PCA Member Q&A: Jill O’Sullivan

Y camau I, 2015, 74 x 62 cm, etching, spirit aquatint.

‘I pulled my first prints and realised this was to be my primary medium. I think it was printmaking’s relationship to drawing that first excited me.’ 

Jill O’Sullivan lives in
Townsville, Queensland

Why do you make art?

I guess the answer to this is: why not make art? In one way or another have been making art since I was a child so it is just part of my character really.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

My main practice these days is centred on printmaking – relief, intaglio and lithography – so I guess I have a pretty strong relationship with printmaking.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

As part of the Flying Arts (Queensland) regional arts program at the time Judy Watson and Anne Lord came out to Mount Isa in the early 1990s teaching linocuts and wood engraving. I pulled my first prints and realised this was to be my primary medium. I think it was printmaking’s relationship to drawing that first excited me.

Who is your favourite artist?

No one particular artist but I have quite a few printmakers whose work I really enjoy – Martin Lewis, Jessie Traill, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Frank Brangwyn, Samuel Palmer, Paul Landacre to name but a few.

What is your favourite artwork?

Too hard to pick really. Nevertheless, I always go to see Jan Eyck’s Arnolfini double portrait and Holbein’s Ambassadors at the National Gallery when I’m in London.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Inspiration has come from many varied sources over the years. In more recent years my Master’s practical research was based on people from North West Queensland, while my PhD visual practice centred on the chorographic mapping of elements of place, again from locations in North West Queensland. Much of my latest work has been inspired by winter experiences of Wales during my recent residency at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished a series of works relating to Aberystwyth in Wales that form part of a group exhibition Godre’r Glais at Umbrella Studio in Townsville (on until 1 November). I have a few deadlines in the pipeline for small group exhibitions with Press North. The next larger project will be a series of prints that focus on aspects of the dry tropics of North West Queensland. I’m also interested in doing a series on domestic artefacts fairly soon.

Postcards: Greetings from Impact9, China

Greetings from Hangzhou, China! We are astounded by the generosity of the China Academy of Art in their presentation of the Impact9 international printmaking conference. They have curated so many exhibitions, including the inaugural CAA Hangzhou Print Biennale, and have helped everyone with framing and installation of the works in an incredibly kind and professional way. I carried 28 A3 sized works and 20 A5 booklets with me on the plane, and when I arrived at the gallery found beautiful white frames and little wooden shelves waiting for me. I helped get the works into the frames, laid them onto the floor in the configuration that was needed, and my helpers then said ‘you can go now and our framing master will hang for you’. Back the next day, everything was up! The whole exhibition over multiple venues came together with an enormous effort from the staff and students. We are now attending the academic papers and hearing some wonderful ideas from people from China and Hong Kong, the US, Canada, Denmark, Croatia, New Zealand, the UK and of course our Australian contingent. We are overwhelmed by the scale and the friendliness and the food!

Marian Crawford

Chen Qi’s amazing woodblock: water-based printing on a massive scale!
bottom left to right
Marian Crawford’s, Ocean/Banaba Picturing the Island, installation view next to Kiki Smith’s work and artist’s book.
Calligraphy classroom.

Welcome to the Imprint Blog!

As a companion platform to our long-running print magazine, it is our hope that this new blog and evolving website will provide a vibrant hub for diverse commentary on the expanded field of the contemporary fine art print.

In the interest of opening up a discussion about the contemporary fine art print and its various definitions, and introducing the regular segment Flashback Friday, in which we will post articles from Imprint’s archive, Udo Sellbach’s article ‘The Aims and Programme of the Print Council of Australia’ published in the first ever issue of Imprint in 1966 seems like a great place to start.

We welcome your responses and submissions.

Our special thanks go to Lucy Russell for her superb design.

Flashback Friday: Imprint Volume 1 Number 1, 1966

The Aims and Programme of the Print Council of Australia

Although still small, the number of Australian artists using graphic media is steadily increasing. A nation-wide exhibition of Australian prints under the name of ‘Print Survey 1963’ was organised by the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Lately too, a few art dealers have opened in Sydney and Melbourne specialising in local and imported prints. At least two print prizes are offered annually. Adelaide awards a prize of $50.00 and Geelong one of $100.00. Printmaking an Australian publication (Longmans 1965) marks the first attempt at a survey of printmaking in book form. This year too, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology has established a full time diploma course in printmaking, the first to be seen in Australia.

We would continue this list, but it is already obvious that a revival of printmaking has occurred during the last few years and that the efforts of some artists, teachers and print curators are finding recognition.

Our aims then are, to consolidate these efforts, to stimulate further activities and to encourage understanding and appreciation of the original print.

What is an Original Print?

We know that there exists confusion between the print as a multi-original work of art and a print as reproduction of a work of art with the result that many people are still blind to the particular qualities of the original print. Following the example of the Print Council of America, we speak of an original print if:

  • The artist alone has made the image in or upon the plate, stone, woodblock or other material for the purpose of creating a work of art.
  • The impression is made directly from that original material by the artist or pursuant to his directions.
  • The finished print is approved by the artist.

An original print (woodcut, etching, engraving, lithograph or serigraph) belongs to the category of multi-original works of art, limited in edition to anything from a few to several hundred originals, each as fine as the others. Its aesthetic qualities correspond directly to the image the artist has imparted to the printing block, plate or stencil and its scale follows exactly the dimensions of the drawn image. Unlike the photo-mechanical process for reproduction, the printing process for original prints requires the artist himself to produce the printing surface in a suitable material so that the resulting prints from that surface become the originals. Whether printed by hand, or with the help of printing presses (which are sometimes motorised) the making of the printing surface must be done by hand and not by a mechanical process. The resulting prints are checked by the artist and approved by him. Hand signed, numbered and often printed on specially selected paper, original prints bear all the marks of an artist’s aesthetic intention, unchanged by any mechanical interference.

Thus, original prints can open to the interested person new and rich avenues of artistic experience. Original works at moderate prices can be purchased widely, owing to the printing of editions. Also the artist can reach a wider audience than otherwise possible.

Much still needs to be done to awaken and satisfy interest in the art of printmaking and the following programme, suggested by the Print Council of Australia, is designed to do this.

  • To conduct meetings, lectures, demonstrations, etc.
  • Establishment of a major annual Print Prize to stimulate interest by artists and public.
  • Annual exhibition of Print Prize entries to open simultaneously in all capital cities and main towns.
  • To assist members to participate in international print exhibitions.
  • To publish a broadsheet.
  • To establish print workshops for artists’ use and the production of prints for society members.

– Udo Sellbach

Postcards: Greetings from Police Point Art Camp, Point Nepean

I’ve never been sure what an ‘Artist Residency’ was, but knew vaguely it was a place where an artist is given space, away from their everyday practice/life to hopefully create something new. Not being a ‘landscape’ artist, I wondered if this was for me. What I did know, however, was that being an artist is generally a solitary pursuit, which can make it difficult to find time to connect with other artists, to discuss being an artist.

Remembering the power of ‘Art Camp’ from my time as an art student – creating bonds and immersing in art with fellow artists on the journey – I decided that the Police Point venue could be the perfect place to gather some other women artists and create the space to share and make work without any expectation for a particular outcome, and to talk about our respective practices and what it is to be an artist. Of course this was completely self-serving because this is what I needed to do for myself!

What a gift: stunning surrounds and a beautiful cottage to live in for the week. It was beyond all expectations. We had a revolving door of campers and day-trippers, from the Mornington Peninsula and beyond. All fell quickly under the spell of our glorious Point Nepean, and into an easy rhythm of laughter, sharing good food, and talking about our art and our individual experiences of being an artist. Naturally, there were some cathartic tears, yet all the time we were creating as we sat around tables chatting, picking up whatever materials were at hand. No topic was out of bounds and people felt safe enough to share their thoughts about art, life, love, death, hopes, fears, dreams and everything in between – all the while making and sharing hints, tips and processes. We created some 80 postcards and other works.

Personally I didn’t come up with any new ideas, but I did realise that it was not about having an outcome per se – I resolved a couple of ideas that have been floating around, learned lots of new things and, even better, PLAYED (we artist’s generally don’t allow ourselves play time in our practice).

Most importantly, I felt heard, understood, nourished, connected and humbled by the experience. I think all participants were so pleased to discover that they are not alone in this crazy thing we call being an artist.

Thank you to the Mornington Peninsula Shire for creating this invaluable resource, and for the opportunity to participate in the pilot program.

Sharron Okines is a printmaker and the Memberships and Advertising Manager at the Print Council of Australia. She was Artist in Residence at Police Point, Point Nepean, from 24 to 28 August 2015.

Akky van Ogtrop on Organising Paper Contemporary

How did Paper Contemporary come about?

In 2013 I was approached by Barry Keldoulis, director of the Contemporary Art Fair, with the proposal to organise a works on paper section as a special project presented in association with the Print Council of Australia (PCA). This proposal was based on the blueprint of the Sydney Art on Paper Fair (SAPF), which I founded in 1989 and organised until its tenth anniversary in 2005. SAPF was the first art fair in Australia specialising in works of art on paper.

I was unable to go ahead with the project in 2013 (too short notice), but when Barry approached me again in 2015, I decided to take on the challenge. I presented Paper Contemporary as a project in association with the PCA, but planned it in such a way that the PCA was not involved in administration, or any other work in relation to this project. With the fair organisers, I developed a plan for a section focussing on works on paper, prints, and artists’ books – still based on the SAPF idea, but placed within the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair. And that’s how Paper Contemporary was born.

Hosted within Carriageworks, the city’s urban industrial arts precinct, I encouraged and invited a dynamic grouping of print studios, master printers and workshops to participate. Complimenting the main fair, the result was a special survey of the works on paper sector, curated to focus on original limited edition prints, multiples, artist’s books, and zines held at Bay 19.

Why do you think it’s important to have a space dedicated to works on paper within a fair like Sydney Contemporary?

To have the Paper Contemporary participants together as a group has more impact than if they had to compete with the big spaces/galleries.

Ours was an intimate, inviting space and the audience was not made to feel intimidated. It gave them the chance to talk to the exhibitors and see the works up close. Another important reason for me was that Paper Contemporary presents such a good opportunity and platform to show the best of the best, to better educate future collectors on the joy of buying and living with works of art on paper.

How did people respond to the exhibit?

I had terrific feedback, especially about the atmosphere of our space. Many told me it was the most vibrant section of the fair, which is a great compliment for all of the exhibitors. Most of them did very well, not only with sales but also with making new connections. I am sure a lot of follow-up business will occur.

Is there anything you would do differently?

I found this year’s fair better organised than the first one; however, many improvements can still be made. In regards to Paper Contemporary: there is always something I would do differently. With SAPF I tried to improve every fair. Same now, as this was the first year in a building I did not know. To mention a few things: I would do the talks, panel discussions and demonstrations differently. I would consider how to improve the configuration of the stands and the tables. Lighting can be improved, etc. I also hope to get feedback from the exhibitors: that is very important.

What was the highlight of the fair for you? Did a particular work stand out?

This is difficult to answer. Was there a particular work? No, not really. I saw some great works – too many to make one choice. I always enjoy seeing the German Expressionist prints in the Olsen Irwin Gallery. There were some great works in the Annandale Galleries stand. I enjoyed the works by Tan Vargas in Gallery Mutt, Santiago, and many other interesting works in the international galleries. It is really a pity the fair did not produce a catalogue. It always helps your memory…

Akky van Ogtrop is the Executive Director of Akky van Ogtrop Fine Arts. She is a curator, an art historian, an art valuer and the President of the Print Council of Australia.

Vox Pop: What do you think about separating Paper Contemporary from the rest of the fair?

Toby Chapman

‘One of the bonuses of separating Paper Contemporary from other parts of the fair is that it provides new collectors an entry point into works that are probably going to be more affordable and perhaps less intimidating in terms of making one of their first purchases.’

Hong Tong

‘I think the separation is good. People can be in one section and see all different printmaking. I think printmaking needs someone telling how you can do it and what is different so you can get to know different studios and different ideas.’

Karen Ball

‘I think it’s good and bad. I think it actually increases the profile of works on paper, which is an important thing, but then again to separate them can cause people to think that there is something less to be admired about works on paper. So it goes both ways.’

Graham Bell

‘Not everybody wants them mixed together. I personally don’t want them mixed together. I think a separate section for works of art on paper is ideal for this exhibition.’

Peter Lancaster


Melinda Schawel

‘I would strongly disagree with that. I’m a paper artist as well and I believe that if we’re going to break down the hierarchy of media, and because there’s so much interdisciplinary work going on, we need to break that barrier as well. And the galleries need to go along with that, not just the artists and the buyers. So if we actually present works on paper in the context of other media, I think that would help.’

The Problem

the problem small‘I have always worked my ideas across different media: painting, printmaking and drawing. Most often drawing comes first, which will then lead onto a print or a painting and this is often where things get mixed up. Sometimes a print will lead to a painting, but just as often a painting will be developed in a printmaking technique.’1

Since making The Fourteen Stations, a series of etchings and aquatints produced at Viridian Press with John Loane in 1989, Brent Harris’s involvement with printmaking has been long and varied, often overlapping and informing other areas of his practice. In this new work, The Problem (2015), printed by Trent Walter of Negative Press, two techniques are combined: photopolymer gravure and screenprint.

The gravure plate forms the ground: a perplexing palimpsest of inky, layered imagery. Finger marks swarm and merge into strangely shifting profiles, a heavy figure lurches forward with one arm raised in an ambiguous gesture. These marks reference The Fall #7, a single monotype from a large series shown at Tolarno Galleries in 2012, in which the artist adopted an intuitive method referred to as the ‘dark field’ technique2. In using this process Harris often embraced the absurd imagery that began to emerge as he wiped the blackened ground.3

In contrast, the precise execution of the bearded foreground figure, achieved through three screenprinted layers, recalls the more graphic quality of earlier works such as the Swamp and Grotesquerie paintings from the late nineties and early noughties, where the compositions were resolved through drawing and reassembled on the canvas.

As is often the case in Harris’s work, the bearded figure in The Problem has travelled, in various incarnations, through a series of works. First emerging in a small panel painting on board in 2010, he resurfaces in a large painting The Dream (2015), and then again, reversed and enlarged, in the painting Peaks (2015). As in Peaks, where Harris describes this bearded figure as ‘some kind of witness’4, his gaze is directed back into the work as if contemplating possible meanings buried in the marks of the ground. Etched and inked with red ochre, he might be looking at an ancient rock surface scarred by time: its ambiguous layers – where images, impressions, ideas emerge and overlap; can be felt, but also slip and recede – make sense in their resemblance to the experience and complexity of life itself.

Most recently, and corresponding with the development of The Problem, the figure appears again in a new painting, To the Garden (2015), which in its title and details refers to Gauguin’s painting Christ in the Garden of Olives (1889). This transference of information across time and media is a distinctive aspect of Harris’s practice. The artist’s imagery is continually evolving and suggesting, but resisting, set narratives or status; aptly dwelling between abstraction and ‘odd figuration’5.

Part of the lure of Harris’s work, evident in The Problem, is the artist’s willingness to remain open to the possibilities inherent in process. These are lived works, in which the artist’s singular visual language embraces complexity and reflects a deep knowledge and love of art.

Emily Kiddell
September, 2015

For sales or enquiries visit the PCA website or contact Georgia Thorpe at generalmanager@printcouncil.org.au

1 Brent Harris, artist statement provided to the author, 2 September 2015.

2 A reductive technique where a plate is completely blacked out with printing ink and imagery emerges where the ink is wiped back. Usually only one good impression is printed.

3 Brent Harris, artist statement provided to Jane Devery for her article ‘Brent Harris: The Fall’, Imprint Vol 47 No 2, 2012. The artist stated: ‘as this series developed I found myself reflecting on the absurdities of the human condition’.

4 Brent Harris’s notes on the process leading to Peaks, 2015, email correspondence, 2 September 2015. Here Harris cites Colin McCahon’s early figurative paintings, such as Crucifixion according to St Mark (1947), as being full of witnesses.

5 Brent Harris’s notes on Peaks, 2015, email correspondence, 2 September 2015.

New Print Commission

Brent Harris, The Problem, 2015, photopolymer gravure and multiple screenprint layers, 76 x 56 cm, edition of 30, $880 unframed. To purchase visit the PCA website or contact Georgia Thorpe on generalmanager@printcouncil.org.au

The Print Council of Australia is delighted to unveil The Problem, Brent Harris’s beguiling new work printed by Trent Walter of Negative Press as a special commission fundraiser print for Imprint magazine.

Echoing the artist’s process, in which he has collaged and extended recurring imagery from his broader practice, The Problem mixes photopolymer gravure and multiple screenprint layers. Produced in a limited edition of 30, The Problem will be on display at Sydney Contemporary at the Imprint stand, where we will be taking orders for sales.

Visit the Print Council of Australia’s website or contact Georgia on generalmanager@printcouncil.org.au for more information or to place an order.

Our special thanks go to Brent Harris and Trent Walter of Negative Press for their enthusiasm, intelligence and hard work in realising this project. Thanks also to Cathy Leahy, Silvi Glattauer, Kylie Blackley, MADA Monash University, and Jan Minchin and Olivia Radonich of Tolarno Galleries.