‘Drawn to Print’: David Fairbairn

From top:
David Fairbairn, Head of J.L. No 1, 2017, acrylic gouache, pastel, charcoal, ink on paper, 130×120 cm
David Fairbairn at the Wedderburn studio installation working on Large Head S.A. No1, copper etching 121×106 cm
David Fairbairn, Portrait of G.E No3, 2015, acrylic gouache monotype charcoal on paper, 76×56 cm

David Fairbairn tells Megan Hanrahan about his ambitious touring exhibition, Drawn to Print.

David Fairbairn is well known for his large scale portraiture, which are often brought to life with a mixture of techniques and mediums including pastel, paint, ink and charcoal. He warmly speaks about his works as often being “hybrids,” but his new exhibition Drawn to Print emphasises the distinctive appearance of his work through large scale etchings. “I work a lot with line and the linear process. I like my portraits to have an open structure, like a house that has yet to be clad,” Fairbairn said when describing the feel of his work. His linear style of portraiture allows the space between the lines to create a contour, giving expression and depth to the sitter.

The decision to create an exhibition such as Drawn to Print came from a desire to both revisit the work created with previous sitters and explore an ongoing relationship, as well as being intrigued about the way the portraits would transform into print. “As we always need to stay interested, I needed to do something different for a while,” Fairbairn said. Drawing is still incorporated through out the lines he creates on the copper sheets. Using a mirror when he draws onto the plate offers a glimpse at what the final portrait will look like, and once it is printed, he continues to expand and develop, strengthening the image, and enjoying the balance and interaction of the relationship between the “etched mark, and the dry point mark” on the page. “I try to maintain curiosity, and I like how [in printmaking] the mark you’re making goes through a transformative stage with the acid. I use copper with ferric chloride for slow controllability, and you can [achieve] a solid, clean line.”

Fairbairn speaks of his relationship with his craft as a dual relationship. He gives his art time and patience, and in return he is gifted with an intriguing practice that continues to draw his curiosity. “I prefer to work slowly and meditatively, and once the work has been drawn and I have started the etching process, I love the ritual…etching provides a different resonance with the image. It is very direct and very pure.”

Looking at his images, the eye of the viewer is swept up amongst the lines and the complex contours of Fairbairn’s portraiture. The intricate etchings pull you along into a beautiful journey through the face and personalities of each of the sitters. “I like them to be interesting to draw, with characteristics and qualities,” commented Fairbairn on the individuals he seeks to become the subjects of his portraiture. Mostly, he looks for “visually compelling people.” Over the time spent with them, he accumulates “a body of work, not just one drawing. I really want to nail the resonance of the person, and that is a hard thing – to capture someone’s essence, and ultimately knowing intuitively that I can see them coming off the page.”

Trying to encapsulate a person’s energy on the page can take anywhere from 12 to 16 months, resulting in a body of work rather than just one portrait. The portraits come to life through a slow ritual of talking and developing trust. Not only does Fairbairn preserve the person on paper, he also records an oral history for each to accompany their portrait. Drawn to Print is a culmination of these moments of intimacy, presented in a moving and beautiful exhibition.

Drawn to Print is at:

Tweed Regional Gallery & Magaret Olley Art Centre  (21 April to 18 June)

Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery (20 October to 3 December)

Orange Regional Gallery (17 February to 1 April 2018)

Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery (13 July to 8 September 2018)

‘In My Backyard’ at Castlemaine Press

From top:
 Rhyll Plant, Lookin in at you lookin at me, 2017, hand-coloured linocut, 12 x 2 cm
 Patsy Bush, Backyard Bird, four-coloured lithograph, 12 x 12cm
 Janet Neilsen, Backyard Bounty, 2017, collagraph and linocut, 12 x 12 cm
Castlemaine Press has launched its first print exchange. Barbara Semler talks about the ambitions and the theme of “in my backyard”.

IMPRINT: What is the history of this print exchange and how did it come about?

BS: Castlemaine Press Inc. is an artist-run not for profit printmaking organisation, with a foundation of 60-plus members. We run a fully equipped community access print studio, located at Lot19, a wonderful arts hub in Castlemaine, Central Victoria.

We recognise that printmaking facilities are difficult to access and adequate studio space is also out of reach for many people.  Castlemaine Press seeks to make printmaking more accessible by providing facilities, along with opportunities for members to work alongside others, be supported by more experienced printmakers, gain skills, and build a sense of community and collaboration.

The print exchange idea came about when a group of Castlemaine Press members were gathered together discussing the sorts of opportunities other printmakers might enjoy.

IMPRINT: What are the benefits of this sort of exchange?

BS: The idea of a print exchange as a way of involving our members and other printmakers both in Australia and internationally feels right. Exchanges are a wonderful way for artists to share their work and to have it exhibited and up for sale. It is a delight for participants to receive prints in exchange for the prints they submit. It is also a great way of connecting artists from across the Globe, with all the potential that these connections might bring.

The project has other benefits. It will be a chance for Castlemaine Press, entirely voluntarily run, to raise revenue, to build our profile in the printmaking community, to attract new members and enthusiasts and, as an initiative that has relied on the community’s generosity, to ‘give back’. We will give 10% of the money we raise to the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group.

IMPRINT: What are some of the foundations ideas behind the concept of ‘in my backyard’?

BS: We decided on “In my backyard” as a way of exploring and celebrating our own environment. The idea of celebrating different environments around Australia and the world appealed. We also thought the concept could be explored in many ways and would resonate with lots of printmakers. Donating a percentage of revenue to a community-based environmental organisation adds another layer to the concept of “in my back yard”.

IMPRINT: How are artists responding so far to the theme?

BS: The entries that we have received so far have been from within Australia and from a variety of other countries. It is diverse range. Participants have explored the flora and fauna of the environment using a variety of printmaking techniques, and have responded to the theme from some surprising and creative angles. We can’t wait to see what arrives in our post box next!

The Castlemaine Press Print Exchange is accepting entries until 30 April. The exhibition will open at the Press on 27 May, 3, 10 and 17 June.

castlemainepress@gmail.com

www.castlemainepress.com.au

www.facebook.com/castlemainepress

Q&A: Marco Luccio

From top:
Crowds and Flatiron (2013)
Etching on Velin Arches paper
24.5 x 20cm
Edition of 50
New York Mythic 7 (2016)
Drypoint on Velin Arches paper
90 x 180cm
Edition of 25
New York Mythic 6 (2016)
Drypoint on Velin Arches paper
90 x 180cm
Edition of 25
Night-time in New York (2013)
Etching on Velin Arches
20 x 24.5cm
Edition of 50

Marco Luccio unveils a suite of work at the Australian Consulate-General in New York City.

IMPRINT: How did your New York exhibition come about, and what are some of the ideas underlying your approach to both the imagery and the process you have employed for making them?

ML: I exhibited my body of work International Cities at the Australian Consulate-General in 2010. On my last visit in 2015/16 I was asked by the Consulate if I would like to be considered to exhibit the New York Mythic series.

The approach to this exhibition has been one of capturing New York as a mythic city, a city of memory and senses as much as the city we can see, walk and touch.

The process I used differed in the sense that I set myself a task, a goal if you like, of not just responding to New York the way I had previously through direct in situ work, but to have a preconceived notion of capturing a mythical aspect of Manhattan, whatever that may entail. The idea of starting out with this approach was to see what would come from it so that when I did work on the images either in situ or from sketches in the studio it allowed a greater freedom and expression. The hope was to create images that evoked a representative metropolis as much as New York City itself. Basically, even before I got on the plane to New York and before I would start any sketches in situ, I knew I would be trying to create something that would capture the city in a new way for me.

The process of sketching I used was different too, employing more of a broken line in some of the etchings and drypoint to create movement and light.

And at other times, I would be drawing with my pen constantly on the paper, moving quickly to help me to create marks that depict the city as an organic cluster of cohesive forms. This way I was playing with the idea of capturing the city as a place full of totems and canyons and something more poetic and dreamlike than the earlier more observational drypoints and drawings. The two big six foot drypoints were a way for me to capture the scale of the city and the overwhelming sense of built environs that stretches forever. New York seems to demand such a scale.

IMPRINT: What has your relationship been with New York and how do you inhabit it as compared with your usual stomping grounds in Australia?

ML: My first reason to come to New York was after seeing Metropolis by Fritz Lang when I was a student.

Lang was inspired by New York and its skyline. He filled his film with a city that paid homage to New York. I had seen it on a big screen and was totally captivated by the futuristic city he created. I then discovered he was inspired by Manhattan and I knew I wanted to come here. I have since been to New York many times and will continue to do so as it demands years of looking to truly feel confident of capturing and responding to the city in a serious, comfortable and connected way.

As an artist, when I’m in New York I feel different. I’m electrified by the place and come here to be recharged with ideas and possibilities.

Here in New York anything and everything seems possible.

First, I absorb the assault on the senses and allow the place to fill me with energy while managing that feeling that at anytime you might get swallowed up by it.

What I love about New York is the frantic, pulsating thrust of the city and its people.

I love its history written on all its architecture and filling its streets with art and culture of every kind.

It’s the myth of the city as much as the reality that I love, hence the title of this new work.

The fact that everyone in New York is out to achieve something gives it this mad, rushed, frantic essence, unlike any other place. It’s this energy and ambition that has fed into my work.

The city has everything and anything you may want as an artist, and it delivers it all in supersize amounts day or night.

In comparison, Melbourne feels peaceful and calm yet still inspiring from a cityscape point of view. I have made images of Melbourne for many years so it feels very comfortable and familiar, whereas in New York there is always so much to see that even when you return you see so much more. Your senses are truly aroused in a way that is much more intense than Melbourne.

IMPRINT: Is New York one of the toughest subjects an artist can tackle, given the abundance of imagery about it produced during its lively history?

ML: Yes and no. When I created my first body of work on New York in 2008, and of which a selection are included in New York Mythic, I definitely felt a sense of that weight and of its history. These were a response to the city that I had known well through art, music and literature. I created images that I hoped would show the iconic city in a different light. It was the first time I had questioned and doubted if I could do justice to a city I was interpreting. This city has so much built environment that for someone like me who is fascinated by cities, it gave me a sense of possible failure if I couldn’t connect and respond to what I was seeing. I wondered  if I would be able to create something of a high enough standard.

To overcome this fear I only drew for the first two weeks, not attempting any drypoints, just filling sketchbooks with countless studies every day.

Sometimes I would draw the same view over and over. I even developed my own shorthand to help me describe windows and rooftops quickly.

So yes there is that weight of expectation considering the imagery produced in and about New York  is so great and so well known, but it is just so inspiring to me that any fear of that abundant history is overridden by the potential of creating something exciting.

I guess I have always put myself in uncomfortable situations with my work knowing that is how you grow as an artist.

I know it helped a lot that I had created work about Melbourne first, then Sydney, then Florence and Paris and that these were great stepping stones to depicting New York.

I couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t have created the previous work about these other cities.

IMPRINT: What is it about urban landscapes that captivates you?

ML: Urban landscapes appeal to me as symbols of civilisation and modern totems of humanity. Nothing appeals to me more than seeing a city from afar and the roads leading to its centre. There is something very special and comforting to me about such a scene. I guess it’s what that scene represents as much as what it looks like. Our cities contain so much art, music, architectural variety, visual stimulation and so much more that for me it opens up so many possibilities for my work .

New York is the epitome of these things. I remember my first-ever view of the astonishing rows of massive and endless buildings that were strewn across the island. It really took my breath away and I remember gasping out loud.

IMPRINT: Why is printmaking a preferred method for making your art?

ML: These days I paint and draw and create assemblages as much as make prints, but the thing about printmaking that I love and in particular drypoint is that you are able to create something that no other medium is able to. It’s like drawing, but it’s more than drawing. For me it allows a kind of primitive mark making that combines the subject and the process uniting them as one. The city is full of gritty lines and history and the drypoint technique allows you to create so much of these qualities within the matrix of the plate.

I also love that you can scratch so physically into the plate and yet still scrape back to remove these marks. I love that this scraping back leaves the traces of previous marks still visible creating rich layers and ghosts of the previous marks. This allows the wonderful history of the scraping-back process visible, which in many ways is much like the cities themselves with its layers of constant change. New York is the perfect city to capture in this method.

 

New York Mythic is on until late May, 2017.

Visit: www.marcoluccio.com.au

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Three Ways at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery

From top:
Meg Buchanan, Laminal 5, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 92 x 152 cm
Anita McIntyre, Kimberley, 2016, porcelain clay, monopint, 81 x 111 x 5 cm
G.W.Bot, Grassland Glyphs, 2016, linocut on kozo paper, 94 x 64 cm

 

 

Megan Hanrahan explores Three Ways: G.W.Bot, Meg Buchanan, Anita McIntyre with exhibition curator Peter Haynes.

 

Three Ways centres around the deep connection of three artists, Meg Buchanan, Anita McIntyre and G.W. Bot with the Australian landscape. The title not only refers to these women exploring their connection with the country, but also alludes to three varied methods they use to convey the meaning behind their art.

‘I think the best and strongest expressions of Australian art have not just historically but also contemporaneously come from relation to the Australian landscape,’ says curator Peter Haynes.  The exhibition explores this relationship through the eyes of the artists.  ‘I don’t think self expression that landscape elicits needs to be a realist landscape… the best landscapes are the poetic ones, the ones that make you think about what you’re looking at, and why the artists have chosen to do their depiction of the landscape in the way that they have.’

Anita McIntyre’s work throughout her career has in many ways been informed by places such as the North West Kimberley and the open central desert. In Three Ways her use of ceramics, embedded with lino prints, allows for a raw and eloquent reflection of a tangible connection between artist and environment. Portraying her relationship with Australian landscape in a similar way, G.W. Bot, whose artist’s name and adopted totem refers to one of our most iconic animals (an early French citation of le Grand Wam Bot, or Grand Wombat), uses prints, paintings and sculptures to engage with Australian nature. Her connection with the land is evident through both her working name and her art. Glyph motifs reoccur in many pieces of her work, and can also be found in the Three Ways exhibition, resulting in intricate and detailed pieces. Meg Buchanan uses mixed techniques to create landscapes which are rich with colour, and convey and analyse the vast spaces of Australia, as well as in some instances, the human place within it.

‘Landscape embraces things like ecology, environment, politics… and each of the artists, even if it is not overt, make reference to all the wider elements that encompass what landscape is,’ Haynes says. He was inspired to curate the exhibition by a desire to portray the work of artists with whom he has worked in the past, and whose work he admires.

‘I chose the artists and as curator was closely involved with the display.’

The space is also a crucial element in Three Ways. ‘It has to make people understand the reasons why things are in the exhibitions, you have to establish a certain relationship. It is very important where things go, and how they’re placed within the overall… configuration of the gallery. Ultimately they need to convey what one is trying to say in the exhibition with these three views of landscape, and what they [communicate] to one another.’

Three Ways is at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery 31 March-20 May www.grag.com.au
 –

‘Seawards’ at Grahame Galleries + Editions, QLD

From top:
Shipwreck (after Claude), 2016, etching, edition of 20, 20x 30 cm
printed by Simon White APW
Wind over Water, 2012, linocut, woodblock
edition of 5, 65 x 100 cm
Rough Weather (after Monet), 2016, etching, edition of 20, 20x 30 cm
Bass Strait Light, 2013, linocut, woodblock, stencil, edition of 10, 90 x 60 cm

Jennifer Marshall’s new exhibition Seawards takes us headlong into the turbulent elements.

IMPRINT: What are some of the foundation ideas for Seawards, and how does it represent the development of your interests?

JM: Since 1994 , I have been making images of the sea, storm, shipwreck and so on. Initially, this related to the years that I lived in central Victoria and had a longing to return to the sea and coast. In 1994, I spent a semester teaching in the printmaking studio at UTAS, Hobart where I started to make prints and paintings about the sea. There I made a large twelve-part chiaroscuro relief print based on Titian’s great woodcut of  The Submersion of Pharaoh’s Army in the Red Sea (1514) and which is basically about a storm at sea.

This preoccupation with the sea and storm has continued in my work since moving to Tasmania in 2011.

IMPRINT: How does your work relate (or not!) to particular traditions in printmaking, both in terms of technique and content?

JM: My prints are firmly within the tradition of intaglio and relief print particularly in the ways in which plates and blocks can be worked and re-worked, sometimes over many years. Those artists, both contemporary and from the past, who have worked in this way are of ongoing interest. Last year, I spent some time in Prints and Drawings at the National Gallery of Victoria looking at Rembrandt’s intaglio prints and continue to be dazzled by their directness and power: notably state four of the Three Crosses made seven years after the first state and in which he has attacked the plate with such vigour .

Etching offers me a richness of mark-making not equalled in any other medium, the depth of tone, the possibilities afforded by erasure as well by drawing or scratching lines; from the greatest, silvery, fineness to the deep, wide fuzzy blackness of drypoint. This repertoire of mark-making is what I have tried, in part, to exploit in these small works.

As for the relief-prints, another set of mark making, cutting/drawing directly with the gouges not pre-planned beyond a rough sketch. All printed by hand, using the baren too as a way of making marks. Not flat blacks but layers of semi-transparent greys inspired by Munakata’s great woodcuts such as In Praise of the Sea and the Mountains (1958) and by the directness of his cutting and printing.

IMPRINT: Seawards is a very evocative title – can you discuss your own relationship with this subject matter?

JM: Seawards… meaning turning away from the land, particularly looking towards the sea. Seawards rather than seaward  emphasizes movement. However, it also refers to a wind blowing from the sea. As my focus in all these works is on movement of water, turbulence, weather and shifts back and forth from light to dark, Seawards seems an appropriate title for these loosely connected prints which were not conceived of as one specific group. There are three etchings which form a discrete group that I made last year as a result of an artist-in-residence project supported by Australian Print Workshop. These prints are all made after works in the collection of NGV International: two paintings by Monet and Courbet respectively and an etching of Shipwreck by Claude of 1640.

IMPRINT: Why is printmaking the best process for you to use for this work ?

JM: I am not sure that it is! However, as a painter it is helpful to make much smaller works which are largely monochromatic, or at least restricted in colour as a way of sorting out some problems. I do this also by making quite large-scale drawings in charcoal and conte.

All of which feeds into the paintings that run parallel to the prints and drawings. I see printmaking largely as a form of drawing using a variety of tools to make marks. My aim is to achieve a degree of spontaneity and directness in these prints as well as a richness of texture and depth of tone that is characteristic of the processes used.

Seawards is at Grahame Galleries  + Editions until 29 April

‘Platinum’ at RMIT Project Space

From top:
Jazmina Cininas, WHO’S AFRAID OF THE BIG BAD WOLF, 1996, artist Book – detail
Jessi Wong, Migration IV,  2017, print collage, drawing

 

A new exhibition at RMIT celebrates the 20-year connection between its print-based programs and the acclaimed Australian Print Workshop. Andrew Stephens reports.

 

It has been a relationship based on quality, dedication and generosity, and many riches have sprung from it: since 1996, the Australian Print Workshop has sent representatives to RMIT to scout around for someone to take up the Collie Print Trust Emerging Victorian Printmakers Scholarship.

The recipients of the coveted scholarship get rent-free access to APW’s professional printmaking studio and equipment for a year and, at the end of it, the chance to exhibit in the APW Gallery. It has been a wonderful opportunity and many artists have cited it as integral to their continuing involvement with printmaking.

To mark this is Platinum, an exhibition of the work of six artists who have received the scholarship and continued to produce printmaking-related work – retaining traditional printmaking elements but sometimes exploring exciting new territory. Dr Richard Harding, studio coordinator of RMIT’s Print Imaging Practice (Photography and Printmaking), says that APW director Anne Virgo OAM has been involved in both the longstanding relationship between the two institutions and the selection of the six artists (Jazmina Cininas, Andrew Gunnell, Carolyn Hawkins, Clare Humphries, Deb Taylor and Jessi Wong).

Each artist has submitted work produced during their scholarship at APW along with an example of their more recent output – and sometimes the differences are considerable.

‘It is not a “compare and comparison” show but one that is moving forward,’ Harding says. ‘If you are really interested in the idea of then and now, then the gallery spectator/participant can enact that themselves without us directing them.’

Harding says that since its inception, APW has championed the tradition of printmaking and print-based works and, thus, the work selected comes from those traditions, even as it plays with it. Jessi Wong’s work, for example is printed traditionally but then chopped up and collaged back together.

‘And while some of the APW scholarship recipients in the show are just starting to find their feet in the art world, there are others who are well-established.’

In the catalogue for Platinum, Virgo writes that the Collie Print Trust scholarship is awarded to those early-career artists and recent graduates who demonstrate not only a talent and passion for printmaking but who are also committed to developing their printmaking practice.

‘APW is very proud of its scholarship alumni, many of whom are now engaged in arts leadership positions and whose prints have been exhibited and collected by major  art galleries and museums throughout  Australia and internationally,’ she says.

Platinum is at RMIT:ART:INTERSECT Project Space/Spar Room, building 94, 23-27 Cardigan Street, Carlton, until 11 May http://art.rmit.edu.au/calendar/opening-platinum/

 –

Q&A: Graeme Peebles

From top:
Graeme Peebles, Time-tide (2012-13), mezzotint, 90 x 55 cms
Graeme Peebles, The Swimmers (2015-17), mezzotint, 60 x 90 cms
Graeme Peebles, Umbria (2017), mezzotint, 24 x 24 cms
Graeme Peebles, Cave of the Green Aurochs (2013-16), mezzotint, 30 x 50 cms

Graeme Peebles takes his new project A Moment of Time into a subterranean context.

IMPRINT: What are the foundation ideas for this body of work?

GP: It was a bit of a slow gestation. I spent my early childhood in southern Tasmania living near the beach. I can recall there seemed to be a lot of middens, not that I realised what they were at the time. On a few recent trips it struck me that I didn’t come across any, so I toyed around with the idea, which led to Time-Tide. Around the same time I was waiting for a dental appointment, flicking through the magazines, when I saw an article about some 10,000 year old abalone shells that had been found in a cave in Africa. They had been use to hold pigment for cave painting. That got me going, thinking about the rationale of art, why we create it. All the pictures have a starting point in actual archeological discoveries in recent years. for example, Big Midden refers to a cave complex in Spain that was completely filled with discarded food shells 25,000 years ago and had to be abandoned as a place to live. I still don’t know where this body of work is finally heading.

The show also includes a few treescapes/landscapes, which I commenced during a residency in Umbria last year. I was drawn to the shapes of the Roman pine trees, the weird shapes of the trunks and negative spaces round the branches. Turns out there is a park full of them very close to where I live; they did seem familiar.

IMPRINT: Do you find it a balancing act to divide your energy between a focus on content/ideas along with technical concerns?

GP: Not really; fundamentally I am an image-maker, so the visual image is paramount. Mezzotint artists tend to get labelled as technically obsessed, I’m not. It’s a means to an end and the end is the image. I have absolutely no interest in technical perfection, in fact I never change mistakes, I just try and work them in. I usually spend the first hour of a working day rocking plates, this gives me a lot of time to think about the image and how I should go about it. It often takes one or two years to finish the larger plates and I normally have four or five on the go at one time. Keeping the whole thing cohesive can be the biggest difficulty.

IMPRINT: What do you consider your most important innovations in your career?

GP: In a general sense, while I don’t claim to be the first to ever do this, exhibiting my work unframed at Australian Galleries was an innovation at the time. I think it was 2003, Murray White was works-on-paper manager at the time and he supported the concept. Initially it was met with a rather negative reaction by a lot of people, but it solved the problem of the black mirror effect of mezzotints under glass and made the work much more accessible. In personal terms the fog prints in the 1990s led me on to a different way of thinking about mezzotint. They were very abstract, virtually no image and no black background. This slowly led to my current practise of generally using a colour mixture for the base ink rather than black. It adds a lot more clarity to the image, but I have to credit Bill Young for coming up with that one. Combining mezzotint and lithography was intriguing, although so far we have only done a couple, there are a lot of possibilities, and I can see that mezzotint could easily be combined with some of the digital techniques.

IMPRINT: In what ways do you think printmaking can improve its visibility in the arts?

GP: What a question! I switched to printmaking from painting in second year art school, 1974, and within a couple of weeks people were telling me that printmaking had had its day. Its death has been pronounced many times since. Longevity is the greatest revenge in art.

In a creative sense I think printmaking is booming at the moment, the problems seem to be more related to marketing/exhibiting. It’s possibly useful to look at the differences between the 1970s/80s and now. Commercial galleries are far more specialised these days, in the past most galleries had a bit of everything so you always had a chance of getting a show with someone. On the other hand there are more lateral possibilities now with access spaces, pop ups etc. Still, it must be dreadfully difficult for young artists to get a start. Curated group shows and touring shows were more prevalent. Universities etc were often sending exhibitions of Australian prints to counterparts overseas and vice-versa. To get a commercial show outside Australia meant doing the gallery tramp with a folio under your arm (the mention of mezzotint generally closed the doors immediately). So, the internet has greatly improved things there. In a lot of ways there is a big divide at the moment, lots of opportunities for printmakers in the regional areas, not much in the capital cities.

Back to the origional question. I haven’t got a clue. I am personally more optimistic  about the future of Australian printmaking now than at any time in the past, simply because of the quality and diversity of the work being produced. The art world has always been cyclical, but I am still naive enough to think that eventually people will recognise how good Australian printmaking really is. Possibly not.

Graeme Peebles’ A Moment of Time is at The Art Vault, Mildura, 29 March-17 April

Q&A: Paul Coldwell

From top:
Paul Coldwell Lines and branches, 2012 screenprint
56 x 76cm. edition of 8
Paul Coldwell Sites of memory –suitcase 2006, screenprint
59 x 71cm. edition of 15
Paul Coldwell Still Life Bouquet 2012, inkjet and linocut
59 x 84cms. edition of 7

 

 

Paul Uhlmann speaks with British printmaker Paul Coldwell about his latest work.

PAUL UHLMANN: I have often thought that etching in particular is like making sculpture in miniature. Can you discuss the relationship between sculpture and printmaking in your practice.

PAUL COLDWELL: My work in sculpture and printmaking are closely related in terms of ideas although they look very different. I have always resisted the tendency to develop a distinctive style and so try to approach each piece of work with a high degree of risk and experimentation. I want to be surprised. For me both sculpture and printmaking are about the pleasure of making but some ideas seem naturally to need expression through objects, other than through a flat pictorial language.

There are many similarities between the processes I use in sculpture and print. Casting, for example transforms an object from one material to another as well as reversing it. This is similar to the transformation where an etched line in metal is transformed into a reverse image in ink on paper, as occurs in etching. In both instances there is a transformation through a matrix, unlike painting which is predicated on direct touch. I find these processes give me thinking time and allow me to progress an idea through stages. In terms of ideas, once I have decided on the material or process, these become part of the language to express that idea. If it works, then the idea, process and material become inseparable. I would add that play is an essential element in my working process whether in sculpture or print.  I am driven by a curiosity to visualize my ideas and trial and error is a key aspect of that process. You mention the word miniature, and much of my work is about inviting the viewer to look in, particularly with the sculptures, so they have a sense of models or visual propositions rather than works which are concerned with occupying space.

PU:  You outline that drawing is a private thinking process and that with your prints your ‘… inclination is to edit out any sense of there being a correlation between gesture and emotion’ – can you further elaborate.

PC: I am drawn to works which have a strong degree of restraint and for me, I want to make works where the emotion is compressed rather than allowed free rein. Its not that I think expressionism is wrong, its just it doesn’t work for me and when I have tried, I have felt that the emotion becomes more comic than tragic. So in keeping with this, I try to keep the gesture under control and to find other ways of exploring the emotion that sits behind the ideas. I also like to pair down work, to get rid of what I feel is non essential. I’m not trying to erase the hand its more that I want to keep a tight control.

PU: You mention that you are able to draw images by manipulating individual dots on halftone screens on the computer – can you please explain how this assists you in your work? Is there a moment when the tool of a computer is very close to the traditional tools of pencil and paper?

PC: When I first started using the computer back in the mid 1990’s my approach then, as it remains, was that digital technologies could be added to the tool box of technologies that printmakers can use. Like Richard Hamilton, I don’t think that you have to think of processes in isolation, so in many of my prints there is a combination of techniques and media. This also helps break the uniformity that a print surface can have as well as suggesting that the print has been made layer by layer.

I’ve been very interested for some time in the half tone dot. This is the means through which a photograph traditionally was prepared for print. In analogue darkroom techniques, the photograph would be projected through a fine dot screen and depending on the fineness of that screen, would be the size of the dots. Working on the computer, rather than having to accept the overall unified size and density, I can manipulate each individual dot if I so wish. This makes the photograph as fluid as a drawing and brings those two languages into close proximity.

PU: Morandi is an artist who has exerted a powerful influence on many artists including you. Indeed you curated a show whereby British artists were paired with a work by Morandi. Can you outline what it is that impresses you about Morandi? Is it something to do with the way he organises space around everyday objects; his tonal quality which is evident in his paintings as well as his prints or is it something more poetic and indefinable?

PC: Giorgio Morandi was an artist I discovered when I was first at college. He’s one of those, artist’s artists that seems to exert a wide influence over a surprisingly broad range of artists. As you said, I wrote a book and curated an exhibition in 2006 entitled Morandi’s Legacy: Influences on British Art which explored this idea through juxtaposing key works by Morandi with signature pieces by leading British artists such as Ben Nicholson, Tony Cragg and David Hockney.

I was first attracted to his prints by the restraint within their making. Basically he used hard ground etching and the language of cross hatching to render either his groupings of bric-a-brac (bottles, jugs, oil lamps etc.) or simple landscapes viewed through binoculars from his studio in Grizzana.

I’m drawn to the inward looking nature of his work, the small repoitroire of objects and landscapes and how he opened up the rigid mannerism of cross hatching into a varied and expressive language capable of intense emotion. I suppose he’s like Samuel Becket, making so much from so little and furthermore, like Becket, dealing with the spaces in-between, the shadows as well as the objects, the silences as well as the words. For me there is something intense about the way Morandi gives value to all parts of a picture irrespective of whether it can be identified with a name. If I were to project this as a model for society, each person would be valued and their contribution understood.

PU: Printmaking especially Intaglio is often understood as being an alchemical form of expression driven by process. Can you outline if experimentation is part of your process?

PC: Experimentation is very much a part of my practice but its essential for me to keep control so that the experiments take me in the direction I want to go. Printmaking, as you rightly say can be seen as an alchemical process and the danger can be that so many unexpected things can happen and can overwhelm the intention you had at the beginning. You might end up with a fascinating print in terms of wonderful ingredients but if you’ve lost ownership of the idea in the process, then for me it’s a failure. Of course experimentation starts at the drawing stage, those first attempts to turn an idea into a visual proposition. Most of my ideas are worked through in sketchbooks and notes, but these are essentially ways of getting ready to start. Once in progress, as the print develops there are things that can happen, particularly in etching which were not anticipated and then I have to make those hard decisions about whether to live with those changes or edit them out.

PU: Gaston Bachelard writes that many people think of an image as something which is in formation however for him it is a process of deformation. We will use this quote as the basis for a one-day forum while you are in Australia however can you respond to this quote? How do you understand such an idea of the deforming image from Bachelard?

PC: I think that we so often think of the imagination as something fully formed and simply waiting to be realized. I prefer to think of imagination as deforming in as much as enabling us to project onto things, meanings and associations. Often, when I am drawn to something, I have little idea of why and its only through working with it that it acquires meaning for me. It develops as an idea and often very practical questions have a profound impact, i.e. how will a sculpture stand up? What happens at the edge?

In the process of making, whether a sculpture or a print, scale becomes of great importance and changes the meaning of an object. Something that suggests it can be held in the hand for example, is radically different from the same image made large. So the physical size of the work engenders a very particular set of associations, which further contribute to what we might understand as the meaning of a work.

I do see a danger in so much art being known primarily through reproduction. There is a paradox that as artists we spend endless time making specific decisions about size, material, texture, colour, and if one goes deeper, for example the decision to screenprint as apposed to using lithography, the subtle difference between dry point and etching, and yet predominantly our images are not experienced directly in the flesh, but translated through lithographic or digital reproduction in publications, or transformed into images on phones or other digital devices. It is important to understand what is lost and what is gained through this process and as a professor, engaged in research, insist that the artworks are seen as prime sources and experienced directly whenever possible.

PU: You have made many artists’ books and at times these books have been collaborations such as the book with poet Anthony Rudolf. Can you outline how you went about this collaboration. Was it active or were you both working separately and bringing the images and text together?

PC: I have made a number of artists books, each a collaboration and each very different. For example, With the melting of the Snows was a response to Martin Bell radio broadcast when he stood down as the BBC War Correspondent. My lasts book, Temporarily accessioned is a documentary record of the action in which I arranged for the coat that Sigmund Freud wore for his exile to England from Vienna in 1938, to be x-rayed at the National Gallery in London as if it were a relic or masterpiece. With Kafka’s Doll, I had wanted to collaborate with the poet Anthony Rudolf for some time and eventually he gave me this short story to work with. It’s very minimal and pithy and the story is based on a real life occurrence in Kafka’s life where he comes across a child crying that she had lost her Doll. The story then unfolds and I wanted to match the simple direct prose of Rudolf with a set of images worked on within the computer. The overriding visual theme is the idea of the constellation and the way we try to make sense of the world through projecting images. I designed the layout for the book including the endpapers and tried to suggest the dark layers that are below what a first glace is a simple story.

PU: I was interested in what you said about anxiety and how it is something which is always with you. You channel this into your art. Your recent work in particular belies any outward sense of anxiety. Can you discuss this apparent paradox?

PC: This is a very interesting question and observation. I think there is often a gap between how someone is perceived and the lived reality and most of us are contradictions, the number of sad clowns is an example that comes readily to mind. But as I said earlier, I’ve resisted the safety net of a clearly identifiable style, preferring to try to resolve ideas in a more open ended way. This by its nature involves working closely with failure and risk and most of my work goes through a long gestation process. But I always feel that there seems to be a lot riding on each new piece of work and that previous successes don’t alleviate the pressure and I try to keep challenging myself to stop things being too comfortable. But I’m glad you feel that the work belies this sense of anxiety since it’s the ideas that I would rather have the focus on.

Paul Coldwell’s Small Traces is at Gallery 25 at Edith Cowan University until 18 April. He will participate in a symposium titled Forming and Deforming Images: The creative process in flux on 27 March at 9am.

Paul Coldwell is an artist and Professor in Fine Art at University of the Arts London with a broad practice which includes printmaking, sculpture and book works.  He has curated a number of exhibitions, has lectured throughout the world and writes regularly on printmaking for Print Quarterly and Art in Print. He was ECU Visiting Fellow to Edith Cowan University in March 2017. He held his first major solo show in Australia at ECU in Gallery 25 on ECU Mt Lawley Campus.

Paul Uhlmann is an artist, Lecturer and coordinator of Visual Arts at Edith Cowan University in Perth. His work will be in the forthcoming exhibition Batavia! Open your Eyes at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery at UWA in October.

Q&A: Global Oceans

From top:
Laura Castell, Just one More, 2017, reduction linocut on aquatint etching 300 gsm, oil based ink, 14.8 x 21 cm
Mary Moore, Inheritance, 2017, photopolymer etching with digital chine collé on Ho Sho and Somerset White papers, Ink Jet colour and Charbonnel Noir etching inks, 14.8 x 21cm.
Mary Pulford, Mangrove and Samphire, 2017, linocut on hand made seaweed paper, 14.8 x 21cm

 

 

Julia Wakefield is behind Global Oceans, the title for this year’s ambitious Adelaide International Print Exchange, centred on the health of our increasingly endangered ocean environments. The results are being exhibited at Adelaide’s Hahndorf Academy.

 

IMPRINT: What is the foundation of the theme ‘global oceans’ for this year’s Adelaide Print Exchange?

JW: ‘Global oceans’ is a term that is used when conservationists refer to the importance of retaining an ecological balance throughout the marine environment. Everyone on the planet is affected by what happens in the oceans, and the devastating effects of our own human activities on the oceans are only now becoming terrifyingly evident.  The oceans have always been not only a communication highway between civilizations, but also a challenge to our imaginations, tempting us to take our ships ever further towards that distant horizon, or tantalising us with prospects of hidden treasures or fearsome monsters lurking in the depths below. I invited printmakers to let their imaginations roam around this subject, which is also an appropriate metaphor for the communication flow that develops around an international print exchange.  Our previous theme in 2015, ‘Winged Messengers’, also evoked images both natural and philosophical.

IMPRINT: How diverse – geographically and artistically – were entries in the exchange?

 JW: I received prints from the UK, America, Singapore and New Zealand, as well as five different states in Australia. Most of the printmakers are very experienced, and have taken part in many other print exchanges. A few have been encouraged to take part in a print exchange for the first time, but you would be hard put to tell which ones are the relative novices, given the general overall high standard.

IMPRINT: What is the history and importance of this event?

JW: I have taken part in international print exchanges since the 1990s, when I was living in the UK. I began to see the value of striving to produce high-quality editions so that I could build up a collection of prints from artists from other countries and cultures that would both educate and inspire me.  I exhibited 15 of these exchanges at the Hahndorf Academy in 2013.

In 2015 I established and exhibited the biannual Adelaide International Print Exchange, with the aim of bringing printmakers from all over the world together to create a unique exhibition. Twenty-nine printmakers from all over Australia, from America and Singapore took part.

The primary purpose of the AIPE is to encourage as high a standard as possible for these prints, by exhibiting them and offering them for sale.

The second, but equally important purpose, is not only to raise awareness about global environmental issues but also to raise funds for organisations that are working to improve and preserve our natural environment. Each print is sold for the same price ($85 including commission), and the artists donate all profits from the sale of the first print to a designated charity.

Our first beneficiary was Birds SA. All profits from sales of the prints were donated and used to help fund research students at our local universities.

This time the number of contributors has grown to over 50, and the charity we are supporting is the National Marine Conservation Society.

IMPRINT: Why is printmaking so important to you?

JW: It’s difficult to explain. The excitement of discovery is always part of the process. The perfect simplicity of an idea expressed in a print can transcend linguistic and cultural barriers. The friendships that printmakers can develop, even through the simple act of exchanging prints, are genuine and lasting. Printmaking also seems to go hand in hand with a concern for the environment, perhaps because we are now more aware of how toxic printmaking processes can be, and we want to minimise our negative impact on the natural world.

A handmade print asks to be held and valued as a precious object, but it is not a useful object like a piece of pottery or jewellery. It has value as a work of art, yet it is, more often than not, one print from a limited edition, which means it can be bought or exchanged with far less pomp and ceremony than an original painting. Many prints are precious, not because they have monetary value, and not necessarily because they are intrinsically beautiful; their value lies in the unique message that is transmitted from the artist to the owner of the print: a message that words alone cannot express. – Andrew Stephens

Global Oceans is at Hahndorf Academy until 23 April 
http://hahndorfacademy.org.au/exhibitions-1/2017/3/24/global-oceans-the-adelaide-international-print-exchange
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Q&A: Burnie Print Prize 2017

From top:
The Burnie Print Print on display
Performance printmaking by Performprint.
Patricia Wilson-Adams, Positions 1 to 3 (2016), letterpress on Chinese paper, wax, slate, wood and metal, edition 1/4, framed triptych, 35 x 105 cm

 

 

The Burnie Print Prize has announced its winner, Patricia Wilson-Adams for her work Positions  1 to 3 (2016), letterpress on Chinese paper, wax, slate, wood and metal. Imprint speaks with curator Birgitta Magnusson-Reid.

IMPRINT: What is the history of the Burnie Print Prize and how does it relate to the Burnie Regional Art Gallery’s impressive collection of works on paper?

BM-R: The inaugural Burnie Print Prize was held for the first time ten years ago in 2007. The Director at the time, Belinda Wright, had a vision to develop the gallery’s permanent collection on a national basis through an acquisitive award and in doing so, bring the best of contemporary printmaking to public view.

The Burnie Regional Art Gallery opened in 1978. Due to the difficulty for a new gallery to grow a comprehensive collection of artworks surveying the history of Australian art, it was decided, in 1980, to adopt an acquisition policy with a principal focus on collecting works on paper. This reflected the strong historical presence of the papermaking industry in the region and enabled the collection to so have an emphasis on contemporary Australian art.

In line with this policy, the gallery started to subscribe to the Print Council of Australia’s annual print commission. These prints form a significant part of the gallery’s collection and with the addition of the winning, purchased and donated works from the Burnie Print Prize, the historical and cultural values of the gallery’s collection are greatly enhanced.

IMPRINT: What are some of the special qualities evident in Patricia Wilson-Adams’ Positions 1 to 3?

BM-R: The judges were looking for works that show a great feeling for the material presence of a print as well as displaying innovation in regards to tradition.

They also paid special attention to artists whose work demonstrated some sort of progression in their making and how their work has developed over the years.

Wilson-Adams‘ work was awarded the prize on the basis that the judges felt it engages most directly with the viewer, posing questions, setting up moments of involvement. It is a work that promises to maintain its ability to captivate and will be an asset to the collection.

IMPRINT: What is the most unusual work entered for the prize this year?

BM-R: When the entries to the prize opened we received a phone call from the print collective Performprint.

They wondered if they would be considered for entering as their prints are made as live action performances with a pro-skateboarder as the printer. To us, this seemed both innovative and exciting, but in the end it was up to the judges to make this decision during the pre-selection. Their entry was accepted by the judges and the group arrived at the gallery and selected a space big enough for the print action to take place in front of the judges.

IMPRINT: How far afield do entries typically come from?

BM-R: The Burnie Print Prize has for the majority of instalments, received entries from all Australian states and territories. This year, for the first time, the prize was opened to the whole Oceania region. Out of the 133 entries, five were international and out of those two were included in the final exhibition of 52 works.

 

IMPRINT: Why is printmaking still such an important part of the art world?

BM-R: Printmaking is the art form which for centuries has been performed in a symbiosis with technology, derived from it but also driving the development of the tools and techniques used.  You have to ask yourself would we have poster art without lithography and later screenprinting and where will 3D-printers take the print art?

The different print methods have of course always required very different skill sets. I don’t think we will see a loss of expertise in the future but rather a new development where all printing techniques will be used in interesting ways.

We don’t know how or why the artists included in the Burnie Print Prize have turned to printmaking as their preferred method of expression, but somehow the idea that printmaking is part of human nature springs to mind, as ninety-nine per cent of us at some stage in life have carved into something, be it grandma’s colonial table or a message of everlasting love on a tree. Inking up and taking a print may not have been included in that context but for the print artists it is and continues to be!

The Burnie Print Prize is on at the Burnie Regional Art Gallery until 7 May
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