Q&A: Jan Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura Castell: The Great Bowerbird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Cities in Print: Artists navigate Portland and Melbourne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trevor Smith is Cultural Collection Officer at the Glenelg Shire Council

‘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.

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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