Above: Jenny Kitchener, In the service of trees: bee pollinators, 2017, linocut, 51 x 58 cm (image), 51 x 58 cm (paper).
Jenny Kitchener discusses her work selected in the 2017 PCA Print Commission.
Q: What is your relationship to printmaking and how did you develop this interest?
JK: Turn back the clock. It’s 1977 and I am part of the first ever intake of students into Sydney College of the Arts. I am going to be a painter, but my plans soon go awry. I am almost immediately lured away from the brush by arcane processes of the printmaking room. Printmaking has often been discussed as a democratic form of art-making and I was immediately attracted to the idea of creating multiples as opposed to the creation of an original artwork.
I continued with my studies during the early 1990s at Southern Cross University in Lismore. The Printmaking Department, headed by Jan Davis, was underpinned by the idea that ‘concept and process’ go hand-in-hand and all work was informed by a strong theoretical foundation. Here I was first exposed to the theories of postmodernism, which at the time were a revelation to me. Printmaking was the perfect medium with which to subvert the hierarchy of the fine arts.
Fast forward to 2017. Much of my artwork is informed by, and literally appropriated and composed from, the printed image.
Q: How did you approach your submission for the PCA Print Commission?
JK: I decided to submit a linocut as this is the medium which I feel enables me to pull together many ideas within the one image. I like the notion of a complex and multi-layered print imbued with many concepts. By employing the process of collage, I gradually compose my image by cutting, tearing and pasting together, for the most part, appropriated traditional printed imagery. Many of these printed images are already layered with their own historical overtones and add to the overall meaning of the work.
Q: What are some of the foundation ideas that have guided the creation of the visual content of the work you submitted?
JK: An appreciation, respect and concern for nature was instilled into my consciousness at a young age and forms the basis of my current work. I live on a beautiful rural property in northern NSW and am surrounded by birdsong and the hum of insects.
Insects have always held a special fascination for me. Several years ago I became interested in the work of the insect pollinators which include bees, beetles, flies and butterflies. Insect pollinators are essential to the life-cycle of many flowering plant species. I have made prints and artist books which attempt to highlight the indiscriminate use of pesticides and the ongoing decline of the pollinating insects which are essential to plant reproduction and biodiversity.
More recently, this interest in pollination has expanded to include birds. My print In the service of trees: bird pollinators features a bird from each of the two major families of bird pollinators in Australia: the parrots and the honey-eaters. The bird images have been appropriated from some of the very first European depictions of these birds.
An example of a plant species pollinated by each bird is featured in the background of the print: a banksia for the parrot and gum tree blossom for the honey-eater. Bees and magnified pollen grains are also included. The bell jars are an observation and a reminder of the way in which we often place nature apart from us.
Q: How does this relate to your broader body of work?
JK: My broader body of work is underpinned by environmental concerns together with personal identity issues and the slippery nature of memory. These themes are then interwoven with the more universal concepts of time, the cycles of life and a respect for the intricate workings of nature.
Q: What other projects are you working on?
JK: I have two solos shows coming up. The first is this coming November in my home town of Kyogle and is titled Eye Spy. It is an examination and response to the many different ways of seeing and interpreting nature when we enhance our focus by using artificial viewing instruments such as magnifying glasses, binoculars and microscopes.
My second solo show will be exhibited at the Grafton Regional Gallery in March, 2018. Titled Of Birds and Bees it will present work which continues to explore my preoccupation with pollination, but with the focus on the bird pollinators and the plants they pollinate.
Prints can be ordered at www.printcouncil.org.au