Q&A: Susanna Castleden

From top:
Susanna Castleden, 1:1 Airplane Wing (2015), frottage on gesso on maps, 4.16 x 12.69 metres. Photo: Susanna Castleden
Research trip in Arizona.
Susanna Castleden, 1:1 Wing (detail)

Arising from a curiosity about how the world is encountered and represented, WA-based artist Susanna Castleden is interested in how the consequence and affect of global mobility has changed the way we see and perceive the world, and how this has necessitated alternative ways of visualising our position within it. Recent projects explore mobility and mapping specifically associated with leisure travel, examining the phenomenon of mobility and what it means to be part of a world on the move. Working in drawing, printmaking and text-based works Susanna creates large-scale works that often include sculptural or multi-part elements.

1:1 Wing and 1:1 Gangway are part of a series of works that consider moments of stillness within our mobile world. Created using a labour intensive process of rubbing – or frottage – these works require a time-based connection with objects that are usually in motion or are only encountered through mobility. The frottage is made on maps as a way of reflecting the geographical and cartographic relationships of travel whilst referencing the sites in which the work was made – an aircraft boneyard in the Mojave Desert and the Passenger Terminal at the Fremantle Port.

IMPRINT: What are some of the foundation ideas for your latest body of work?

SC: The works developed from my research into global mobility and mapping, looking at ways in which we come to know the world by moving around it. This then moved to look at stillness, particularly in relation to air travel. So, these ideas took me to an airplane boneyard in Arizona where I had access to stationary airplanes.

IMPRINT:  Scale is a notable feature – what sorts of challenges does this present?

SC: All sorts of challenges! There is a lot of time needed to prepare the gessoed paper – the work is made on maps layered with gesso and then rubbed to make the frottages. Then there is the time to actually do the rubbings, which in the case of the Wing is 13 metres and the Gangway is 16 metres. The wing was in the Mojave Desert, so heat and wind was an issue too. I also work with a wonderful assistant as there is a lot of planning, handing paper, and measuring that I can’t do alone. Then finding a gallery that will fit this scale works in is also a challenge!

IMPRINT: What are some of the most liberating aspects of printmaking for you?

SC: I love knowing a process really well and then thinking of ways to upturn that process.

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

SC: Working at large scale, questioning and  techniques, and finding out the amazing things paper can do.

IMPRINT: How has your work evolved in recent years?

SC: I have been really lucky in receiving funding for two of my larger projects, which has allowed me to do some things that I would never have been able to do otherwise. This has allowed my work to evolve in ways that are perhaps more adventurous and experimental.

Susanna Castleden’s work is in SPAN at Fremantle Arts Centre, Western Australia, until 26 March
 –
Susanna Castleden is an artist and senior lecturer at Curtin University, where she is
Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Design and Art. Susanna completed a
PhD at RMIT University, Melbourne in 2014. Susanna has received several awards
including the Linden Art Prize (VIC) in 2015; second place in the Fremantle Print
Award 2014; Joondalup Art Award in 2011; the Burnie Print Prize (TAS) in 2013 and
the Bankwest Art Prize also in 2013. Susanna was shortlisted to exhibit in the 2014
International Print Biennale in UK and most recently held solo exhibitions at the
China Academy of Art in Hangzhou China and at Turner Galleries in Perth.

Q&A: Jacqueline Gribbin

From top:
A wrapped Gilbert Whitley block found in storage.
Jacqueline Gribbin, Cats Whiskers, relief etching, chine colle, 2017
Jacqueline Gribbin, Down in the Weeds, relief etching, 2017
Letterpress boxes in storage

 

Jacqueline Gribbin’s new exhibition explores the work of icthyologist Gilbert Whitley, an Australian Museum curator of fishes.

IMPRINT: How did you develop an interest in Gilbert Whitley and his letterpress blocks?

JG: A few years ago I was shown a collection of letterpress blocks stored at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Many were wrapped in faded and yellowing paper with handwritten notes; some were covered in grease or wax. On first viewing, they were obviously forgotten treasures, particularly to a printmaker’s eye.

The blocks originated from the Australian Museum in Sydney, and I discovered that most of them had been created by a Gilbert Whitley who had worked at the museum from 1922-1964. After reading some more into Whitley’s background, I became intrigued enough to visit the Australian Museum to learn more about the blocks and Whitley himself. There began my exploration of the Whitley archives and the origin of the blocks.

IMPRINT: What is it about his works that you felt you wanted to respond to?

JG: My response to the blocks developed and evolved over time. Initially I was responding to the exquisitely detailed drawings of fishes. However, as I looked at more blocks I found different “groupings” such as simple scientific and anatomical drawings of sharks and rays as well as maps of areas around Australia relating to Whitley’s research. There were also old photographic images of fishermen with their catch.

I spent quite a lot of time looking at Whitley’s research papers and books to establish the identities of fish on the blocks. I also observed his original pen and ink drawings, watercolours and sketches. Through my research I began to respond to Gilbert’s character – his obsession with ichthyology and his cheeky sense of humour – as well as finding a scientific and historical context for the blocks.

IMPRINT: How has exposure to Whitley’s work informed your own practice?

JG: As my own work is formed from the environment and nature, creating a body of work with a marine based theme was a natural extension of my usual practice. Having said that however, the marine world was a very new and unknown environment to me, and exploring it through Whitley’s eyes has opened up a whole array of marine environments that I never knew existed. Although Whitley was an ichthyologist and a scientist, it is his character and little anecdotes, which permeate through his books and my work. He loved doodling and sketching, and I think it is this aspect of his character, which has allowed me to approach the creation of the works without feeling constrained to produce a literal response to the marine world.

IMPRINT: Can you describe the links you have developed between Whitley’s experiences and the contemporary world?

JG: In 1934 Whitley gave evidence before the Shark Menace Advisory Committee in NSW. Many of the issues discussed still remain relevant today; we still retain the same repulsion, fear and also admiration of sharks and we are still discussing ways to reduce shark attacks.

Evolving environmental factors, threats to the marine world and more positively, discoveries of new species of fish were Whitley’s experiences, which are still relevant to the world of ichthyology today. Human nature is still the same, and we continue to have the same fears and connections with the sea. This commonality has enabled a contemporary artistic response to Whitley’s work and character.

Relief printing blocks courtesy of the Australian Museum

‘Dear Gilbert, …’ (Song for the Ichthyologist) is at Nomad Art, Darwin, until 25 March.

Q&A: Streeton Prints

Clockwise from top:
Arthur Streeton, San Marco, Venice, edition of 50, 25.5(h) x 35.5(w)cm. Medium: Zinc etching on Somerset
Posthumous print by: Theo Mantalvanos
Interior view: Streeton Prints artist in residence, Joel Wolter talking to QG&W visitors about his printmaking techniques and the Streeton influence in his work.
Arthur Streeton, Magpie, edition of 50, 25.5(h) x 35.5(w)cm
Medium: Zinc etching on Somerset
Posthumous print by: Theo Mantalvanos

Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop is now showing Streeton Prints, an exhibition of never previously published etchings by Sir Arthur Streeton posthumously printed by Theo Mantalvanos at QG&W. Soula and Theo Mantalvanos explain.

 

How did this exhibition come to fruition?

After successfully restoring 11 of 12 plates and realising we would be able to edition Sir Arthur’s prints, the artist’s grandson William Streeton asked if there was any way the opportunity could transform into something more for QG&W. William was impressed with our dedication to print and arts education and wanted to offer even more support. He asked if we could give him a wish list to which we responded with three wishes: Can we publicise the story, could we host an exhibition to share the precious prints and restorative process with the public, and could we also manage the sales. 
 
Print and arts education has become a huge focus for both of us since opening QG&W just over a year ago. We always wanted to run workshops but were surprised at how thirsty the general public was for art information. And the ‘how to’ and ‘process’ of art isn’t only intriguing, but we realise it leads to patronage (or art addiction!). People realise the value of what they’re looking at, in fact most times after we’ve explained the handmade print process we hear, ‘why isn’t it worth more?’.
 
Streeton Prints presents the perfect opportunity to ‘educate’ and there are various aspects we could present.
  • First, the history: the straightforward restoration and editioning process
  • Second, the Streeton story: presenting the unseen works by one of Australia’s much-loved artists and learning more about Sir Arthur (and how much work he did on his honeymoon!)
  • Third, the legacy: the value of a significant artist, ie how they continue to feed artists and in the various ways in which they do this decades, even centuries, later.

Why were these etchings never previously published?
The answer to that would have to be: We will never really know. We hope this extraordinary event will uncover some more information by encouraging anyone with related information to come forward but for now all we know is that there are very few proofs – two of which are part of the exhibition thanks to the Streeton family. It could be possible that there wasn’t a need to publish them, that the demand wasn’t there. Or we can assume that Sir Arthur simply preferred painting or that his paintings sold well enough for him not to pursue printmaking.
 
Why is Arthur Streeton not better known for his prints?
Given the prints were held back from the public eye and painting became Sir Arthur’s preferred medium, and that he established himself as an impeccable painter, it makes complete sense he is predominately known for his painting. But this is what’s so incredible about this uncovered treasure, we will now know Sir Arthur for his prints. We’ll also know his son as the man who desperately needed a piece of copper and decided Sir Arthur’s copperplate of Doge’s Palace, Venice could do without one corner!
 
How are you demonstrating Streeton’s influence on contemporary artists?
We put a call out to our represented artists and asked them to respond if they felt they were inspired in some way by Sir Arthur. Nine artists will demonstrate their inspiration by partaking in a residency at QG&W during the exhibition. They have access to the centre of the gallery for six days each to work, exhibit and/or make prints or paintings on our smaller press while talking to visitors. The artists are Joel Wolter, Philip Davey, Emmy Mavroidis, Adam Nudelman, Amanda Firenze, Michelle Joy Caithness, Soula Mantalvanos, Andrew Weatherill and James Pasakos.
The salon wall will include works that have been specifically made for the exhibition or are influenced in some way by Sir Arthur by Danielle Creenaune, Andrew Gunnell, Bronwyn Rees,Stephen Tester, John Waller, and Deborah Williams. For example, Deborah Williams tackles the subject of the artists’ dog, Andrew Gunnell has always referenced Sir Arthur’s colour palette in his work, Danielle Creenaune ‘follows familiar footsteps of Streeton’s southern highlands sojourns’. In some works it’s very obvious how the artist has been influenced, in others we need to further explain. 
 
We believe the discovered etchings, the way in which we have presented the restoration process and plates as well as the contemporary works by QG&W artists will provide a great experience and education to our visitors. The plates, their proofs and prints may never come together again and we have a chance to see more work by Sir Arthur Streeton. A great honour for QG&W and especially for Theo who editioned the prints, handling Sir Arthur’s plates for hours, days, months. 
Streeton Prints is at QG&W, 81 Hesse Street Queenscliff, until 30 April.

Q&A: Laurel McKenzie, InkMasters Cairns

From top:
Rhonda Campbell, Tropical Wetlands i, 2016, monoprint with collograph and chine-collé
Anna Eglitis, Rainforest Morning, 2016, hand-coloured linocut
Laura Castell, Our Wasteland, 2016, linocut
Harry Robertson, The Kraken Hunt ii, 2016, linocut

Who: InkMasters, Cairns

What: Flavours of the Tropics

Where: Vivo, 49 Williams Parade, Palm Cove, Cairns

When: Until 20 March

 

Q. What was the inspiration and process behind curating Flavours of the Tropics?

LM: Inkmasters is committed to creating exhibition and career-enhancing opportunities for its members, and Vivo (at Palm Cove, on the northern beaches of Cairns) is located in a holiday destination, in a very tropical environment. As many international and interstate visitors see the exhibitions in this space, it seemed appropriate to showcase not only the print-based works of our members, but something of the experience of being in a tropical environment. The concept of ‘flavours’ could relate to many things – not just food of course – but the ethos, the up-sides and down-sides of being in the wet tropics, the natural and the social environment.

Q: The prints are both colourful and rich, yet offer an ethereal quality – were there key themes and styles you were specifically looking for while curating?

LM: A broad spectrum of print media, styles and approaches, representative of the sorts of works being done by local artists, was sought. The theme was outlined to members, and responses to that theme invited. As expected, people responded in quite diverse ways. The way artists use colour in this environment does tend to be responsive to the richness and saturation of colour, and the sharpness of shadows, in the natural environment – even the way people dress tends to be more colourful.

As to ethereal qualities perceived in the works in this collection, I can only suggest that this reflects the temperaments and working methods of the artists involved. Tanya and I looked for confident and thoughtful individual statements, but specific stylistic leanings were not uppermost in our thinking.

Each artist has a direction in their individual practice, but when called upon to address a theme, as in this exhibition, they find ways of incorporating their ongoing interests with the specific challenge of the topic at hand, which can lead to innovation and even to new directions!

Q: What do you hope that people who visit the Flavours of the Tropics exhibition take away with them after they leave? Was there an intended message in the exhibition that you wished to portray?

LM: I hope that visitors will appreciate the depth of artistic ability and the diversity of skills that the far north Queensland artists in this show possess. These are (mostly) small prints, but they are strong and engaging statements about the ‘flavours’ of this particular locality.

– Megan Hanrahan

Q&A: Keith Lawrence

Clockwise from above:
Janet Goldman, Red Kimono, linocut
& chine colle, 72 x 53 cm
Clare Humphries, Once, and again 2, 
linocut hand burnished
etched glass, 27 x 30 cm,
variable edition of 10
Joel Wolter, The Silent Theatre, 
etching, 30 x 22 cm (image),
69 x 59 cm (framed),
edition of 20

What: Editions annual exhibition

Where: Tacit Contemporary Art, 312 Johnston Street Abbotsford, Vic

When: until 26 February

IMPRINT: Editions has become a go-to event for Victorian printmakers. What is the genesis of the show?

KL: Five years ago, Melbourne printmaker Stephanie Jane Rampton was invited to curate a small group show following an accident that resulted in her having to postpone a solo exhibition with us. But we moved to our current building that is four or five times bigger. That small exhibition of half a dozen or so Melbourne friends with 20 works became the front three galleries and 19 artists with 65 works. That was 2013.

The following year I co-curated with Stephanie as we looked to diversify geographically and artistically. It also became the entire building rather than just the front galleries. I took on responsibility, along with Tim, the overall gallery curator, in 2015: it was strategic for Tacit to build direct relationships with artists and the print world. An open submission was introduced last year to diversify even further and reach new printmakers.

IMPRINT: The work is incredibly diverse. Have you been surprised by the range this year?

KL: Editions strives to celebrate the diverse aesthetic qualities inherent within printmaking media, a celebration of tradition while embracing contemporary innovations within the printed form. A now established exhibition of such scale provides a safe platform for artists ranging from emerging to more established to explore new and exciting print processes and approaches to image-making. That platform also provides the opportunity to exhibit multiple works from current practice, providing audiences with a greater understanding and insight of where the printmaker is ‘coming from’.

The now five editions of Editions have featured intaglio, relief and lithography in a range of substrates and printed on a range of surfaces covering diverse subjects, challenging audiences in their understanding of what exactly is a ‘print’.

IMPRINT: Would you say you’ve contributed to a resurgence in printmaking?

KL: From the outset, Editions provided a commercial outlet that reaches beyond the multiple print focussed galleries by respecting print as print objects within an exhibition context. Past Editions have provided, for example, opportunities ranging from the screen-printed paperbags of Carolyn Hawkins spanning a five metre wall, the light-box installation of Georgina Whish-Wilson whilst still providing an opportunity for the small delicate works by Stephanie Jane Rampton or Shane Jones.

As an exhibition that celebrates Victorian printmaking, Editions has featured a high percentage of regional-based printmakers – particularly from the Goldfields area. It’s an important, high-profile opportunity for increased exposure to these artists. Similarly we look to include recent graduates from the tertiary educational establishments, providing increased opportunities early in their art practice.

Tacit prides itself on the presentation and curation of the work and Editions has now firmly placed itself on the Victorian printmakers cultural calendar.

IMPRINT: What are some of the most striking or original works you have seen since Editions first launched?

KL: What we’ve always enjoyed is that juxtaposing of traditional techniques expertly done (I’m thinking the absolute control of multiple-plate printing by Damon Kowarsky, Kyoko Imazu or Hyun Ju Kim) alongside more innovative approaches (the minimalism of Louise Blyton’s silk screens and T. J. Bateson’s massive multiplate linocuts or Clare Humphries, whose work is addressing both the optical and material potentials of the picture plane).

Pete Gurrie in 2015 presented a 3D printed matrix whilst Paula McLoughlin last year explored CYMK dot matrix in reference to printing history. Within a supportive educational environment facilitating experimentation, graduate work has included the large-scale silkscreen printing on sheet metal by Ying Huang or the incorporation of human hair into the etchings of Scarlett Mellows.

It’s that balance of a mix of the traditional and the contemporary that we’re searching for. But ultimately we like to push the hand-constructed multiple in a digitally saturated world, celebrating the manual, the labour, the craft. Upon visiting the exhibition, we want visitors to be overwhelmed by the sheer sense of labour and time-spent that is worthy of celebration and respect. Editions celebrates the artist and the art.

– Andrew Stephens

Review: Frank Stella

Frank Stella, Star of Persia II 1967, from the ‘Star of Persia’ series 1967
lithograph, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Purchased 1973

Frank Stella: The Kenneth Tyler Print Collection,

National Galley of Australia, Canberra (until July)

Reviewer: Peter Haynes

This exhibition highlights a selection of works from 1967 to 2000 created by artist Frank Stella and master printmaker Kenneth Tyler and drawn from the NGA’s incredibly rich collection of international prints.

While the overall hang is essentially chronological there has been some play with this in the initial section of the exhibition. Works from a number of series from the 1960s and early 1970s are placed variously but relationally around the walls as one enters the exhibition. The works from the 1960s (the Black series (1967); the Star of Persia series (1967); the V series (1968); and the Copper series (1970) are each characterised by a particularly singular elegant minimalism. The simple geometries (reinforced by the deliberately limited palettes) of the forms belie the expressive depth held in each graphic iteration. Stella’s highly effective use of the positive and negative spatial configurations on the paper prefigures the exuberant yet simultaneously controlled dynamism of the later works. The artist’s use of serial imagery, his signature repetition, does not signify “sameness”. Rather it announces the individuality of each print while concurrently asserting and celebrating familial similarity throughout each series.

As we progress into the 1970s colour begins to become more dominant and varied, yet it still remains constrained by the geometric forms in which it sits. Here this is beautifully exemplified in the Newfoundland series of 1971. Arcs, squares, rectangles and elliptical forms populate overall square matrices. The layered combination of forms invested with an equally varied colour palette imbues each work with a wonderful sense of immanence, a feeling that the forms and colours will explode from the paper as indeed they will as one moves through the exhibition. The flat (though bright) colours of the above are exchanged for a more explicitly graphic delineation in the works from the Eccentric series (1974).  The forms are almost “coloured in” with networks of singly coloured lines contained within each. Forms overlay and abut in combinations that speak of the eccentricities of the series’ title. Stella’s extraordinary aesthetic inventiveness is clearly evinced in the curator’s selection of early work and is for me a highlight of the exhibition.

The implied spatial dynamism of the above is liberated into exuberant expression in the early 1980s. A particularly seductive piece is Pergusa three double from the Circuits series (1982-84). This is a visual tour de force full of surface vitality and rhythmical spatial patternings. Its myriad colours aligned with graphic marks and sinuous arabesque forms presents a celebratory sensuousness that is visually enveloping and intellectually engaging. The selection from the Swan Engravings (1982-85) exquisitely highlights Stella’s and his printer’s consummate understanding of the medium (viz. etching) and the strength of aesthetic limitation. The use of black (in varying shades) is beautifully appropriate and creates a dense and rich confection. The artist’s versatility is further underscored by the inclusion of Had Gadya (1984). There is an almost explosive collision of forms that allied with a considered use of blue tones imbues that marvellous sense of immanence that becomes a given in Stella’s aesthetic treasury.

Moving into the 1990s the artist wholeheartedly embraces a Baroque lyricism and energy where harmonious combinations of colour, line and swirling (almost centrifugal) forms speak of the painterly possibilities of the graphic media. Stella does not ever feel limited by his technical choices. He is able to draw from whatever medium he chooses the most expressive content to suit his aesthetic and thematic ends. Works from the Moby Dick series (1991 and 1992) clearly illustrate this. The Moby Dick domes series (1992) remain however for me an aberrant inclusion – just too tricky. You don’t need to be too literal in signifying (unstated) possibilities! Understatement is so much more persuasive.

This is a really good exhibition exemplifying within a limited selection the great versatility, brilliance and talent of Frank Stella. It also celebrates the unlimited possibilities innate in print media and how the coming together of one individual’s aesthetic genius with another’s astute understanding of his various media moves art beyond its materials and techniques into great expressive moments.

The book accompanying the exhibition is highly recommended.

Peter Haynes is a curator, art historian and art writer. He is currently a critic for The Canberra Times. In September 2016 his monographic study on printmaker and painter Helen Geier was published by 2B in Canberra.

Q&A: Terry McKenna

Top: Richard Steiner Birds Ears, 2001, Mokuhanga water based pigments on torinoko paper, 46cm x 31cm

Above, clockwise from right:

Terry McKenna Evening Glow on Impossible Building, 2015, Mokuhanga water based pigments on kozo paper, 23cm x 35cm, Ed. 15; Konomi Honda Man’s Shirt, 2015, Mokuhanga water based pigments on washi, 40cm x 51cm, Ed 10; Tuula Moilanen Six Dreams of Ukiyo Beauty: Speed, 2009, Mokuhanga water based pigments on kozo paper, 28cm x 42cm, Ed. 36

 

Below: Richard Steiner Birds Ears, 2001, Mokuhanga water based pigments on torinoko paper, 46cm x 31cm

 

What: Kyoto Hanga – mokuhanga works by Masahiko Honjo, Konomi Honda, Tuula Moilanen, Richard Steiner and Terry McKenna

Where: East and West Gallery, High Street East Kew, Melbourne

When: 9 February-25 March

Q: What is mokuhanga and why is it rarely seen in Australia?

A: Mokuhanga is the traditional water based woodblock printing technique of Japan, most famously seen in Ukiyo-e prints such as Hokusai’s Great Wave. Outside of Japan it has generally been difficult to learn and to access tools and materials, while top practitioners have tended to exhibit mainly within Japan, often due to language barriers. These factors have made it relatively rare to see quality contemporary work here.

Q: There is a wide range of artists being exhibited – please tell us about Richard Steiner and your work with him?
A: Steiner is a senior practitioner, having lived and worked in Japan for more than 50 years. Only a few other Westerners have lived continuously immersed in traditional art forms for such an extended period. Spending an extended period working with him was a great entry into the world of mokuhanga. While training with Steiner I was able to broaden my technical skills, meet a range of other practitioners and craftspeople that would be otherwise impossible to meet as a visitor, hear lots of interesting stories about the mokuhanga world and its characters within Japan, and experience collaborative ways of working. Being immersed in Japanese life and culture was a great experience for me.
Q: How has your own work evolved since you met Steiner?

A: I see a definite development in complexity and skill over the years. This medium in particular requires practice to master and I see a gradual increase in the level of complexity, with colours, carving and print effects particular to the medium. Thematically my work has been wide ranging as Stiener encouraged me to experiment.

steiner-birds-ears-web

Q: What other influences are important to you?

A: A significant influence on my current body of work “Ballarat Hakkei” is the historical use of this theme in Chinese landscape painting and Ukiyo-e. The Eight beautiful views (Hakkei) are a set of eight themes that I have adapted to explore my responses to returning to live in Victoria after many years abroad. Originally stemming from the enforced solitude of exile, the themes have been given an ironic twist in my work.

Q: Do you see strong connections between the artists in this show?

A: Steiner and Moilanen have a long standing collegial relationship, while Honda worked for Steiner as a printer in his workshop. Honjo, for a time ran Marugo Gallery in Kyoto and has relationships with a broad range of printmakers there, so everyone knows each other, although their work remains somewhat separate. I selected them because of this – to showcase a variety of work, origins and approaches. Steiner’s work stems from the Sosaku Hanga (Creative Print) movement, through his teacher, Honjo is the product of a traditional workshop situation of professional carvers and printers producing a leading artist’s works, Moilanen and Honda are both products of Seika University although at different times and origins. In short, the common ground is the medium of mokuhanga. There are many other mokuhanga artists at work in Japan, in the future I hope to stage a more comprehensive exhibition that can showcase the amazing variety that is possible with this medium. – Andrew Stephens

Postcard: Katy Mutton at ArtSpace, Sydney

Clockwise from top: Exploring stitching; visiting Cicada Press;
                                                                                                            investigating laser press effects; and, below, some new ideas.

In June 2016 I received an email from the Print Council of Australia to advise that I had been awarded an ArtSpace residency for my commission screen print The Stack. Coincidently it was my birthday and I would have been hard pressed to think of a nicer present. I haven’t spent much time in Sydney so it was very exciting when in October, I found myself in the heart of the city, occupying a spacious self-contained studio at ArtSpace. I remember, having moved all my materials into the studio, I sat down on the sofa, taking in the silence and pondering the remarkable opportunity I had been presented with.

The spaces are fantastic, with high ceilings and large floor areas, exposed brickwork and big timber beams. The building, known as The Gunnery was built about 1900 and was used at one time by the Australian Navy as a gunnery and training facility. The Australian Navy is still present with their fleet base just nearby. In fact the view from my studio window looked directly out to some of these huge naval ships.  Given my practice has focused so much on the machines of war and our relationship with them, it seemed so fitting that I should be occupying such a space.

new-ideas

ArtSpace is in Woolloomooloo; the suburb is a surreal mix of creeping gentrification and remaining public-housing stock.  The wealth that exists in the area emanates from Finger Wharf where multi-million dollar apartments sit above fine-dining restaurants. Just a few blocks back is a very different world where the homeless gather their day’s pickings behind boarded-up terrace houses. Just a five-minute walk in the opposite direction is the Royal Botanic Garden where groups of children gather on the lawns, eating sandwiches on their school excursions. Turn back nearer the city and you can retreat into the Art Gallery of New South Wales or walk further on to the State Library of NSW. It’s an exceptional environment to take time to wander and think.

An artist residency is as much about thinking as making and having the space to experiment. In residence my days lose their structure as I am consumed by practice. I work till 3am, sleep till 9am, work till 4pm, gather food and return to work through the night.  I used my time while undertaking this residency mainly to draw and plan for future works. I also spent a lot of time stitching on paper and mark-making. These are elements of my practice, which help me to work through ideas and allow me to absorb myself completely in process.

In addition to being in residence at ArtSpace I was also given access to the UNSW Art and Design department workshops where I was given a generous tour of their facilities. They showed me through several studios, Cicada Press and their ‘Maker Space’.  I was particularly keen to learn more about their collaborative making area where they foster an interdisciplinary environment for learning and sharing through technology. I was able to develop samples using their laser-engraving machine, which I hope will be the foundation for further experimentation with different substrate materials for printmaking. The ArtSpace staff were very welcoming, especially Lola Pinder who took time to take me over to UNSW and gave me lots of useful information about the area.

Late in the residency I held an open studio, prior to the Hungry Eyes Symposium at the Art Gallery of NSW. I enjoyed being able to discuss my practice with the group, which included members of the Print Council, ArtSpace staff and some of the other ArtSpace residents. I’m very grateful to the Print Council of Australia for providing me with this opportunity and to ArtSpace for being so supportive and accommodating. The experience has left me with plenty of new ideas and direction and I’m looking forward to spending more time in Sydney in the future. – KATY MUTTON

Katy Mutton is an interdisciplinary visual artist based in Canberra, Australia, working across drawing, painting, print and installation.

Q&A: Damon Kowarsky

Top: Paul, etching and aquatint from two copper plates, 22 x 25 cm, 2012.

Above: Jeffrey, etching and aquatint from two copper plates, 13 x 19 cm, 2010

Above, right: Michael, etching and aquatint from two copper plates, 13 x 19 cm, 2010

Damon Kowarsky won the Grand Prize for the Midsumma Men on Men art competition (alongside Scott Thomas, who won People’s Choice). Kowarsky’s etchings are showing at the Laird Hotel. Megan Hanrahan finds out about his process.

 

Q: What were some of the foundation ideas for your work in your new exhibition, Exposed?

The exhibition was a result of a competition earlier in the year, the Men on Men art competition, which involved work about masculinity, and the winner got an exhibition at the Laird, a men-only pub. I picked a selection of work from the last five years that were all portraits of men as I felt that was the most appropriate response.  It is the only male-only pub in Australia, and one of a few in the world. Now, it may not seem so important, however if you look back to the early ’80s when there was a huge amount of stigma against gay men, and the rising problem with HIV, it retains its role as a special space where men who are perhaps still uncomfortable with their sexuality can go. The bulk of my work is architectural and landscape, so this was a chance to have 10 or 11 portraits that fitted together in this exhibition but hadn’t [been] seen before.

Q: The prints have a lot of strong texture – can you explain some of the technical processes at work?

I nearly always work with two-colour or two-plate etchings, so a dark black or brown and then a blue or red as a second plate. I was shown a technique where you lay down an aquatint and then draw into it with chinagraphic pencil, or a waxy pencil, and that wax resists the acid. Etching can be an indirect drawing, but in this way you get the soft crayon marks you perhaps might associate more with lithography, but you get them on an etching plate. That, plus the combination of the two plates, is what picks up the textures. I am always pushing the boundaries of what that particular technique will give. Two-plate etching is reasonably difficult enough if you’re interested in coherent registration, but there is still a lot of scope for exploration.

Q: Do you have a conscious preference for waist-up portraits? Can you elaborate on what prompts this or what you like about it?

I am much more interested in portraiture than drawing the full body. A part of that is how it fits onto the page. There is a long tradition of a head-and-shoulders bust portrait going back to the Renaissance and long before that as well. It gives some clues about the body and the person, while still remaining strongly a portrait, which is much more my interest than drawing nudes. I am interested in who the person is and my relationship to them.

Q: Do you work from life with the people in your portraits? What is the process?

Yes, absolutely. I typically will make a pencil drawing of the subject, and then if I am satisfied with that I will transfer that drawing onto the etching plate. To me that’s really the only way it will work. It’s always a challenge to draw a portrait, and that’s a good way to learn and develop skills. We live in an age where photographic portraiture is everywhere… it can be done so easily, so taking the time to do something that requires practice and skill has a value. There is also a political element – I don’t think the world should only be viewed through the lens. Our eyes were the primary way we looked at the world for a long time, and understood the world, and I think there is also value in that.

Q: What are the sorts of feelings or emotions you would hope to prompt with these works?

I want them to enjoy looking at it. It has got to be interesting to them, and visually rich, and then they are free to develop any ideas they want from it afterwards.

Q: What drew you to art and printmaking? Was the process of creating fostered in you as a child, or did you discover it later in life?

 It was certainly always there when I was young, my mum did drawing when I was a child, and we had a close family friend who was a designer back in the day when that meant a room full of pencils and watercolours, cutting knives, ink, paper and all the kind of things that don’t exist in the design world anymore. I loved the sense of craft that he had. And then I started making art when I as a 19-year-old, and fell in love with printmaking. Printmaking felt the most natural. I liked the combination of craft, and the ability to be artistic and experimental. With printmaking, you need to rely on techniques, but you can push them as far as you want. – Megan Hanrahan

Exposed: Damond Kowarsky and Scott Thomas

The Laird Hotel, 149 Gipps St Abbotsford

Until February 3

Limited edition: intimate views

Review

Limited Edition: : A selection of PCA commissioned prints from the Burnie Regional Art Gallery Collection

146 ArtSpace, Hobart

Reviewer: Jan Hogan

Arts Tasmania signed off the Print Council of Australia’s 2016 Year of Print celebrations at 146 Artspace, Hobart, with a delightful selection of prints from the Burnie Regional Art Gallery. The curator Melissa Smith had the unenviable task of selecting from an already pared back exhibition of 50 prints, which had aimed to mirror the 50th anniversary of the Print Council. While many favourites were left behind I enjoyed the smaller hang, which invited an intimate view of the works.

The curator’s decision to show a selection of prints covering a broad time period and range of styles and processes gave us a mini-review of the history of print in Australia. There were examples from each decade and included a broad range of printmaking processes, reflecting a democratic approach appropriate for the occasion. A crucial aspect of the exhibition was the sensitive marriage of form with content including an intelligent use of paper ensuring that the substrate became an integral part of the image. One of the finest examples of this was Rona Green’s linocut of Slim, 2005, a cocky, tattooed rabbit, arms folded, staring back at the viewer like a portrait of the black sheep of the family. The matt black ink seeps into the paper mirroring its tattooed character. The white paper pushes the figure forward, with the exquisite hand-colouring accentuating the fluffy texture of the paper. If Slim weren’t so cocky you would want to touch that tattooed flesh to feel the minute shift from flesh to ink. Whilst Green’s strong graphic work is so reproducible this work is a fine example of why prints need to be viewed in the flesh.

In comparison to the bold graphics of Green’s linocut, a lithograph by Peter Lysiottis shimmers with the diffused view of a cityscape. The City; a memory of, 2012, combines digital imagery scraped and reworked on the lithographic plate with muted, subtle tones and small flickers of red that race the eye around the image like flashes of car lights careening around a city. The surface of the print reminds us of the layered, worn and demolished buildings making way for new developments accentuating a city that will always be a memory as it shifts and changes over time.

There were some lovely examples of artist’s earlier works such as Michael Schlitz’s drypoint etching of The Astronomer, 2004, which acts as a precursor to his woodcut figures caught in the stump of trees.michael-schlitz-astronomer-760x560 The Astronomer is a figure pared back to the essentials of a star gazing head attached to a wandering body. The yellow tonal background accentuates the chaotic plate tone imaging the chaos of the universe the figure is attempting to order. G.W. Bot’s Glyphs, 2007 also reveal an artist whose imagery has emerged from the linocut medium she first developed her forms in. The glyphs dance across the page in a preverbal language that sits on the edge of consciousness. I would highly an annual outing of works from the print collection, as it is so important to be able to engage with their physical presence.

Jan Hogan is the coordinator of printmaking at the Tasmanian College of the Arts.

 

 

 

Above: Michael Schlitz’s The Astronomer (2004)