Flow: Counihan Gallery

From top: Flow at Counihan Gallery

Flow at Counihan Gallery, Brunswick (21 April-21 May)

Artists: Colleen Boyle, Clara Brack, Garth Henderson, Heather Hesterman , Bridget Hillebrand, Penelope Hunt, Rebecca Mayo, Harry Nankin, Jen Rae, Dominic Redfern, Cameron Robbins, Sarah Tomasetti, Maurizio Toscano

Curator: Heather Hesterman

Reviewer: Kate Gorringe-Smith

Flow is a peculiar type of motion. It is what water does when ice sheets melt; what makes rivers etch the earth over eons; it is the grand gesture of humanity’s movement from the past into the future; and, alas, it is also that unfeeling description of massive, involuntary human migration. Matter and energy flow, and information too: evidenced by the firing of neurons as much as the contagion of an internet sensation. Flow asks us to reflect on our experiences of flows and invites us to bear witness to the ecological present while hearing the call of our common ecological future.” *– Heather Hesterman

 

In this tightly curated show, “flow” defines the theme, the placement of works in the gallery, and the visitor’s experience. As part of Climarte’s 2017 Climate+Art=Change festival, the exhibition sits in a space with climate change at its centre, and each work addresses this crisis, whether directly, subtly or tangentially.

Counihan Gallery consists of three continuous spaces. In Flow, the first houses works characterised by feelings of helplessness underpinned by the implications of human agency. These are some of the most stark and pessimistic in the exhibition, works that peer with varying degrees of horror at the future and the role of humanity in the looming crisis. The first work, When All Else Fails, Jen Rae’s large drawing in white on a solid black background, depicts a lone climate refugee drifting in a small dinghy beneath a chaotic sky filled with the human debris of the ages. It is a bleak and unforgiving portrait – yet there is an innocence to the lone, childlike survivor, and the dinghy’s name is Resilience.

Next to Rae’s drawing is Bridget Hillebrand’s installation Floodlines. Beautiful and delicate, this is the exhibition’s sole work in traditional print media. Referencing articles from newspapers in linocuts of text, Hillebrand has created a downpour of words that both documents and mimetically recreates the flood-producing rains in the Wimmera in January 2011.

Water is everywhere. In Sarah Tomasetti’s work, the peak of Mt Kailash, one of Tibet’s most sacred mountains, floats against a white background, whose apparent solidity fades to the insubstantiality of muslin. This poetic piece captures both the endurance of the mountain and the rhythm of its human ritual of worship: pilgrims visit to circumnavigate the base of the mountain, on which no human has ever set foot. Four of South Asia’s major rivers have their headwaters here, fed by slow glacial melt.

The piece is a paradox: a floating fresco. “The plaster surface of the painting is made from marble dust and limestone putty, an ancient method that echoes the means of decorating the walls of Tibetan monasteries, using the materials at hand. The muslin used to bring the work away from the wall coils below, echoing the continual passage of feet in the dust at the base of the mountain, undertaking the Kora”. It is a work of reverence that also enshrines the threat that “…the estimated 46,000 glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau appear to be melting faster than those on other parts of the globe”.

Suspended next to Tomasetti’s work is Hesterman’s RISING. Hesterman has fashioned timber water-level markers that show current and predicted sea-levels for different sites along the Victorian coast. The markers hang from the ceiling and dance, casting painterly shadows, but this serenity is contradicted by their spear-like points poised to fall and stab, and their high-water marks – well over my head – that predict our inundation. Human-scaled, it is at once comprehensible and incomprehensible, beguiling and horrifying, marking the current point in time as much as a hydrological phenomenon.

In the room’s centre, Colleen Boyle’s floor-piece, I of the world, also invites us to consider where we stand in time. On the floor is an image she has collaged from two: the famous photo taken in 1968 by an Apollo 8 astronaut of the Earth’s rise above the moon, and a 15th century painting known as The Ideal City that became “a metaphor for good governance and the civilising presence of architecture”. At the time they were made, Boyle argues, both works caused a break in the flow of how humanity saw itself in relation to the world. Boyle plays further upon this idea by inviting the viewer to stand on the image and view oneself in a mirror suspended above the work – placing the viewer front and centre in this self-examination of exactly where we stand in relation to the planet.

There is disbelief and horror in this room at how we are changing things we have traditionally considered to be out of our hands. Linking the first and second spaces, however, is an element of hope: large digital prints by Garth Henderson of German industrial sites that have ceased their original functions to be preserved instead as playgrounds for society. It is a complex homage to the remains of an outmoded industrial history that has been repurposed for a different future.

In the second gallery space the works continue to relent. The mood becomes meditative through action, reflection and abstraction.

Cameron Robbins’ Creek Thing is an automatic drawing machine that, powered by the waters of the Merri Creek and with the assistance of children from the local primary school, creates abstract works that capture the creeks’ dynamism and autonomy as a place with its own life and identity.

Abstraction and identity also characterise Harry Nankin’s meditation on a stand of “old Belah trees (Casuarina pauper) found on the remote Meringur Flora Reserve in northwest Victoria”. In his images, overlaid gelatin silver film photograms on acrylic, backlit by a lightbox, and a pigment print, the shadows of the trees mingle into a complex abstraction. Nankin’s work, In defence of the pathetic fallacy, invites us to embrace the notion of Pathetic Fallacy to mitigate “…our well-reasoned suspicion of anthropomorphism [that] has become an irrational and exploitative indifference to nature for itself – an indifference central to the ecological crisis that besets us all”.

Rebecca Mayo’s piece, Bound by gorse, meditates on the flow of the Merri Creek, the growth of vegetation, of history and of colonisation, through the practices of clearing the noxious weed and making it into bricks to create a physical wall. Mayo writes that “Bound by gorse considers humans’ current relationship with Gorse conflating its historical use [as a hedging plant] to contain with the contemporary task of keeping it at bay”.

The fourth artist in this room, Clara Brack, has created a series of digital prints that appear as oversized postcards. Again reflecting the flow of history, nature and, here, thought – through hand-written messages, Brack’s work alone projects the artist herself into the exhibition space, allowing some viewers perhaps to engage more personally with the works.

Placed appropriately between rooms two and three, sits Janus, a sculpture by Maurizio Toscano who writes: “In antiquity Janus was the Roman deity responsible for watching over the thresholds of civic and domestic spaces. This two-faced figure reminded the citizens of Rome that the stability and fragility of the present demanded both a careful reflection on the past and a prudent contemplation of the future.” Janus literally appears to be a time bomb, the digital countdown displayed on the side of the piece ticking down to our destruction.

The third and final gallery space holds two works: digital pieces by Dominic Redfern and Penelope Hunt. This is the only space with a bench, and hence the invitation to sit. If the first space was characterised by interruption/examination, and the second by meditation, this space invites immersion. At its northern end, Redfern’s video installation Creek appears on five screens. It is a work that finds hope within compromise. Redfern’s creek is Riddell’s Creek, “…polluted and flowing at a trickle”, but nonetheless, “…in its diversity and tenacity…as beautiful as any other of nature’s expressions”. Mesmerising, the screens show the creek in macro, the detail absorbing and the light beguiling.

Hunt’s work, the exhibition’s final piece and – consciously placed by Hesterman’s curation – its lightest, is a four and a half-minute video loop projection depicting a landscape of rolling white clouds that silently reveal and erase a group of wind turbines. It creates a poetry of our engagement with renewables and climate change as it shifts from in and out of focus, from political to personal and back again, in and out of the media and our daily lives.

The climate change conversation is fraught with fear and helplessness. Throughout this exhibition artists have responded delicately and with great integrity. And although it does not shy from the possibility of destruction, the exhibition still offers an intrinsic message of hope: ironically, one can’t observe or comment on a “flow” without seizing upon one of its moments – we cannot comprehend the flow in its entirety – so a hiatus is created in which the viewer may question how and whether he or she dares interrupt the current flow toward environmental destruction. As Janus powerfully reminds us – we can stop the ticking, we can change the flow. – Kate Gorringe-Smith

*All quotations are by the artists from their artist statements (http://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/events-recreation/arts-and-gallery/counihan-gallery-in-brunswick/counihan-gallery-exhibitions/flow-exhibition-2017/)

Michael Kempson: China and beyond

From top:
Gregory O’Brien, Raoul Island Whale Survey with shipping containers, Astrolabe Reef, 2012-13, etching, aquatint and spit-bite, 51 x 41cm, edition of 30. Printers: Michael Kempson, Ben Rak and Sally Marks, Cicada Press. Photography: Sue Blackburn.
Tony Albert, Greetings from Appin, 2016, etching and aquatint, 50.5 x 50.5cm, edition of 15. Printers: Michael Kempson, Ben Rak and Jac Corcoran, Cicada Press. Photography: Sue Blackburn.
Ryan Presley, dominium, 2015, etching, aquatint and hand colouring, 69.5 x 50.5cm, edition of 20. Printers: Michael Kempson, Ben Rak and Tahjee Moar, Cicada Press. Photography: Sue Blackburn.

Michael Kempson explores the many benefits gained from building connections with China through the realm of art-making.

 

As a child of 1961, born on the latter cusp of the post-war baby boom, my formative experiences were enmeshed with the pernicious machinations of the Cold War; a dynamic that became more complicated following the Sino-Soviet split of the same year. China was the closest major protagonist to Australia in this period of tense global brinkmanship, and the most antithetical state ideologically. It was a turbulent period, as China’s mysteries, garnered through its isolation, fostered a fear of the unknown that was reinforced by our treaty obligations and latent Eurocentrism. The result was a shrill, lockstep Australian foreign policy agenda that continued for the rest of the decade.

Some in Australia sought to rethink this relationship: the remarkably courageous decision of Australia’s then Leader of the Opposition, Gough Whitlam, by visiting China in 1971, presciently preceded Richard Nixon’s 1972 détente. Records of Whitlam’s diplomatic engagement demonstrate that in representing Australia’s interests he didn’t shy away from confronting conversation about political differences, particularly during the formal recognition of China in his subsequent official visit as Prime Minister in 1973. The outcome of this plain speaking positioned Australia as an old friend in the burgeoning queue of countries clamouring for connection, and over the years, has delivered mutually beneficial economic, scientific and cultural engagement that has gathered momentum into the 21st century with the growth of China’s geopolitical influence and its burgeoning middle class.

My relationship with China began in 1993 when I met the artist Su Xinping, visiting Sydney with a survey exhibition of his lithographic prints. He went on to become a senior academic at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing, one of two leading art schools in the group of eight major Chinese fine art academies. That beneficial connection has, over the last decade, helped to provide an expanding network with participatory opportunities for exhibitions, residencies and forums in academies and print-workshops throughout China.

Of all my experiences in China, the most significant opportunity was the most recent. Organised by Wang Huaxiang, CAFA’s Head of Printmaking, and conducted in Beijing during September 2016, a series of print-related activities launched the International Academic Printmaking Alliance (IAPA). This project is the culmination of a number of precursor events including 2015’s Impact 9 conference hosted by their other major school, the China Academy of Arts at Hangzhou. The other seminal event was the 1st International Forum of Art School Deans (IFPASD) in October 2015 at CAFA involving exchange with nearly 40 printmaking department heads from schools around the world. IFPASD peaked an awareness in China of the benefits of harnessing links with artists and educational institutions that apply different strategies for print-based syllabus content in their tertiary programs. As a participant in three days of forum discussion, one key outcome was a commitment to develop and sustain channels of communication for ongoing international dialogue, referencing the shared challenges inherent with printmaking education and professional practice.

Chinese participation in conferences such as Impact and an increasing engagement with the annual US-based Southern Graphic Council International, has encouraged a dissemination of ideas and information, and China’s own Annual Printmaking Exhibition and Conference for Chinese Academies and Colleges, recently opened its door to foreign exchange. In 2012, I was fortunate to attend as representative of the first foreign art school, along with several UNSW art and design students, the 11th iteration, held at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art. It provided an opportunity for artists, academics and curators around the country to exhibit both staff and student work, and discuss the pertinent educational issues of the day in a spirit of great collegiality. The 2016 IAPA venture develops this by creating a new internationally focused model for print dialogue on terms that factor in China’s long and distinguished print history and their growing position in the world as a major power. Consequently, it was clear that our hosts wanted to impress.

Core to the IAPA was an exhibition of over 700 prints representing 28 countries held in a venue of World Heritage status, a four-pavilion complex known as the Working People’s Culture Palace of the Imperial Ancestral Temple, in the vast Forbidden City at Tiananmen. Curated by each international delegate, it also included work by 80 artists selected from art schools and print-workshops across China.

The prints were of superb quality and range, reflecting the strengths of each delegate’s host institution. The countries represented were equally diverse and included the United Kingdom, Nicaragua, USA, Russia, France, Thailand, Canada, Ireland, Serbia and Puerto Rico. The Australian selection, representing the University of New South Wales Art and Design in Sydney, included prints from staff and students along with research outcomes from Cicada Press, allowing for a more holistic selection of current Australian print practice, and importantly a contribution from New Zealand. The participating artists were Tony Albert (NSW), Nici Cumpston (SA), Rhonda Dick (NT), Rew Hanks (NSW), Michael Kempson (NSW), Katherine Kennedy (NSW), Bruce Latimer (NSW), Euan Macleod (NSW), Reg Mombassa (NSW), Laurel Nannup (WA), Gregory O’Brien (NZ), Adam Oste (NSW), Ryan Presley (QLD) and Ben Rak (NSW)

One thematic component of the Australian selection was the exploration of printmaking as a vehicle used to reflect critically on issues of social justice. Noongar artist Laurel Nannup’s Quirriup, a large format linocut and screenprint, names a solitary witness to the Pinjarra Massacre of 1834[i], the harrowing story of which had been conveyed to her through familial oral traditions. This experience is mirrored on the other side of the continent by Tony Albert’s etching Greetings from Appin that depicts a blood-drenched tourist ashtray decorated with Indigenous motifs, referencing the site of the first recorded state-sanctioned killing of Aboriginal people in Australia at Appin NSW in 1817. Reg Mombassa’s Bones poles and wires immerses the viewer in an environment soiled by industry, while Nici Cumpston’s Barkindji heritage connects her to the waterways of the Murray and particularly her desire to chronical the changes made to the landscape by the Federal Government’s decision in 2007 to alter natural flows into Lake Bonney (Nookamka). Her photo-generated intaglio prints, Flooded Gums and Winter II, depict the degradation and misuse of a “river in elegant decay.”[ii]

The other important business of the first IAPA was a two-day forum to facilitate delegate discussion and shape the potential ethos of this collective. The concluding matter was the establishment of the IAPA structure and the election of its officers and advisory committee to shape future events.

Reliable and productive connections are the life-blood of any business relationship. I’ve been very fortunate, that over the past few years the professional bonds established through academic exchange in China have transitioned into close friendships, despite the obstacle of language. And it is through this engagement with China that new relationships have developed with artists from all over the world. In 2013 I met the American artist and academic Joseph Scheer in an international workshop hosted by Xi’an Academy of Fine Art, and over the last few years our paths have crossed many times in China and obscure points around the globe. Scheer is the Professor of Print Media and Co-Director of the Institute for Electronic Arts at the School of Art and Design at Alfred University NY and a leading researcher into applications of cutting-edge print technology. He also hosts residency programs with US-based and international artists with recent guests being Ann Hamilton and Kiki Smith. Scheer was called upon to assist with the development of the images by Nici Cumpston, where digital files were sent to Alfred and freshly minted polymer plates mailed back for editioning in Sydney. This trans-Pacific collaboration would not have occurred without an introduction from friends in Xi’an.

As the world enters an uncertain future with a new US President, a Brexit decision to implement, a resurgent Russia and rumblings in the South China Sea, it’s comforting that at least our artists are continuing a conversation with respect and goodwill. The International Academic Printmaking Alliance is a sincere and altruistic venture that has delivered, with genuine leadership and generous support, a significant organisation dedicated to reinforcing the links that bind printmakers from all reaches of the globe.

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinjarra_massacre
[ii] Allas T, Documenting a River, Art & Australia Pp 48-49, Vol 48, No, 1, 2010

Michael Kempson is the Convenor of Printmaking Studies and Director of Cicada Press at UNSW A&D in Sydney. He was an invited delegate to the IAPA, Beijing in September 2016, an artist in residence at IEA at Alfred University, USA in January 2017 and he is working towards a solo exhibition in Beijing, China in March 2017.

Abstraction and Australian women artists

Dorrit Black Air travel 1: Mud flats and islands, 1949, linocut, printed in colour inks, from multiple blocks, 25.1 x 19 cm National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 2015

The National Gallery of Australia’s Lara Nicholls (Assistant Curator – Australian Painting and Sculpture) discusses the touring exhibition Abstraction: Celebrating Australian women abstract artists, now showing at Newcastle Art Gallery.

Imprint: How has the role of women played out in the history of abstraction, and what have been the challenges in restoring a more balanced story to public view?

Lara Nicholls: Historically speaking, where abstraction bloomed, women artists have almost always played an integral part in its proliferation. The evidence of this NGA exhibition, and that of a range of other current international exhibitions on the subject, suggests that women artists were very actively involved in the pioneering of a number of stylistic waves of abstraction in the 20th century and beyond.  In Australia, it is doubtful that Abstraction could have emerged as it did without the pioneering teaching and exhibitions of Dorrit Black, Grace Crowley and Anne Dangar.  The greatest challenge to inserting women artists into the narrative is the absence of easily found documentation and the lack of publications on the subject.  One of the great joys in preparing the exhibition was unearthing hitherto unrecorded exhibition histories for some of the paintings but of course this was a bittersweet experience as it is also one of the reasons that the women have remained less recognised than their male counterparts.

Imprint: Who are some of the most significant women who have used various aspects of printmaking in their work with abstraction?

Lara Nicholls: In America, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler are among the most highly regarded abstract printmakers of their generation and the NGA has over a thousand of their works collectively.  In Australia, Margaret Preston was one of the first women printmakers to actively exploit the graphic quality of woodblock printing to abstract the landscape and our indigenous flora.  We start the exhibition with three magnificent early examples of her woodcut technique where she cleverly flattens out a jumble of robust material, such as fighter planes in flight in The aeroplane or a bouquet of native blooms in The red bow, into a dynamic and powerful image that is anchored in the principals of abstraction. Her friend fellow South Australian artist Dorrit Black, who studied at the Grosvenor School with Claude Flight, was a master of linocut printmaking.  Flight regarded her as one of his best students.  In Air travel 1: Mud flats and islands she creates an elegant reduction of the brackish mudflats as seen from an aerial perspective.  Made in the Japanese manner, she has brushed inks onto the block resulting in a painterly effect on the impression. This work is the closest she ever comes to non-presentational abstraction.

Imprint: What are some of the key printmaking works in the exhibition and how do they fit into the broader story?

Lara Nicholls: The early examples by Margaret Preston are among the most important works in the exhibition.  However, there are other sublime examples from artists who are normally associated with other media.  I included three lithographs by Janet Dawson, which she made in the Atelier Patris in Paris in 1960.  She went there after the Slade School in London especially to learn how to mix colour and prepare the stones.  She ended up becoming Patris’s main studio assistant and in gratitude he gave her free reign to make a suite of lithographs.  In this series, Dawson uses the organic quality of the stone impression and the watery application of the inks to create magnificent images of ethereal nature.  Her experience there lead her to take charge of the print works at Gallery A in Melbourne upon her return to Australia.

Imprint: Is it evident in the exhibition that gender somehow informed the approach or the results of artists grappling with abstraction?

Lara Nicholls: I am often asked this question – is a work of art gendered?  Is there a difference between the abstract work of women in comparison to men? I think if you lined up the works in this exhibition and showed them to someone unfamiliar with the artists, they might struggle to assign gender to the works.  However, having worked with the material for so long now along-side the work of their male counterparts, I do feel women bring a different sensibility to abstraction.  This is quite evident in the forms of geometric abstraction. Virginia Cuppaidge’s geometric abstractions of the ’70s, while they rely on colour, line and scale, just like many of the men painting at the time, there is a restraint and a subtlety that I don’t think the men pursued at the time.  Another example would be Agnes Martin (not in this show, however), whose minimalism is in a whole other land to, say, Barnet Newman.  The methodology might be similar but the application and the intention are on other planes.  In terms of the early days of Cubism and avant-garde painting in Australia, it was by and large the women who embraced it and painted in this fashion, seeking new horizons for its development, while the more conservative forces of the art establishment were painting nationalist landscapes and respectable portraits.  It is a bit of a generalisation, but I think that disparity holds true for the early decades of Abstraction in Australia in the 20th century. – Andrew Stephens

Abstraction: Celebrating Australian women abstract artists is at Newcastle Art Gallery until 23 July. www.visitnewcastle.com.au

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