable with, for example the manipulation of my negatives while developing and enlarging, making collages from my prints to rephotograph again, and sometimes again, under the copy camera I can now emulate without ‘vagrancy’, digitally.

What drew you to the digital process?

Curiosity. Its initial attractions were the ‘manipulative’ tools available in the Photoshop program. I like to collage images sometimes but collaging photographically is difficult and in my case I was not always convinced by the end result. My small output of digitally produced works thus far have all been ‘single images’ and all have used a collage technique. My photographic work consists mostly of multiple images, in which the interaction between images is a major factor.

Have I found a ‘better’ tool? I can emulate some of the photographic procedures I had adopted in the past using a scanner, a Photoshop program and an ink jet printer and I enjoy the process but I hasten to add that to get to the nitty gritty is no better or worse. Perhaps without my stint in printmaking I would not have found ‘my way’ around photographic processes and without this engagement perhaps I would not have been prepared to embrace and explore digital technologies.

There is one significant departure I should mention in relation to my digitally produced images, versus the preceding chemically based black and white photographic work, and that is the introduction of colour into the former. I would suggest that you do things by degrees. I have mentioned my sensitivity to black and white images – possibly an offshoot of an internalised visualisation technique on my part and I can’t imagine that I would abandon it but at the same time colour has its attractions. Maybe it’s a matter of ‘stepping lightly’ between the options.

How do you feel about the current state of digital art-making?

From where I am coming from, some of the 2-D work is awful. But you have to familiarise yourself with the ‘intent’ before judgement. Look, digital technology and processing is a fact of life. It’s not going to go away. Think about the precursors and how the invention of printing and then how the invention of photography radically altered our perception of the world.

Will you be continuing to work with the extraordinary and unsettling found images you are often noted for?

Why wouldn’t I? The world is paved with images and I’m into the business of visual communication after all.

As for subject matter and themes Pat wryly notes that she explores:

‘The depths of my soul’. It’s not driven by autobiography, it’s a combination of one way of interpretation tempered by a wider context. If I said I’m drawn to the ‘underbelly’ and not the darker side of the human psyche I could be getting closer to the point. But that is too cut-and-dried, too succinct and, if you think about it, doesn’t really get to the point either. So, I hope there’s more to it than that. I’m not as humourless a personality as that might suggest! I enjoy slippery slides.

For want of a better word, I’d say there’s almost black humour in your work – a quirkiness, anyway.

Yes. Black humour is hard to define and to pull off. Peter Greenaway immediately comes to mind here.

As for exhibiting, I’m aware that we don’t get many opportunities to see your work in Tasmania – although, having said that, I realise that you do have work in the current show at the University’s New Fine Arts Gallery.

The New Fine Art Gallery exhibition you refer to comprises recent works from artists involved with DARF. On reflection, I would suggest that somewhere, at some time, some of my favourite works have been displayed in Tasmania. I’ve just completed a large work that is going to Sydney for inclusion in the Telling Tales exhibition at the Ivan Dougherty Gallery. It’s a black and white photographic piece, by the way. I am amongst many Tasmanian artists who seek a national audience. The realities are these – Tasmania is a small place; it has a very lively art community and a lot of work is shown here. At the same time many Tasmanian artists recognise the need to exhibit in the wider arena. I do, and I’m sure others also always keep in mind that showing work in Tasmania and showing elsewhere are compatible aims.

Imprint readers will generally be aware of the Fremantle Art Prize and its importance as one of the main printmaking awards in this country, so we probably don’t need to explain the prize itself … but I’d be interested to know your reaction to winning it last year …

Well, I was very pleased that my entry had been selected for exhibition in the first place and then surprised but really delighted that Akimbo was a winning entry.

It’s a very subtle work – I’ve seen it in exhibition, it would be quite difficult to do justice to in reproduction, I think.

Yes!

 

In March 2016, Pat Brassington was awarded the 2016 Redlands Konica Minolta Art Prize alongside Sydney-based artist Jack Lanagan Dunbar. The 2016 Redlands Konica Minolta Art Prize exhibition will be on display from 14 March to 14 May 2016 at the National Art School Gallery (NAS Gallery), Sydney.

 

Q&A with Marguerite Brown, the PCA’s new General Manager

‘For me, handling prints directly and liaising with the people that created them allowed me to engage with art in a real world, professional context as opposed to the purely academic environment that my university offered. From that point I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the field.’ 

How did you get interested in working with prints?

I was first introduced to the history and evolution of printmaking through my studies in art history at the University of Melbourne. However, I became totally fascinated by prints when I took up a position at Port Jackson Press Australia over twelve years ago. Here I had the pleasure of regularly working with a number of artists, who were always so generous in explaining both their technical approaches and the ideas that fuelled their printmaking practice. It was an excellent practical introduction to working with prints as physical objects from both a curatorial and administrative perspective, and I was struck by the seemingly endless ways artists would innovate within the constraints of their chosen medium to create original images. For me, handling prints directly and liaising with the people that created them allowed me to engage with art in a real world, professional context as opposed to the purely academic environment that my university offered. From that point I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the field.

Can you tell us about some of your professional highlights?

One of the most rewarding projects I have been involved with was an exhibition of prints by a group of Indigenous artists from the Injalak Arts and Crafts Association in Gunbalanya, Arnhem Land, in 2006. Artists such as Graham Badari, Wilfred Nawirridj and Bardayal ‘Lofty’ Nadjamerrek AO collaborated with Melbourne based printmaker Andrew Sinclair to realise a series of large format etchings, each bled to the edge of the sheet. These prints directly responded to the densely layered rock art found within sandstone escarpments of Injalak Hill, as artists painted with sugar-lift upon steel plates in situ at this ancient site of immense cultural importance. This exhibition was my first real curatorial project and the power and spirit bound up in those prints make it one of my most memorable.

More recently I was awarded the Harold Wright Scholarship to undertake a seven-month scholarship in the Prints and Drawings Department of the British Museum in 2014. This fantastic opportunity enabled me to carry out wide ranging research within the BM’s vast collection of historical and contemporary graphic art. Handling some of the many treasures within the collection, precious works by old masters and beyond, is one of the most professionally enriching experiences I have had to date, and will undoubtedly inform my future work in the field.

How would you describe printmaking in Australia and how do you think it compares with what is happening internationally?

During my time in London I found myself thinking a lot about contemporary printmaking in Australia and the depth, richness and diversity that characterise it. As a field there seems to me such a high calibre of artists, particularly in the middle of their careers, who are regularly producing and exhibiting work of an excellent standard, supported by a reasonably healthy market for such works. In London I assumed I would find a similar situation and was surprised when this was not so readily apparent. While there is a thriving print scene in Britain with a number of fantastic print studios and access facilities in London alone (and clearly many makers using them) I found as a whole, with a couple of notable exceptions such as Alan Cristea Gallery and Paragon Press, contemporary prints that weren’t made by internationally renowned artists did not receive much wall space in the commercial galleries of the capital. Having experienced first hand how important a healthy market for prints made by mid and early career artists is to supporting the ongoing production of their work, it made me consider how lucky we are in Australia to have the vibrant network of studios, galleries, collectors and, of course, practitioners that we do.

What are some of your favourite artworks?

A difficult one to answer but I think near the top of my list are prints by Hercules Segers  (c. 1589–c. 1638), a Dutch master whose innovative experimentations with sugar-lift etching processes and printing with colour were completely novel for the first half of the seventeenth century, and resulted in some truly remarkable images. I believe Rembrandt collected his works. I came across his prints during my scholarship at the British Museum, where I also became intrigued by an irrational and unsettling series known as the Scherzi di Fantasia by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696 – 1770). These strange etchings are filled with ritualistic and occult overtones and defy interpretation even after centuries of print scholarship since their creation. In the contemporary spectrum there are so many talented Australian and international artists making excellent work that my list of favourites is very long – but given my personal penchant toward romantic imagery, the brooding sensibilities expressed by Rick Amor and Sophia Szilagyi are hard to go past.

What is your vision for the PCA?

I am very excited to be joining the PCA in this its fiftieth Anniversary year – a pivotal time in the organisation’s history as we look to the next fifty years. From the Print Council’s formation at the NGV by iconic figures in Australian art history including Ursula Hoff, Grahame King and Udo Sellbach, to our present moment as an organisation whose strengths include a passionate and loyal membership base, the PCA Print Archive, and Imprint magazine – there is much to celebrate. Future directions will include increasing opportunities for diverse audiences to engage with the significant cultural resources the PCA Print and Imprint Archives offer. Another priority is continuing to develop the PCA as a dynamic hub that our members can go to for intelligent analysis and discussion surrounding contemporary printmaking in the fine art context; news on exhibitions, events and opportunities published via multiple platforms; and opportunities to engage with other members and institutions through specially planned projects to be delivered over the next fifty years. Watch this space!

Q&A with Debra Luccio

Debra LuccioCarabosse and her Rats, 2016, monotype on Velin Arches paper 44 x 58.5 cm (François-Eloi Lavignac and Shaun Andrews,
The Australian Ballet, and Guest Artist Lynette Wills rehearsing David McAllister’s The Sleeping Beauty).
Debra Luccio, Carabosse, 2015, monotype on Velin Arches paper 58.5 x 44 cm, (Amy Harris, The Australian Ballet, and Guest Artist Lynette Wills, rehearsing David McAllister’s The Sleeping Beauty).

‘When friends knew what they wanted to do with their careers, I only knew that when I retired from whatever I did (I didn’t think a career as an artist was possible) I would own a paper shop and draw all day. ‘ 

Debra Luccio lives and works in Melbourne.

Why do you make art?

It’s a question I ask myself, and I usually answer: because I need to, or because it makes me happy, which is very true. I’ve realised that when I see something inspiring, I’m compelled to capture it, to remember it, to experience it again. I feel a great need to make artwork.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

I have always loved paper. When friends knew what they wanted to do with their careers, I only knew that when I retired from whatever I did (I didn’t think a career as an artist was possible) I would own a paper shop and draw all day. Working on paper, creating fresh, rich marks with beautiful etching inks, physically pushing both the medium and myself, is all very rewarding for me.

I find creating monotypes is the most ideal form of artwork for expressing the movement, power and sensitivity of dancers.

Even though I come from a painting and photographic background, printmaking, and especially monotypes, gives me the element of chance and surprise that isn’t possible with other techniques.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

Printmaking was part of both my Illustration Diploma and Fine Art Photography Diploma, and I thoroughly enjoyed studying it. For a while, too, I helped my husband, Marco (Luccio), in the studio. It’s very hard not to be inspired while watching Marco work!

Who is your favourite artist?

This is a very difficult question. I am inspired by many artists, and have been inspired by many over the years, from MichelangeloCaravaggioRubensDegasRodinPicasso , Käthe KollwitzEgon Schiele, to Lucien Freud and Bill Henson. There is so much to learn from, be inspired by, and enjoy, from many amazing artists.

What is your favourite artwork?

There are far too many great artworks in this world to choose from. I couldn’t even begin.

Where do you go for inspiration?

My greatest place of inspiration is The Australian Ballet studios. I am incredibly privileged to have the opportunity of attending rehearsals and sitting and drawing such talented, professional, generous dancers.

When we travel we draw from artworks and statues in museums and galleries. Spending time with great artworks is very inspiring.

What are you working on now?

Currently I have an exhibition on at Steps Gallery, The Sleeping Beauty: Images of The Australian Ballet. These are monotypes inspired by the first dress rehearsal of David McAllister’s The Sleeping Beauty. With this body of work I was interested in capturing the colour and vibrancy of the performance itself.

I will next be creating work for Port Jackson Press’s Little Window of Opportunity 9-25 September, which will coincide with the NGV’s Degas exhibition.

 

Debra Luccio‘s exhibition The Sleeping Beauty: Images of The Australian Ballet is open today and tomorrow 12–4 pm at Steps Gallery, Carlton.

A Postcard from Trent Walter, Art Basel Hong Kong

Clockwise from top: installing Brook Andrew‘s Building (Eating) Empire 2016; Leiko Ikemura at PolígrafaAnish Kapoor at Paragon Press.
Below: STPI at Art Basel Hong Kong.

I am in Hong Kong to install a large installation Building (Eating) Empire 2016 by Australian artist Brook Andrew at this year’s edition of Art Basel Hong Kong. The work was curated into the Encounters section of the event by Alexie Glass, director of Artspace, Sydney.

Walking around the fair during the VIP preview was my first chance to engage with many galleries I know only through reputation. And to see many artists works that I have only gazed at through reproduction. For example, works by James Lee Byars (Michael Werner Gallery) and Kishio Suga (Blum & Poe).

Works on paper were well represented with excellent stands by Polígrafa Obra Gràfica, Paragon Press, Pace Prints and STPI. Alongside an extensive collection of Joan Miro prints at Polígrafa were the monotypes of Leiko Ikemura that used relief elements arranged and printed in various compositions to make unique state works. In look and feel, these relief monotypes share much with Edvard Munch’s relief prints, though with a distinctly Japanese sensibility.

Other highlights included Matt Saunders‘s large photo-paintings at Blum & Poe including Night #2 (version 2) 2015 and James Turrell’s ukiyo-e style prints at Pace. Exhibited recently as part of his National Gallery of Australia survey exhibition, these works lose nothing over repeated viewings and serve as an incredible benchmark for printmaking today.

Trent Walter is an artist and publisher.
His studio is Negative Press.

The Ken Tyler Phenomenon

A spread from the original article published in Imprint Autumn 2006 Volume 41 Number 1 featuring David Hockney’s A Diver, Paper Pool 17 (1978) and Robert Rauschenberg’s Booster (1967).

‘… one can argue for a Tyler philosophy of printmaking. This philosophy in part is predicated on breaking down the divide between the artist and the printer: the abolition of the notion of the master printer and its substitution with the idea of artist collaborator.’

Imprint Autumn 2006 Volume 41 Number 1. Cover image: Rock art site in Arnhem Land overlaid with etchings from the Injalak Hill Suite, made by 10 artists from Oenpelli at this site. Courtesy of Injalak Arts and Basil Hall Editions.

In celebration of the free exhibition Behind the Scenes: Tyler Graphics at Work currently on show at the National Gallery of Australia until 8 May, we revisit Professor Sasha Grishin‘s article on the legendary Ken Tyler published in Imprint Autumn 2006, Volume 41 Number 1

Ken Tyler (born 1931) is one of a small number of artist printers who emerged in the 1960s and who revolutionised the American printmaking scene.[1]

Possibly the most successful printer of his generation, he worked with some of the most famous artists of his day. They included Josef Albers, Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, David Hockney, Ellsworth Kelly, Bruce Nauman, Kenneth Noland, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, Donald Sultan, RB Kitaj, Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Motherwell and Andy Warhol. Although with some, like Warhol, the collaboration lasted for only a single print, with others, like Stella, it continued over a thirty-three year period.

There is no such thing as a Tyler style, in terms of specific stylistic morphology, and over a thirty-five year period[2] he and his workshops collaborated with the Abstract Expressionists, figurative Pop artists and cool Colour Field geometric abstractionists. However, one can argue for a Tyler philosophy of printmaking. This philosophy in part is predicated on breaking down the divide between the artist and the printer: the abolition of the notion of the master printer and its substitution with the idea of artist collaborator. As Tyler recently noted ‘I get rid of the term Master Printer, I hate that word, I hate the idea of a master. I use the word collaborator, where, like in the theatre, everybody makes a contribution, everybody is an important cog in the wheel. There isn’t one important element or event which is going to change this.’[3]

He continued, ‘I felt that you needed to be on the same level as the artist you were working with and that if you were, communication would open to the point that you could suggest to the artist a better alternative and be confident that you could do this. Help the artist, don’t make them go through this ritual that they have to understand every technical detail before they could do anything. Give them the prerogative of working in a situation with an equal. By putting myself into that mindset where I felt that I was an equal, I became an artist. Just because I decided to become printer and publisher didn’t mean that I ceased being an artist. I would give everything I had to accomplish what the artists were trying to do. It was their responsibility to draw it, and it was my responsibility to print it, clearly and precisely … I listened to the artist, if they wanted a bigger press, I’d build it. If they wanted a bigger piece of paper, I’d make it.’[4]

Inherent in Tyler’s notion of collaboration was the idea that the printer was a chameleon-like character who could meet the artist’s every wish, whether it be Frankenthaler’s impossibly adventurous woodcut, Madame Butterfly (2000), which required forty-six woodblocks specifically carved by a Japapnese master carver and printed in a hundred and two colours on specially hand made paper, or the technical exactitude of an Albers’ lithograph or screenprint. In each instance Tyler would oblige. Simultaneously he would challenge the artist with previously un-envisioned technical and conceptual possibilities or seduce artists to experiment with new techniques. On one occasion he introduced Hockney to the new colour cast paper pulp works by Ellsworth Kelly, which he had just printed. This challenged Hockney, who went on to produce with Tyler his brilliant series of swimming pool cast paper pieces.

As a result of Tyler’s technical and conceptual strategies the prints produced were no longer the democratic and popularly accessible art form, but rare and expensive masterpieces intended for institutions or for wealthy collectors. For example, Stella’s Fountain sold at over $214,000 in May 2000. As a consequence, or perhaps as an integral part of this philosophy of printmaking, Tyler generally collaborated only with the ‘Blue Chip’ artists of the American and international art scene, artists who frequently achieved their initial reputations not as printmakers. Tyler frequently cites William Lieberman from MoMA in New York, who later befriended him, as arguing in a lecture that great artists make great art and from this Tyler drew the lesson that he needed to work with great artists if he intended to produce great prints. Perhaps what is fairly obvious, but not clearly stated, is that greatness is something which is bestowed by the art market and as the art market does not generally privilege printmaking as an art form through which greatness is expressed, these great artists were almost inevitably painters, with perhaps a few of them sculptors, and it was the role tat Tyler set himself to introduce them to printmaking or at least make printmaking a more significant part of their practice. The downside to this was that great printmaking became associated with the names of the major ‘Blue Chip’ artists, while professional printmakers, those who were primarily printmakers, remained somewhere working in the back blocks.

Josef Albers was the artist who first took Tyler under his wing and became ‘Tyler’s mentor of mentors’.[5] Tyler, who had trained in the Bauhaus tradition at the Art Institute of Chicago, warmed to Albers and his exacting standards and accepted the dictum that Albers was the architect and Tyler was the builder: ‘Albers was the first artist who thought that we were a team’.[6] Albers’ White Line Squares lithographs, which Tyler printed in the mid sixties, remain as some of the great gems in Tyler lithography. It is with these Albers lithographs in his portfolio that Tyler managed to entice Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns away from Tatyana Grosman’s Long Island ULAE studio to come to work with him at Gemini in Los Angeles.

Robert Rauschenberg’s lithograph Booster (1967) was in some ways a watershed print in the history of Tyler’s printmaking. This six-foot (182.8 cm) lithograph was printed from two stones on a specially made sheet of paper. Not only was it the largest hand pulled lithograph to be made up to that date in America, but it also demonstrated the Tyler philosophy of going outside to bring new technology into the studio, which challenged the traditional limitations on printmaking. Booster introduced a full-length x-ray image of the naked Rauschenberg wearing his hobnailed boots. ‘When we got the x-rays the serendipity of that was that not only did Rauschenberg’s hobnailed shoes come through, but so did his penis, which delighted Bob to no end.’[7] The print became an icon in the print world and promptly attracted Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg and Frank Stella to come to work with Tyler.

What was characteristic of Tyler’s print workshops was not that they specialised in ‘Blue Chip’ artists – that was the aspiration of many of the print workshops acrss America which strove for economic viability – but the hallmark of the Tyler prints was that they extended the boundaries of printmaking. The Pop artists brought with them their entourage of friends, critics and curators and as Tyler’s reputation as a printer who would say yes to everything grew, so did the scale and the ambitious nature of the projects. One of the most significant innovations was his work with paper pulp, where artists did not print onto the paper, but actually printed with paper, initially in the form of cookie-cutter templates employed to form the paper pulp, eventually growing into David Hockney’s paper pools.

Ronald Davis, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly and Kenneth Noland all made prints from coloured paper pulp, but perhaps the most spectacular of all were those by Hockney.[8] As Tyler recalls ‘David came to have dinner with me in August of 1978 and see the country workshop and the new Kelly paper works Ellsworth and I had made. While viewing this work, which he was very impressed by, he asked if he could stay over for the weekend and try his hand at making a little test or two in paper pulp. These tests quickly developed into studies of my swimming pool and single and multiple panel works depicting the pool at various times of the day. David stayed for forty-nine days and created ninety-five paper works. The best dinner guest I ever had!’[9] The hedonistic pools with their sonorous colours promptly became the subject of a book and quickly became iconic on both sides of the Atlantic, and were some of the most distinguished prints to be associated with Tyler.[10] The brilliantly coloured paper pulps, available in a huge range of dyes, were introduced into the printmaker’s repertoire and with Hockney they were given almost a painterly dimension.

If with Hockney Tyler introduced a new medium into mainstream printmaking, in his collaboration with Helen Frankenthaler he revisited the most ancient medium in printmaking, that of the woodcut, and gave it a radical reinterpretation. When assembling a recent survey of her woodcuts it was noted that ‘no contemporary artist has used this medium to achieve such painterly results.’[11] Frankenthaler, who has been known as a demanding and temperamental artist, worked with Tyler on several occasions, possibly most memorably on the Madame Butterfly woodcut of 2000. Tyler considered many of his collaborations with artists as marriages and in this instance ‘Helen and I had a very rocky marriage, but it was a good one and we had great respect for each other. Without that respect we could not have done what we did … Helen and I have a wonderful relationship. Through the years we made thirteen woodcuts and I don’t know how many other prints, but we could not have done this without the sparring and we could not have done this sparring without a great respect for one another.’[12]

Madame Butterfly woodcut is one of the great prints that sits appropriately on the boundary of two centuries, looking back to the ancient craft of the woodcut, back to the Japanese ukiyo-e tradition and the great Edo-period screens, as well as possibly the Munch jig-saw woodcuts, as well as towards the new technology that permitted the print to be realised on a huge scale, measuring about a metre by two metres. It was printed on three pieces of paper made by Tom Strianese from Tyler’s workshop, the two outer sheets slightly darker than the central one and matching the tone and texture of the wood grain. There were forty-six woodblocks carved from different types of wood by Yasuyuki Shibata and the artist, and they were printed in one hundred and two colours. Technically this is one of the most challenging and adventurous projects ever attempted in a woodcut, yet the final print has a palpable breathing freshness and a surface that conveys an absolute lightness of touch and sense of spontaneity.

Tyler’s chronicler fairly comments: ‘Many proofs were destroyed. Nerves were frayed. Tempers short. At various points, both artist and publisher were ready to abandon the project. Although the triptych took two years to complete, Madame Butterfly’s final dazzling serenity belies the difficulty of its making.’[13] In retrospect Tyler reminisced ‘Madame Butterfly is a one in a billion print. It was the right confluence with the right kind of people working on it, the right atmosphere and the right moment in their life.’[14]

On Australia Day, 1974, six hundred prints, rare proofs and drawings from Tyler’s West Coast workshops arrived at the Australian National Gallery. The previous year James Mollison, as the Director, had acquired for the Gallery the Felix Man Archive and the Gallery gained an international reputation as a serious collecting institution for modern printmaking. When Tyler needed to raise capital to shift his operations to the East Coast, Canberra was approached and the acquisition made. With the appointment of Pat Gilmour as the Coordinating Curator of International Prints and Illustrated Books, the relationship with Tyler strengthened and further prints were acquired. In 2002, her successor, Jane Kinsman, secured a further 2000 prints, proofs and drawings through gift and donation and the National Gallery of Australia, as it was subsequently known, became the major Ken Tyler archive in the world with its own dedicated website.

The Ken Tyler phenomenon represents a unique and unrepeatable moment in printmaking, which, at least on one level, changed the appearance of prints and projected them into a much more exalted position in the hierarchy of the visual arts.

Sasha Grishin AM, FAHA, Australian National University

 

[1] There is a considerable amount of literature devoted to Ken Tyler with Pat Gilmour’s Ken Tyler: Master Printer and the American Print Renaissance, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1986; and Martin Friedman et al., Tyler Graphics: The Extended Image, Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis & Abberville Publishers, New York, 1987, amongst the most useful. Also see www.nga.gov.au/InternationalPrints/Tyler

[2] Ken Tyler established five workshops: Gemini Ltd and Gemini GEL in Los Angeles, Tyler Workshop and Tyler Graphics Ltd at Beford and Mount Kisco in New York State, and the Singapore Tyler Print Institute.

[3] Ken Tyler, taped interview with the author, Canberra, 24 November 2005.

[4] Ken Tyler, taped interview with the author, Canberra, 24 November 2005.

[5] Judith Goldman, ‘Kenneth Tyler: The Artisan as Artist’ in Martin Friedman et al. Tyler Graphics: The Extended Image, Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis & Abberville Publishers, New York, 1987, p. 28.

[6] Ken Tyler, taped interview with the author, Canberra, 24 November 2005.

[7] Ken Tyler, taped interview with the author, Canberra, 24 November 2005.

[8] See Ruth E. Fine, ‘Paperworks at Tyler Graphics’ in Martin Friedman et al., Tyler Graphics: The Extended Image, Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis & Abberville Publishers, New York, 1987, pp. 203–239.

[9] Ken Tyler, Lecture ‘Hand and Hand’, 5 October 2002, Canberra.

[10] Nikos Strangos (ed.), David Hockney: Paper Pools, Thames and Hudson, London 1980.

[11] Judith Goldman, Frankenthaler: The Woodcuts, Naples Museum of Art, Florida, and George Braziller Inc., New York, 2002, p. vii.

[12] Ken Tyler, taped interview with the author, Canberra, 24 November 2005.

[13] Judith Goldman, Frankenthaler: The Woodcuts, Naples Museum of Art, Florida, and George Braziller Inc., New York, 2002, p. 99.

[14] Ken Tyler, taped interview with the author, Canberra, 24 November 2005.

Teelah George Poster!

Teelah George, Lessons from Craigslist Mirrors #2, 2016, offset lithograph, 42 x 29.7 cm. Image commissioned for the cover of Imprint Autumn Vol. 51 No. 1 and produced as an unsigned and unnumbered edition of 100 posters, $15 each. Photograph: Tony Nathan. To purchase visit the PCA website or contact the PCA office on 03 9416 0150.

The Print Council of Australia is pleased to announce that posters of Teelah George‘s beautiful artwork Lessons from Craigslist Mirrors #2 are now available to purchase on the PCA website.

The work was specially commissioned for the cover of Imprint Autumn 2016 Vol. 51 No.1 and produced as an  unsigned and unnumbered edition of 100 A3 posters. Check out Imprint‘s interview with the artist here.

Artist’s Statement

Lessons from Craigslist Mirrors #2 employs an object made from the peripheral residue of other processes as a way to suggest the many layers and unseen narratives of image making. The intimacy suggested by the stitched object is expanded through the printing process of magazine production in a way that enables it to be at once big and small. Original agency of the textile is retained yet morphed, as it picks up other connotations from its new manifestation.

Q&A with Teelah George

Teelah GeorgeLessons from Craigslist Mirrors #2, 2016, offset lithograph, 42 x 29.7 cm. Image commissioned for the cover of Imprint Autumn Vol. 51 No. 1 and produced as an unsigned and unnumbered edition of 100 posters. Photograph: Tony Nathan. Posters available for purchase for $15 each through the PCA website.

‘I still don’t really know what being an artist actually is, except that it involves doing many different things. It kind of breaks down all these categories that we use to make the world seem less strange and I like that.’ 

Visual artist Teelah George lives and works in Cottesloe, WA. Photograph: Thomas Rowe

What (or who) informed your decision to become an artist?

I’m not really sure. I was always into making things as a child, but never had enough confidence to proclaim any desire to be an artist when I was at university (perhaps not a good disposition for an art student). I went overseas immediately after finishing my studies, where I spent time working and travelling – not making anything.

After a couple of years I realised something was not right and that I wanted to make things, that making things was part of my thinking, so I got back into it. I came back to Perth mid 2012 and became obsessed with the studio. I started having shows.

I still don’t really know what being an artist actually is, except that it involves doing many different things. It kind of breaks down all these categories that we use to make the world seem less strange and I like that.

Can you tell me a little more about your work Effect of Dose on Taste (New Phase), which was awarded the non-acquisitive prize in the 2015 Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award?

It developed from an obsession with an old banner I would pass on my way to the studio. I would get off the bus to look at it as it clung to a wall in North Fremantle and it just resonated with me in terms of the ideas I have about life and what I think about through my work. Here was this object that had been manipulated by the weather and by time: its original meaning and physical form was transforming – I wanted to continue the shifting of materiality and context.

After procuring the banner I tentatively sewed a boarder around the sparse threads and documented it in collaboration with Bo Wong. I knew as soon as I started thinking about it that it had to be in the print award.

I am really interested in collections, archives and the materiality of such places. To me collections are imbued with the loveliest contradiction – they attempt to keep objects fixed in perpetuity, knowing full well that everything changes.

The object itself is ephemeral and the work now exists as a print of the object’s documentation. The University of Western Australia Art Collection has since acquired it, which is conceptually relevant to the work.

What does a day in the studio look like for you?

It varies. At the moment I am going between painting, ceramics and textile-based making. It is always pretty messy. Other studio days involve more research based activities or office duties. Walking, cleaning, looking – everything informs the studio.

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

I was working on the project while undertaking a residency at Artspace last year. At the time I was doing a lot of painting and the residual scraps of linen from this process became the initiator. I am very interested in peripheral processes, objects and observations and wanted to create a situation where I could bring this into a new material and context.

The object that is represented is intimate, tactile and unfinished, but it changes context and materiality within the printed medium of the magazine. From each process something is transferred but it also changes. I am interested in the malleability of materials and stories, so conceptually printmaking has a strong bearing on my practice.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working towards a couple of solo shows in Melbourne.

After coming back from my Sydney residency at the end of last year, I became focused on Cottesloe, where I live. It is a wonderful place, I love it, but I am always thinking about what it was like before white settlement and what it meant to the first Australians and how much we don’t know about this.

I have been doing a lot of historical research and the shows are very much influenced by this. The first show, Sleazy Vignette, in April at Rubicon ARI, will be a series of small but heavily worked paintings that laminate my present day experience with imaginings of history and myth.

My second show, in May at Schoolhouse studios, is directly influenced by a specific crow man myth of the Cottesloe region. It revolves around a changing of forms, again this idea of transformation. The show will include ceramics, textiles, prints and paintings – that’s what I have planned for now anyway.

www.teelahgeorge.com.au

Workshop: Making Washi

A page from the original article in Imprint (Summer 1996 Volume 31 Number 4).

‘Mitsumata is harvested every three years and, as with kozo, stalks are steamed to facilitate stripping the bark prior to processing. This fibre is included in the Japanese paper currency. The fine glossy surface, if pure mitsumata paper, is excellent for precise, detailed printing.’

Imprint Summer 1996 Volume 31 Number 4. Cover image: Patsy Payne, BRACCIO RELIQUARIO DI SAN ROSSORE, 1996, woodcut and linocut, 56 x 76 cm, edition of 10.

This article was written by Gladys Dove and published in the Summer 1996 issue of Imprint Volume 31 Number 4.

Today the term ‘washi’ implies, and is often used to refer to specifically handmade Japanese paper. However, washi is manufactured both by hand, in the traditional manner, and mechanically. The traditional washi method uses fibres processed from the internal bark of the kozo, gampi and mitsumata plants. Of these three, perhaps the most familiar is the more readily available (in Japan) fibre of the kozo plant, more commonly referred to as paper mulberry (from the Moaceae or Mulberry family). Kozo produces an extremely strong paper; it has been used in Japan since ancient times for the many different purposes we have come to acknowledge as traditionally Japanese – shoji screens and kites as well as spun fibre (tafu) and spun paper (shifu) used for mats, baskets and fabric respectively.

Gampi and mitsumata fibres are obtained from plants related to the Thymelaeceae or Daphne family. Gampi is not cultivated, the bark is gathered every three to five years. These fibres produce a lustrous and translucent paper. Mitsumata is harvested every three years and, as with kozo, stalks are steamed to facilitate stripping the bark prior to processing. This fibre is included in the Japanese paper currency. The fine glossy surface, if pure mitsumata paper, is excellent for precise, detailed printing.

From the historical perspective, pure fibre washi has proven archival qualities. When washi is produced in the traditional manner the fibre goes through the following process after harvest:

  1. Dried bark strips soaked overnight in mountain streams.
  2. Soaked bark rubbed between feet to remove dark outer scale and debris.
  3. Green layer carefully scraped away with a knife. This process determined the natural colour of the paper. Dark imperfections cut away and scrapings separately processed (chiri paper).
  4. Bark cooked in alkaline solution (wood ash, soda ash, caustic soda, sodium carbonate, etc.).
  5. Simmering – test selected thick piece of bark by gently pulling apart to show fine tracery of fibres.
  6. Cooled overnight, then rinsed thoroughly. For white paper, fibres can be bleached and rinsed again.
  7. Picking – blemishes in fibre removed.
  8. Beating – this process separates but still maintains the long bast fibres which produce fine strong sheets.
  9. The sheet-former then charges the vat with water, pulp and neri. Neri is a clear, thick, viscous formation-aid obtained from the tototo aoi and other plants like okra, or it can be synthetically derived. It is added to the vat to provide flexibility for sheet formers to manipulate the horizontal and vertical alignment of the fibres.
  10. A sheet is formed by multiple dipping of the suketa into the vat. This process allows individual variations in the sheet strength, thickness and texture.
  11. The su (flexible screen) is removed and a fibre layer (sheet) is couched directly onto the previous sheet on a post. NB using neri eliminates the necessity of using couching cloths for sheet separation.
  12. The post is lightly weighted overnight, then pressure gradually increased during the next day. This slower method of pressing gives stronger fibre bonding. Sheets are then separated from the post and brushed onto boards. When this method of restrained drying is used there is less shrinkage.

Although some Japanese papers remain unsized, dried sheets can be treated with size for printing or for Konnyaku – wet strength dyeing. Today, many of the manufactured papers include percentages of unspecified pulp as well as wood pulp, silk, rayon, recycled papers and vegetable materials such as turnip and onion. These commercial papers have been researched and tested for acceptable pH levels for artistic and archival use. By maintaining the strength and quality for which the traditional washi is renowned, and being competitively priced, Japanese papers are growing in popularity. Since the turn of the century, their qualities have been appreciated by western printmakers. Washi is ideal for relief printing and can also be applied to etching and lithography.

There have been several traditional workshops in washi-making held in Australia, the most recent was conducted in 1991* in Perth with Meiko Fujimori together with Toshio Onishi and Ann Nakamira. As a result of participating in this workshop, I was invited to participate in an international exhibition to celebrate the tenth anniversary of international workshops at the Awa Washi Hall – a museum of handmade paper in Japan. The invitation was extended to include masterclass workshops as a guest and visiting artist at the Museum and Fuji Paper Mill in Tokushima. This sojourn provided the opportunity to experiment with pulp and paper and to meet many other artists and paper experts.

The most comprehensive reference books on washi currently* available are:

Japanese Papermaking – Tradition, Tools and Techniques by Timothy Barrett, published by John Weatherhill, N.Y. and Tokyo.

Washi – The World of Japanese Paper by Sukey Hughes, published by Kodansha International, Tokyo.

Papermaking (magazine and newsletter) PO Box 77027, Washington DC 20013-7027, USA

* these references were current in 1996

PCA Member Q&A: Danielle Creenaune

Danielle Creenaune, Pyrophyte III (from the Pyrophyte series), 2015, lithograph and chine collé, 56 x 42 cm, edition of 10. Printed by the artist in her studio. Awarded The René Carcan International Prize for Printmaking First Mention 2016.

‘I tried painting in earnest about sixteen years ago when I had no access to a print studio and the result was very ordinary. I ended up with a series of watercolours in which I used a drypoint needle to incise lines in the paper … then I had to accept the fact that printmaking is my deal.’ 

Australian born artist Danielle Creenaune has lived abroad for the last 15 years. She lived in London for some years before moving to Barcelona in 2006, where she recently set up her own print workshop.

Why do you make art?

I’m not sure if I would ever find a definitive answer to that question. I just know I need to make art or it feels like something’s missing, an uneasiness, as if I’m not doing what I want to be doing. I feel driven to create a response to certain places and explore process mainly via printmaking.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

I see it as a medium with endless possibilities. I always find something stimulating and new to explore. I tried painting in earnest about sixteen years ago when I had no access to a print studio and the result was very ordinary. I ended up with a series of watercolours in which I used a drypoint needle to incise lines in the paper … then I had to accept the fact that printmaking is my deal.

Within printmaking, I wouldn’t say that I specialise in any one particular medium. Although lithography is my passion, I also need to move in and out of other techniques depending on the project or series. I feel each technique gives me different possibilities and allows for different marks and forms of expression. With some techniques it’s the result that feeds me more than the process and vice versa with others. When it comes to lithography, I love every bit of it.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I had always been fascinated by prints in galleries and wondered how the marks were obtained. I started with lino relief printing in high school when I was thirteen and pretty much idolised the work of Margaret Preston. At COFA in Sydney (now known as UNSW Art & Design), the first technique I learned was lithography and I never looked back. After I finished my studies, I received a grant in 1998 to go for the summer to Tamarind Institute in New Mexico to do lithography and this was a great experience. The Tamarind summer school taught me that I wanted to be an artist more than a master lithographer at that point in time.

Who is your favourite artist?

Difficult to name one. Currently I’m tending towards painters, to name a few: Idris Murphy, Elisabeth Cummings, Helen Frankenthaler, Ivon Hitchens.

What is your favourite artwork?

Also a tough question as it changes over time; however, for many reasons I will say Robert Motherwell’s lithograph The Stoneness of the Stone (1974). Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656) comes in not far behind, just its sheer size, light and presence in the Prado has made a lasting impact.

Where do you go for inspiration?

For visual inspiration, I’d say the bush, either in Australia or up here in the Catalan Pyrenees. If I’m camping and seeing the stars at night and waking up to a bush symphony, even better. My parents’ hometown, Gilgandra, looking out to the Warrumbungle mountains in NSW, always hits the spot too.

Seeing other artists pursue their trajectories also inspires me, even if the work may be very different from my own. Having become a mother two years ago made me more aware of empowered women (with or without children) who have been able to pursue their artistic endeavours despite the demands of family and society. Somewhere last week I read a quote by Margaret Olley which oddly inspired me enough to post it up at home, and she said: ‘I’ve never liked housework. I get by doing little chores when I feel like them, in between paintings. Who wants to chase dust all their life? You can spend your whole lifetime cleaning the house. I like watching the patina grow. If the house looks dirty, buy another bunch of flowers, is my advice.’ So, I’m keeping this in mind while watching the patina grow on copper etching plates.

What are you working on now?  

I just got back from four months in Australia followed by a few days in Belgium where my work was awarded the René Carcan International Printmaking Prize First Mention. So now I’m back in the workshop, trying to improve its functionality while juggling having a two-year-old. There is never a dull moment.

I’m going back to traditional lithography for while with a new order of big plates arriving this week. I’ve spent the last few years exploring Mokulito, which is a form of lithography on wood, and I’m still using this for some larger works. However, after a spell with sugar lift and aquatint etching, I’m feeling the call of traditional lithography again. I need some dense blacks and nice reticulated washes. Although I wouldn’t consider myself a master lithographer, I am a bit of a litho nerd and find the process infinitely fascinating.

There is also a collaborative project with Stephanie Jane Rampton, which I’m currently printing up and will be shown at Port Jackson Press in July–August 2016. We are working on notions of place, home, landscape, longing and belonging. I work in a pretty solitary manner in my own workshop and so I really enjoy the sharing of ideas and dialogue with other artists.

www.daniellecreenaune.com