Immersion: Fleurieu

From top: Images from the Immersion exhibition.

Immersion: Fleurieu, Strand Gallery in Port Elliot, South Australia, until 9 June

Reviewer: Christobel Kelly

 

The Fleurieu Peninsula has long been a magnet for artists. From the cultural layers that blanket reciprocal enactments of ‘country’ by its Aboriginal inhabitants, through to the wide-eyed images created by early French explorers, to the exquisite tethering of colour by 20th century artists such as Kathleen Sauerbier and Horace Trenerry, this is a space that is dense with artistic response.

So too, the current exhibition Immersion: Fleurieu, at the Strand Gallery, sits firmly within an artistic convention whereby, in order to respond to the landscape, one has to be absorbed and entangled by it. A longitudinal project by the printmaking collective The Ruddy Turnstones has seen this group come together in various iterations to work en plein air towards a number of exhibitions including the present one, which is open every weekend until the end of June.

From the shifting theatre of shore life to the intersecting areas between conservation and rural land use, the work of Loique Allain, Michele Lane, Lorelei Medcalf, Georgina Willoughby and Mei Sheong Wong teases out the relational juncture the artists have with this geographic area. Within the artworks, one can certainly sense the surety of individual responses to a place that elicits deep connections, as well as the subtle references to the group itself as a living system.

For the viewer, it is the delicate interplay between individual responses to connectivity and the commitment to embedding the group in areas such as Deep Creek, The Bluff at Victor Harbor, Sellicks Beach and so on, which makes this exhibition so intriguing. These are areas that many of us are familiar with, and have been created afresh with each graphic rendering from these contemporary placemakers.

Richard Harding: Break in Transmission

From top: Richard Harding, Plane Wallpaper, 2017, plan print, three strips of 310cm x 79 cm
Richard Harding, Silence, 2017, photographic screenprinted Gouache, 42.0 x 59.4 cm
Richard Harding, Border Control, 2017, acrylic mirror strips, 930 x 200 cm

Richard Harding’s new exhibition explores the idea of empathy in action for people seeking asylum.

Imprint: What was the foundation idea for this project, and how does it resonate with the current political climate in Australia?

Richard Harding: Over the past decade news bulletins, newspapers and the internet have intermittently spiked with images of oppression and abuse — times leading to death — of LGBTIQ people from various parts of the world. Currently graphic images are being streamed via the internet from Chechnya of brutal attacks on gay men ranging from beatings to electro-shock torture and death. My artworks are questioning what we do to assist our oppressed brothers and sisters around the world? Even though LGBTIQ Australians do not have the equality we seek through basic human rights we do have the power of demonstration and speech. It is through these freedoms that Break in Transmission hopefully activates empathy into action.

Imprint: In what ways have you been made aware of the plight of gay refugees trying to gain asylum in Australia?

RH: The LGBTIQ communities here in Australia and around the world are renowned for their ability to move into action rapidly when threatened. This comes in the form of information dissemination, demonstration and fund-raising as was evidenced at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Currently we have the speed of the internet and community radio and press such as JOY 94.9 Australia’s first and only gay/lesbian community radio and the STAR OBSERVER newspaper.

Imprint: You have written that Susan Sontag’s ideas expressed in Regarding the Pain of Others has helped guide this work – how so?

RH: According to Susan Sontag in, Regarding the Pain of Others, “something becomes real – to those who are elsewhere, following it as ‘news’ – by being photographed” (2004, p19). It is this becoming real from afar that Break in Transmission attempts to explore. She discusses notions of authenticity of staged images and “actual” or “caught” images and the effect of the viewer understanding the difference. In preparation for this exhibition my preliminary research and production experimented with this mode of making. Through this studio methodology I ascertained the found images were more powerful as they were from the time and place of image capture. Even with the movement into other mediums and they maintained their authenticity.

It is interesting to note here that Sontag also writes of how the titles within Francisco Goya’s The Disasters of War 1810-20 act as authenticators (I saw this or This is the truth) or captions as they do for the modern photograph.

Imprint: How have you occupied the gallery area at Trocadero Art Space?

RH: Break in Transmission utilises gallery two at Trocadero Art Space to surround the viewer in a U-shaped composition of mirror and image. The installation heightens an awareness of the borders and control points used by national institutions to limit the movement of people geographically and psychologically. The wall opposite the mirrored bar code is covered with faux wallpaper depicting planes flying left and right in a linear formation. Over this is placed a framed screen print depicting a crane hook and rope; a devise used for execution. Through the use of found image and reflection/refraction, the artwork attempts to mine into the identity of otherness through the ongoing plight of gay refugees seeking asylum in Australia. The viewer sees these images that are behind them in the mirror.

Imprint: How has printmaking informed the work?

RH: I view printmaking as a grouping of techniques and methods that are imbued with theories of reproducibility, repetition and multiplicity. The work is informed through these positions. For instance the giant barcode is made of acrylic mirror and there are multiple strips at 5cm, 10cm, 15cm and 20cm repeated to form a scanable code.

The found images are part of a larger archive of images that I have been collecting for some time from the ‘press’ (pun intended) both material and virtual or paper based and internet. Their use was activated by the ongoing distress of viewing similar yet different images from around the world. – Andrew Stephens

Break in Transmission is at Trocadero Art Space, Footscray, until 3 June.

James Parker and John Whitney: No Bridge too Far

Above: James Parker, Undalya Bridge, 2017, wallpaper intaglio print, 27.5 x 40 cm

James Parker and John Whitney celebrate the bridges of South Australia in their art-making.

Imprint: What is the origin of the idea for this show and how has it been developed?

 

James Parker:  The show started because John had a stroke, I thought a project would be a good thing to help him get back into creating (this was a folly, he drew me a series of hospital implements from his bed a day or two after being admitted – machines that go ping, bed pans and various walkers, chairs and canes.) Anyway we thought it a good idea.  The bridges theme came from the fact that I am besotted with bridges I grew up 50 metres from a beautiful bridge in the mid-north of South Australia. I have had three other exhibitions about that particular bridge, the Undalya “Basket Bridge”, this beautiful arched iron bridge features four times in this show.

The other feature that directed the show is that John and I love a road trip. We took quite a few over the two years it took to put the show together. We also incorporated our own trips (mostly work related) into the collection of bridges. I had spent time in the south-east of the state and also into the APY lands.  Anywhere we went we asked the locals about interesting bridges, sometimes they took us out to see them, sometimes we would just find them while aimlessly wandering around back roads.  We photographed 220; the concentration was very evident once we had mapped the sites. We constructed a map wall in the gallery with pins and a different coloured ribbons for the three types of bridges: foot, railway and road. The ribbons ran from a pinpoint on the map to a photograph of that particular bridge. This wall became one of the most popular exhibits in the show. The majority of sites were along the length of the Mt Lofty Ranges, with Strathalbyn, Burra and Spalding having the greatest concentrations.

John and I have not portrayed the same bridge within the show although we both drew a majority during our research. John has concentrated on drawings, both pen and pencil, whilst I have used a variety of techniques just as the original bridge builders did.  I incorporated brush and ink, various intaglio techniques, large encaustic paintings and ipad drawings.

Imprint: Is it a challenge to get two artists working together in this way?

JP:  John and I have worked together many times as artists in residence in primary schools over the past ten years so we know each other’s strengths and each other’s passions. We have often taught in the same class at the same time, tag-teaming on technique, theory, history or poetry. It seems natural to us as to where each of us will step forward and the other retreat, the same happened here, I like to think of the bridge as a more social beast whereas John views them as engineering, architectural and practical (although beautiful) things.

Our interests are the same but our attitudes to their portrayal are quite different.

I think that it also helps that we are both completists.

Imprint: Can you discuss some of the issues or hurdles that arose during the making of the work?

JP:  There were very few, matter of fact I can’t think of too many at all. We had one big disappointment in that we couldn’t find the time to get to the wonderful Algebuckina bridge which crosses the Neale river near Oonadatta. We also couldn’t find an old bridge in Reynella that we were told existed. We will keep searching.

Imprint: What are the sorts of responses that might be elicited from viewers?

JP:  I think viewers will be surprised at the variants in the bridges, and that there are so many, also that we live in the driest state on the driest continent and here we are making a show about bridges, an engineering and architectural feature that is typically associated with water.

Imprint: What was the role of printmaking in this show?

JP: There a few different techniques used in the show namely drypoint, collage intaglio, linocut and monotype.

I am a terrible editioner – I don’t have the patience for it. (I have been known to, though). So there are only a couple of prints that are editioned. I prefer to vary the inking on each pass. I have also printed monotypes over dry points.

I have constructed two prints in the show by collaging together various textured wallpapers and printing them as intaglios. Because some of the wallpaper is flocked I have to coat it first with shellac – this gives a very murky plate tone which I quite like, they are difficult to print as different papers hold the ink differently, so you have to be very gentle in rubbing some areas and a little harder in others, this means identical prints are really quite hard. I class them as monotypes.

There is also an older book I made a few years ago in edition, which I bind differently each time I sell one or exhibit. It is made with using old typeface and lino prints.

I liked experimenting on the plates trying different techniques to see what gives the right feel or atmosphere for a particular bridge. Was the bridge sitting harsh and hard on the landscape or was it murky and damp when we visited?

The various printmaking techniques gave me the tools to find the right solution.

Imprint: What are your favourite bridges?

JP:  1. Undalya Basket Bridge. 2. The five-arch Railway Bridge on the Spalding to Burra Road. 3. The ruined wooden road bridge in Bruce. – Andrew Stephens

No Bridge Too Far is at Gallery 1855, Tea Trea Gully, until 10 June. www.teatreegully.sa.gov.au

Sue Pedley: Orange Net-Work

From top: Images from Sue Pedley’s Orange Net-Work (series 1-35), 2017, 84.1 x 118.9 cm, graphite, ink, paper.

Orange Net–Work is a mixed media work by Sue Pedley showing as part of the Mosman Art Gallery and Museum exhibition Tokkotai: Contemporary Australian and Japanese Artists on war and the Battle of Sydney Harbour, being held at Sydney’s T5 Camouflage Fuel Tanks in Mosman, an industrial scale former naval oil tank, built and camouflaged against Japanese attack. 

Imprint: Why is the orange net central to this work?

Sue Pedley: The work brings together an orange net originally made in 2010 in collaboration with a fishing community on the island of Teshima in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea; a new sound work created with artist Gary Warner; hundreds of stones; and a series of frottages that overlay naval and civilian clothing onto sounding maps of the Seto Inland Sea and Sydney Harbour. In 2016 I returned to visit the Teshima community and to retrieve the orange net and some clothing from the house, which I shipped to Sydney to form part of a new net-work for the Tokkotai project.

The orange net, based on the dimensions of a nori seaweed harvesting net, was made by the Teshima local community and volunteers from nearby cities. The net became a conduit to form new relationships, pass on stories and share in the age-old tradition of netting. The completed net was then draped over an abandoned house in the village as part of the inaugural Setouchi Triennial.

Imprint: What is the history of the connection between the Seto Inland Sea and Sydney Harbour?

SP: This new work explores an historical link between the use of nets in the Inland Sea and in Sydney Harbour. During WWII a protective anti submarine boom net was installed in Sydney Harbour, stretching from Georges Heights to Watsons Bay. On the night of May 31st, 1942 three Japanese mini submarines entered the harbour. One became entangled in the net. As a consequence of this attack, six Japanese and 21 Australian sailors tragically died, but the main impact was psychological, creating greater fear of Japanese invasion in Australia.

Each played pivotal roles in naval strategies during the Pacific War. The sheltered Inland Sea was an Imperial Japanese Naval base, harbouring training centres, hospitals, armories and shipyards. Sydney Harbour was a base for the Royal Australian Navy (Garden Island) and a port for US Navy ships.

Imprint: How does your work reflect on this history?

SP: The frottages depict both naval and civilian clothing. The civilian clothes are all from the abandoned house in Teshima where three generations of clothes (both traditional and western style) had been left folded and untouched for more than 20 years. The naval clothes are from the Royal Australian Navy’s heritage collection on Spectacle Island in Sydney Harbour, and include a Japanese submariner’s jacket especially made and donated by the Japanese Midget Submarine Association in 1995.

The sound component of the work similarly brings together elements originating in different contexts; they include the sounds of net-making, of conversation and the ambient soundscape of the abandoned house.

By relocating the orange net and the naval and civilian clothes, placing them within a former military oil tank and enlivening them with sound, the work touches on deep intergenerational hurts and divisions created by war. It also aims to suggest an enduring capacity to recover and heal from these traumas.

What role did printmaking have in formulating your work?

SP: I see frottage as a type of monoprint. The series of 35 frottage/monoprints in the installation are rubbings of civilian and naval clothing onto sounding maps of Sydney Harbour and the Inland Seto Sea. I have photographed half the work  then printed them in black and white reverse to give the X-ray affect.

Tokkotai: Contemporary Australian and Japanese Artists on war and the Battle of Sydney Harbour is at T5 Camouflage Fuel Tanks, Headland Park, Georges Heights, 20 May-12 June.

Place, story, and non-traditional materials: Jackie Gorring

From top:
Jackie Gorring, Lone Hand Egg, 2017, relief print.
Jackie Gorring, Lone Hand Rabbit, 2017, relief print.

Thomas Middlemost, reflects on Jackie Gorring’s A’Dale and Beyond, showing at Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery.

There are three ways to tackle the marvellous work by Jackie Gorring. We can talk about the work within the boundaries of place, story, and non-traditional materials.

Jackie Gorring’s story starts in Maitland, New South Wales. Educated in Newcastle, she received her B.A., Visual Arts in 1983. I don’t know much about the Seasons Gallery in North Sydney where she held her first solo exhibition in 1981, (a gallery where Madeline Winch also showed), however, the Bitumen River Gallery in Canberra where she exhibited in 1986 was a hothouse of energy, it was open from 1981-1987 and was populated with a politically charged group of poster artists, printmakers and activists ‘linked to the formation of Canberra first printmaking collective, Megalo International Screenprint Collective in 1980’[1], and became the Canberra Contemporary Art Space, which still survives. The acclaimed printmaker and sculptor G.W. Bot first exhibited at Bitumen River.

Within a review of Gorring’s work from the 1986 exhibition ,Sonia Barron states that Gorring ‘makes art out of her environment and life’…[she states the work holds the subject matter of]… ‘life in small town NSW’, that it ‘reflects an honest humor close to the reality of her own life’[2], Barron finds the linocut prints to be the most satisfying work in the exhibition. Similarly, as a print curator I lean towards the relief print work on show, some made from foam blocks, and printed onto material. Gorring’s sculptural works continue the, ‘make do and mend’ aesthetic within her prints; they seem like considered folk art made of recycled materials and therefore complement the works on walls. Many are depictions of rabbits that she often sees on walks, made from bitumen covered aluminium flashing, wood, felt, and plastic. Gorring states: ‘I love that I can use recycled things and I make them spontaneously.’[3] The artist also constructs the plinths.

The artist now lives in Allendale, in Victoria, and her title to this exhibition: ‘A’Dale and Beyond’, is a reference to the town.

Gorring states: ‘Most of the images are of local characters and their fauna and flora and their quirky habits or just seemingly mundane rituals which are all interesting and entertaining to me as observer. I don’t mean to take the piss out of the locals, I am just interested and fascinated by the human condition. Sometimes I place myself in the picture as well laugh at myself as well.’[4] The A’dale works lie in the first room of the exhibition. Gorring refers to the individual print of four farmers kneeling in this first room, as genuflecting in their fields. The farmers stance, appreciating their paddocks, hits home as a common scene. And is but one direct reference to religious imagery in every day life within this exhibition. Later an image of an iron has a tripartite structure, and the domestic appliance in the foreground of the print is given icon status, while the figure of the artist is seen laughing. Why not use such a rich tradition of image making by co-opting the language of the church? Interestingly the heads of the farmer figures as polystyrene blocks were cut off the blocks and moved before printing, so the figures heads assume a cocked position. Slightly on one side, slightly wondering.

The works with subject matter ‘Beyond’ Allendale are from numerous places, some within Australia, such as National Parks in New England, Wee Waa, Warrabah National Park, (Near Tamworth), and the Warrumbungles., as well as artist residencies in Nepal, Dehli, and South East Asia. The works from Nepal and South East Asia, the artist states, are ‘small coloured offerings [that] are made from plaster, felt paint pipe cleaners, lino., found objects, and are a result of … watching women make the offerings. I love the simple making and ritual around these’.[5]

We are starting to see some of the places that make up this artist’s palate. I am graced with the memory of exhibitions at Helen Maxwell Gallery in 2007 of an Indian subject matter. In 2006 Gorring spent three months travelling in at the Global Art Village in New Dehli, India. Gorring’s India is larger than life, joyous laughing yogis[6], are interspersed with completely disjunctive, inanimate objects; dentures, glass eyeballs, images of police, and partially decipherable text, which filter through the background of the works. In 2001 the artist spent ten months in China living in Jangsu Provence and similar parochial Chinese township references filter through these works.

I visited Gorring’s home and studio, after she returned from a further excursion in South East Asia for two months in 2007/8, and viewed a great deal of work made with Styrophome, and popsicle sticks, printed on tissue and canvas. Gorring very generously donated two works to the CSU Art Collection at that time Spiralina Spiral, 2008, oil pastel collographs on rice paper, in a long landscape format, and How to Bind a Long Stump, 2008, a four colour polystyrene print on canvas which was hanging in her house. The latter a reinterpretation of a sign she saw. The work, initially colorful intriguing, then phallic, and ultimately thoughtful, regarding issues of landmines, and disease in South East Asia. The existence, and display of such a sign highlighting the inequality in living standards, income, and health care within the Asia Pacific region.

Furthermore, I viewed Gorring’s work in a group exhibition at Tacit Contemporary Art Gallery in Melbourne last year. The colour and life within her work was the first thing that one saw on entering the gallery. Instead of being enclosed in the usual boundaries of a blackwood frame, with Perspex glazing to protect from the elements, and age, Gorrings works on paper, in contrast, were boldly covering the wall with figurative colour. Each work easily accessible to a viewer. One could read a story from the groupings of people from across the street, like a good tattoo. The work makes me happy, excited by print.

On viewing this display at Swan Hill I am swiftly reminded that the print work is unique. Not in the sense that this print artist produces monoprints, for many of the works are part of a low, four or five print edition, but the imagery she revels in the structure of the work, technique, and empathy with the subject matter is unique to this artist. The work by this talented printmaker, who has attended classes by the master printmaker Ken Tyler, and the master lithographer Kaye Green has made the implicit decision to work in this form, with non-traditional materials, and make these unique marks. This conscious aesthetic decision also makes me happy.

A talented artistic sensibility and balanced use of colour, all packaged in a democratically available component, that on the surface provides fun, and when really viewed, many meanings writhe and wriggle for prominence; be it signposts for poverty, the raising of ones voice regarding inequality, women’s rights, or alternative political or religious practices.

Within the seeming mundanities of small town NSW, there be monsters. David Lynch’s ear in the grass can be seen in the work through a crooked smile, reminiscent of the ‘Rose Street Girls’ of Barbara Hanrahan’s prints, or through subtle indicators of code like text.

Susan Steggell compares Gorring’s work with that of Roaslie Gascoigne, in a 1999 Imprint article, possibly because, at this time she was living in the Monaro landscape, near Nimmitabel. A landscape extremely reminiscent of Gascoigne’s work. Steggel states; that the landscape is co-opted within Gorring’s art with a great deal of ‘humane empathy’[7], rather than a desire to possess it.

Furthermore she states that the recurring detail items as background are not just patterning, but, ‘a process which contributes to the overall meaning of a work, carrying information, communicating mood…like punctuation marks in a narrative or a poem, the pauses and rushes in direct speech’[8], and that she has subverted numerous male dominated art world, and artistic practices, created her own direct conventions within her practice, and language which stem directly from her, and her surroundings. I wholeheartedly agree that the rich backgrounds tell a further story, and the textual analogy is marvellous. However, the possibility that the artist can step outside patriarchal systems, with this work is a stretch, in my mind. Her work, is an important unique voice, marvellous in its detail, and direct connection to everyday life, full of wonder.

Sasha Grishin states about Gorring’s work that it shows, ‘a remarkable inventive genius, and a very personalized artistic vision’.[9] And Sasha’s essay on her work is definitely worth reading.

Gorring sent me 31 images from the show but it’s very hard to talk to a digital image of the work, the textures, the detail, colour, shape, impact and size of the work. The initial feeling when encountering Gorring’s interpretation of her surroundings, and the take away feeling are so different, that one has to experience the work in real life. The eventual ‘giving in’ to the nature of the commonplace materials, within her work, are all important to the experience. So I am happy she invited me here to experience this exhibition, to see her progression, as an artist in this gallery is overwhelming. I must thank Swan Hill for having the foresight to put on such an exhibition.

Lastly I understand that this work is part of a larger project. The artist is in Swan Hill because she proposed an exhibition to the director of the Swan Hill Regional Gallery, Ian Tully. Gorring is a frequent contributor to the Swan Hill Print and Drawing awards. But also, she is exhibiting as part of a Youth Engagement Program, she is running workshops, and some of these young artists’ work is in the adjoining gallery. Gorring was also an art teacher, in various TAFE NSW campuses in Maitland, Newcastle, and Cooma from 1979-2008. This pedagogical link with community, with young artists, and with this place, seems so very fitting within the context of Gorring’s work. All her work responds to place. And she has her feet in the ground of this place, whilst the exhibition is showing.

Jackie Gorring, A’Dale and Beyond, Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery until 18 June http://gallery.swanhill.vic.gov.au/2017/04/the-adale-and-beyond/

 

 

[1] Wawrzynczak, Anni Doyle. ‘The age of individual alienation is withering …’ Canberra’s bitumen river gallery [online]. Art Monthly Australia, No. 259, May 2013: 35-38. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=371339040219544;res=IELLCC> ISSN: 1033-4025. [cited 20 Apr 17].

[2] Barron Sonia, ART Fabric of an honest life, The Canberra Times, 15 October 1986, p.25.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Gorring, Jackie, Email from the artist dated 14 March 2017.

p

[5] Ibid.

[6] Gorring made numerous printmaking works of the Laughing Yoga Club of Dehli.

[7] Susan Steggell, Home is where the art is… IMPRINT magazine, Autumn 1999, Volume 34, Number 1, p. 14, 15.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Grishin, Sasha, Jackie Gorring Biography, from www.contemporary-famousartists.com

The Lady Botanist – Erica Seccombe

From top:
Erica Seccombe, A spider sewed at night, 2017, screen print, Ed. 4. image 55 x 55, paper, 76 x 56 cm, data courtesy ANU Department of Applied Mathematics
Erica Seccombe, Two souls entwined, 2017, screen print, Ed. 7. image 55 x 55, paper, 76 x 56 cm, data courtesy Natural History Museum, London
 Erica Seccombe, Residence within, 2017, Photogravure (etching), ed 10. image 25 x 25 cm on Rives BFK, data courtesy Natural History Museum, London

Patsy Payne reflects on the work of Erica Seccombe, whose exhibition of screenprints and etchings, The Lady Botanist, was recently shown at Megalo Print Studio & Gallery in Canberra.

Erica Seccombe is a storyteller. She unveils mysteries and shows us intriguing forms revealed beneath the skin of things, dragged from the recesses of our memory, perhaps imagined on a dark night. Monsters, hybrids and beasts emerge from the scientific laboratories and virtual spaces in which Seccombe works. She has embarked on a particular project at the Natural History Museum in London. Here she has created new stories to make sense about the history of collecting, microscopy and the scientific pursuit of truth.

The specimens are discovered deep within the museum archives. Their forms are subjected to x-ray beams and image-making procedures which penetrate their skin, flay them, expose them, create vast screeds of numbers that represent them. Then they creep out from time spent in the windowless climate-controlled rooms which contain the technology powerful enough to render them in three and four dimensions.

They finally emerge from the dark room where the voluminous visualisations have gone through another transformation from three dimensions to two. They have been beaten and flattened into submission in order to be re-imagined. Here they are, now pinned to the wall with a mist of memory trailing behind, evoking their journey through the rooms described. The narrative they reveal is one of hidden knowledge, occasional moments of illumination and the wonder of being glimpsed and understood; and then, perhaps, the sadness of being put away.

These forms have a long journey from the collecting jars and equipment of Victorian lady botanists on the coast of England, or the flower hunters of the jungle in Papua New Guinea or daughter-assistants in remote laboratories of America in the nineteenth century. The specimens collected and observed so carefully became part of the amazing museums of Europe and America. They were added to a body of knowledge based on the systematisation enabled by the relentless and vast program of collecting intriguing and wonderful objects from the natural world. Their own story was subsumed and became part of the mythology of science.

As botany transitioned from an elite pastime to a professional science in the second half of the nineteenth century, the field became increasingly specialised. While a small number of women achieved respected positions in botany through academic study at institutions of higher learning, this avenue remained unavailable to most. Despite the barriers women encountered in seeking a career in the botanical sciences, some women managed to use alternative means, such as illustration, to break into the profession. As in the biological sciences, illustration was a crucial component to the study of botany. Moreover, illustration and botany both existed in a liminal space more accessible to women: illustration was not considered fine art, and botany was considered as being among the most rigorous of the hard sciences.

Baron Ferdinand von Mueller is one of the foremost figures in science in nineteenth century Australia. He was appointed government botanist by Governor Latrobe in 1853 and was appointed the first director of the Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. He published more than 800 papers and major works on Australian botany, he collected and identified, presented lectures and presided over committees. He also supervised many women collectors and illustrators such as Euphemia Henderson, Harriet and Helena Scott, Ellis Rowan and Marie Wehl. With Mueller’s support these women engaged in the meticulous work of collecting and identifying specimens then produced the most beautiful illustrations of newly identified and described species in Australian botany.

In 1870, Mueller wrote to The Perth Inquirer’s editor asking to, “call the ladies’ attention through your widely circulated journal to the very interesting employment of preserving flowers and seaweed. Those who are at all disposed to amuse themselves at their leisure will find the best time for collecting seaweed is to take a walk on the beach during the winter months.”[1] Dr Mueller’s believed that any such contributions would “tend to augment the material”[2] for the work in which he was engaged. This often unspoken history is part of what has inspired Seccombe to work in the way she has.

Confabulations is a collection of essays by John Berger that has made me think about the nature of confabulation in relation to this work. It is both conversation and discussion, but there is another meaning which is the replacement of a gap in a person’s memory by a falsification that he or she believes to be true. Seccombe’s pictures are both based on truth (data) and a fiction. They have become windows into other worlds. Are they botanical or biological forms that hover on the edge of vision, glimpses from our unconscious – or simply the practical structures revealed by sophisticated imaging procedures? What a wonderful trick for an artist to play and what an interesting way to remind people of the value of archives and repositories which house objects separated from their original context which can take us on fictional and fascinating journeys as we reimagine the past of the world.

The art of these works is in teasing us to visit our own imagination, to make up our own meaning out of stories that come to mind as we stand and contemplate. These pictures work in reverse to this process of filling a gap in memory. They are based on truth but we believe them to be imagined. John Baldessari, whose conceptual practice is concerned with the imperfect nature of communication and individual knowledge, stated, “everyone knows a different world and only part of it. We communicate only by chance, as nobody knows the whole, only where overlapping takes place.”[3] He elucidates the very reason we tell stories, why we are constantly drawn to images and forms collected from nature and why we share them. Why not make pictures and see if it’s possible to reveal the way you we make meaning, make sense of existence, understand your infinitesimally small moment of relevance in the vast aeons of time in the universe?

[1] Olsen, Penny, Collecting Ladies: Ferdinand von Mueller and Women Botanical Artists, National Library of Australia, 2013, p.10.

[2]  ibid., p.10

[3] van Bruggen, Coosje, John Baldessari, New York, 1990, p.11.

Patsy Payne is Emeritus Fellow in Printmaking & Drawing at the ANU School of Art & Design.

‘Locale’ at Heathcote Gallery, WA

From top:
Carly Lynch The Log, December 1965 (detail), 2017, scanned publication courtesy of Heathcote Hospital Collection, City of Melville, dimensions variable.
Emma Jolley, Swim Swam Swum, 2015, stencil and silk screen print on BFK, 107 x 80 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.
Monika Lukowska, Encountering the unfamiliar, 2016, lithography, 64 x 87 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.
Melanie McKee, A Measure of Home III (detail), 2017, digital print on Belgian Linen, 69 x 44 cm each. Image courtesy of the artist.

Melanie McKee and Monika Lukowska talk about curating their new exhibition Locale, which showcases the artwork of Emma Jolley, Monika Lukowska, Carly Lynch, Melanie McKee, Layli Rakhsha, Rachel Salmon-Lomas, and Gemma Weston.

IMPRINT: What are some of the ideas underpinning Locale and how did you develop the exhibition?

ML: Melanie and I have worked together before, exhibiting at Paper Mountain in 2016. That exhibition showcased our experience of place and migration, and we wanted to continue our creative conversation. The most logical step was to gain a broader perspective on place from other printmakers, and so we developed the idea of curating a larger group show.

MM: As for the ideas, “place” is the basis for this exhibition, but beyond that each artist brings quite specific interpretations of that core idea. Broadly, we look at place in relation to dislocation, relocation, change and memory.

IMPRINT: In what different ways have some of the artists responded?

MM: Although each artist responds uniquely to the exhibition theme, we have noticed common threads as the artworks have evolved. This was somewhat unexpected, as it’s a larger show and we assumed that the results would be quite disparate. It’s exciting to uncover these connections – we’ve met several times over the last six months, discussing ideas and outcomes. When we invited Sheridan Coleman in to write the catalogue essay, it became an engaging conversation that drew connections between our creative approaches.

ML: For example, Melanie, Layli, and Gemma are all concerned with the domestic interior, but they approach it from singular perspectives conceptually and technically. Emma and I are interested in the suburban experience of Perth, but from differing viewpoints as Emma is born and raised in Perth, while I am a recent immigrant. Then Carly and Rachel’s work centres on Heathcote itself, particularly the experience of those who resided or worked there in its former life as a Hospital; oscillating from collective to deeply personal experiences of that place.

IMPRINT: How does the exhibition reflect contemporary concerns among printmakers?

MM: We feel that the concept of place is an ongoing and widely explored theme by many artists, working across printmaking and a variety of other mediums. This exhibition is significant beyond its concept, because it offers a diverse view of printmaking itself, showcasing traditional techniques on paper, alongside digital and installation pieces. Given the varied approach to concept and technique, we hope Locale opens dialogues about how adaptable printmaking is, and how it continues to evolve as a process.

IMPRINT: Why is printmaking important to you and how do you feel about its place in the visual arts?

ML: Printmaking is a malleable technique that gives you the freedom to cross boundaries both technically and conceptually. There is evidence in Locale of traditional and digital techniques that inform the creative approach of several artists, I think it’s important to showcase the adaptability of the print medium in the present. While traditional processes form an important foundation, it’s exciting to see printmaking manifesting in many forms across the Visual Arts. This is particularly evident in the proliferation of print biennials around the world, such as IMPACT, SGC International and the International Print Triennial in Krakow. – Andrew Stephens

Locale is at Heathcote Gallery 6 May-11 June 
www.heathcotewa.com

Q&A: Jan Davis

From top:
Jan Davis, Georgica #14 (2017), ink, woodblock, stitching on Japanese paper, approx. 54 x 78 cm
Jan Davis, Georgica #11 (2016), ink, woodblock, stitching on Japanese paper, approx. 78 x 54 cm
Jan Davis, Georgica #23 (2017), ink, woodblock, stitching on Japanese paper, approx. 78 x 54 cm

Jan Davis searches for connection with place in her latest works.

IMPRINT: What are some of the foundation ideas for your new exhibition Georgica?

JD: This series is about the labour of gardening; the reworking of beds, season after season. It extends my 2015 Siganto Foundation Creative Fellowship at the State Library of Queensland where I referenced old farm journals and other sources (and their record of labour) as starting material for an artist’s book – ‘Drawing on the ground’: https://jandavis.com.au/2015/07/21/drawing-on-the-ground/

I’m an avid vegetable gardner and aware of the similarities in the discipline required in the artist’s studio and the discipline of gardening – the planning, the labour, the pleasure, and the documentation. The act of growing one’s food brings me the same sense of ‘making’ that I find in the studio.

IMPRINT: Were there any particular struggles along the journey in developing this show?

JD: There was certainly a circuitous pathway to this exhibition. I had begun with the idea that the tools of garden labour, the worn spades, rakes and hoes, the artefacts of the garden if you like, could articulate a sense of labour in the same manner as the recorded word in the farm diaries at the State Library of Queensland. I made many drawings of garden beds, and a set of woodblocks that ultimately failed to satisfy me.

Concurrent with this struggle to sort out my thinking, I’d been making biro drawings of local houses, responding in particular to their shape in the landscape. In Lismore, where I live, most houses are timber, and many are ‘lifted’ with their living quarters a couple of metres above the ground (for the cooling effect and as a defence against rising flood water). This gives the houses an attractive simple mass and proportion.

IMPRINT: So how did you begin to resolve these strands and challenges into something more unified?

JD: In the studio one day, I took an unsatisfactory drawing of garden beds and subjected it to my habitual process of folding, fashioning and stitching. The resultant paper shape became a synthesis of the Lismore houses and their gardens. From that point, the work flowed. The materiality of the light paper gives the sense of layering I wanted. The application of wash after wash mimics the seasonal labour of the garden. The folds define form, the woodblocks locate garden beds. The works sit lightly on the wall but convey the same mass that I sense in the Lismore houses. Strangely after the recent flooding in Lismore, I also sense waterlines in some of the works.

IMPRINT: The title of your show is important to you – can you explain the genesis of this?

JD: I’d been seeking to historically contextualise agricultural labour and had read certain English and Italian garden history. I came across Virgil’s epic poem ‘The Georgics’ on the virtues and challenges of agricultural life and I recognised the same honouring of human labour and agricultural knowledge that was present in the farm diaries, and that I’d been attempting to articulate. The title of this show, ‘Georgica’, is a reference to Virgil’s poem, an illuminated version of which I’d seen in Florence at the Biblioteca Laurenziana a couple of years ago and which had stayed in my head.

IMPRINT: How does the work relate to earlier ideas and imagery in your practice?

JD: This is a body of work that is consistent with my earlier work in its search to make connections with place. ‘Trace’, https://jandavis.com.au/2011-2/trace-2/ was a series that made connections with my childhood home in East Gippsland through the use of story, specifically the 1850‘s ‘White Woman myth’. I used the same methods of folding and stitching to fashion forms although the finished pieces were digital prints.

In this exhibition, the connection to place (Lismore), comes through the action of labouring in the garden and in the studio, both equally serious endeavours. – Andrew Stephens

Jan Davis’ Georgica is at Langford 120 until May 21. http://www.langford120.com.au/ 

Laura Castell: The Great Bowerbird

From top:
Laura Castell, Bower,  reduction linocut, 38×28.5 cm,edition of 8
Laura Castell, Silver, reduction linocut and silver-leaf16.5×16.5 cm, edition of 10
Laura Castell, Red Chillies, reduction linocut, 45 x 32 cm, edition of 8
Laura Castell, Pink Crown, reduction linocut, 51 x 36 cm, edition of 8

Laura Castell discusses her new Townsville exhibition Suburban Wildlife, The Great Bowerbird, with Megan Hanrahan.

IMPRINT: What is the main concept, inspiration and history behind your exhibition?

LC: I live in a relatively small city, rapidly growing but still retaining the beauty of offering the opportunity to see many animals every day, especially birds. I have used birds as the subjects for my prints for some time, usually to highlight their beauty and the pleasant feeling of ‘nature’ they give us. Many of these are local birds that have adjusted well to live in the suburbs.  The Great Bowerbird is particularly interesting, it has become very common in Townsville and although there are a few other species in this tropical region, this particular species has become very successful around our suburbs.

Our effect on this bird, whether detrimental or not, is unmistakable. The male builds a beautiful large structure at ground level called the ‘bower’ and bowers are as common in local parks as they are in peoples’ yards. The bower is like the tail of the peacock or the red throat pouch of the frigate bird, its ‘beauty’ is essential to attract the female. Male bower birds spend an incredible amount of time building, maintaining and adorning the bower, however, they are increasingly using our ‘waste’ as ornaments. There is a striking contrast between the naturalness of the bower and the un-naturalness of many of its ornaments. In this exhibition I want to highlight the beauty of this bird and its bower, but also that contrast I refer to above. The bird and what it does is incredibly beautiful, but the appearance of man-made objects, often those we have discarded as garbage, can inject an uncomfortable feeling to what we see.

IMPRINT: Would you be able to explain the methods and techniques you use, and why you enjoy using this particular style with your work? Does it lend your work particular aspects that you love more than other styles/methods?

LC: The exhibition consists of three components. 1) The majority of the works are prints made using relief techniques, mostly linocut but also woodcut or a combination of both, either using a reduction technique or multiple blocks, 2) an artist book, also done using linocuts, and 3) a small three dimensional work that recreates the bird, the bower and its ornaments, using mostly natural and man-made recycled materials, relief printed fabric and ornaments provided by people who placed themselves in the position of the bower bird as choosers of treasure to attract a partner. For the prints and artist book, linocut was a first choice because it allowed me to work easily with cutting fine, more precise lines, but I am in love with the more unpredictable mark of woodcuts and often use it in my figurative work.

I started my art studies with drawing so printmaking was an easy choice for me to expand my repertoire of techniques. I love the power of the black and white image and I am now exploring the introduction of tone and colour using relief techniques, although I am still at a very early stage in this exploration. I am also attracted to the relative immediacy of the relief methods.

IMPRINT: What captivates you about your work, and continues to keep you interested?

LC: Art allows me to speak without having to use words. As many, I have increasingly worrying feelings about how humans are interfering with and changing the environment and the effect this is having on animals, plants and people. Another part of my work not reflected in this exhibition is my interest in social issues. I am attracted to the opportunity that art gives me to express these feelings in a visual manner as gently or as confronting as I need. I rely on beauty as a way to reach the viewer, a beauty that hopefully can then open the door to a deeper interaction with the image.

Although I dabble in other media, the extensive possibilities of printmaking keep me in a continuous state of fascination that drives me to use printmaking as my main art form. Every new image is always a challenge that leads to new discoveries and with every lesson learned the possibilities keep increasing, making it irresistible. I am becoming more daring in my approach to making the image, always looking into the repertoire of techniques to add subtle complexity.

IMPRINT: What do you find unique and special about the Bowerbird above other sources of inspiration? Do you have a personal connection or affinity with this particular animal?

LC: I trained and worked as a biologist for over 20 years, only recently becoming a full time artist. I have observed this bird locally for many years and I am fascinated by its reproductive mating behaviour. Even more, I was lucky that during the preparation of work for the exhibition, a young male bower bird chose a spot right next to my studio to display his behaviour, giving me hours of unique observations. Its obvious interaction with humans through the collection of ‘waste’ is very interesting because it could be one of the rarer examples where our interference with nature may not necessarily have negative effects. For now only time will tell.

IMPRINT: What lasting impressions do you hope that people take away with them after visiting Suburban Wildlife?

LC: I hope viewers will become more aware of the beauty and complex behaviour of this incredible bird and for those who have the opportunity and find a bower while out there, the exhibition will encourage them to spend some time to notice what treasures the bird has chosen and how many of them are our ‘garbage’. I also hope people will be encouraged to observe more and appreciate our ‘suburban’ wildlife as well as be more sensitised to the possible ways humans can affect the wild animals that live around us.

Suburban Wildlife, The Great Bowerbird is at Access Space, Umbrella Studio, Townsville, 21 April to 28 May

https://umbrella.org.au/venue/access-space/

Two Cities in Print: Artists navigate Portland and Melbourne

Top:
Tina Biggs and Therese Coffey sorting Two Cities print editions. Photo: Carmel Wallace
Brigid Thomas, Portland Ships, 2017, etching
Bronwyn Mibus, The Folly, 2017, drypoint with roll-up and (right) Rone, Collins Street, 2014, lithograph

Trevor Smith examines the creative ties that can be formed between two very different cities.

In the centre of a 19th century streetscape of historic buildings in Julia Street Portland, Portland Bay Press, an intimate gallery and print studio, shares the former Campbell Stores with the Julia Street Creative Space and June Hedditch artist apartments.

The complex is a treasured asset to Portland’s artistic community, as it is to the stream of visiting artists who have called Portland home during their residencies in the Hedditch apartments.

Under the curatorship of Portland artist Camel Wallace in collaboration with Dianna Gold, the foundations of Two Cities in Print had its origins more than a decade ago in 2004 in a print exchange exhibition titled Surface Tension – twenty-one Contemporary Australian Printmakers. Displayed at the National Arts Club in Manhattan, it was a joint project with the New York Society of Etchers.

A decade later Carmel and Dianna came together again and curated 37° 48’ S: artists Navigate Melbourne, a print exchange project exploring the cultural diversity of Melbourne, and shown in New York in 2014, then Sao Palo in Brazil, and in Melbourne in 2015.

From these two projects, a decade apart, has emerged the Two Cities in Print exhibitions, bringing the project to the regional and rural areas, first at Warrnambool Art Gallery in 2016 where the works of the Melbourne participants were shown in tandem with printmakers of the Warrnambool region, and now in Portland where the Melbourne printmakers have been teamed up with artists from the far south-west, and artists who have spent time making art in Portland through the artist residency program.

Through their prints, the metropolitan artists reflect the cultural, and the natural and built environments of their home town. They show the distinct skyline, the busy freeways, the street culture, the characters, the events and the stories that make Melbourne a vibrant multicultural mix.

Not dissimilar, the Portland artists reflect on their home and environment – storytelling, the flora and fauna, maritime themes, and their proud history both in the natural and human-made environments.

As their subject matter, the Portland artists have embraced the icons of this town and environs – the blue whales and the gannets that both have connections and stories unique to this region; Fawthrop Lagoon and the changing face of the foreshore, which are both reoccurring subject matter recorded by artists over time; the heritage of the town through iconic structures such as past history in Macs Hotel and relatively recent history in the Corkscrew; and the ships in the harbour and the hard-working tugs that we see head out and guide ships in.

This project not only offers viewing opportunities for the general public in showcasing the printmaking talent of the region, but offers opportunities for the exhibiting artists. The Portland artists in this exhibition represent a cross section of career stages and milestones. Some are well established and exhibit regularly, some pursue their interest in printmaking through the workshops and exhibiting opportunities offered at Portland Bay Press, some are emerging artists, and one is exhibiting her work in a formal exhibition for the first time.

As part of the project, each exhibiting artist has produced an edition of 20 prints, a significant undertaking for those emerging in their printmaking career.

Through their work, the artists, both metropolitan and local, have employed a myriad of printmaking techniques in creating their work – both traditional techniques that have been used by artists for centuries, and new techniques that have only emerged in the past few decades, made possible by the development of digital processes.

Two Cities in Print has provided the Portland artists a platform to share their passion with the wider community, and I am confident the project will be revisited in another place and time, where another crop of printmakers can share their passion with their community.

Two Cities in Print is at Portland Bay Press until 31 May

Trevor Smith is Cultural Collection Officer at the Glenelg Shire Council