2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: John Ryrie

‘I have been interested in printmaking since I was about nine or ten years old. Picasso’s etching and lithographs were the first prints I looked at.’

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Printmaking is my main medium. I am also a painter, sculptor and a musician.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I have been interested in printmaking since I was about nine or ten years old. Picasso’s etching and lithographs were the first prints I looked at. I was eighteen before I made my first print.

How did you approach making your submission for the PCA Print Commission?

The ‘Waiters’ Race’ was part of the Lygon Street festival back in the 1990s.

Whose work have you been enjoying lately?
This year there have been a lot of good print exhibitions: at the NGV we’ve had DegasWhistlerJan Senbergs and, in the member lounge, Piranesi; in Ballarat, William Kentridge and Pam Hallandal. I have also been looking at Laura Knight, Stanley Anderson, Robert Sargent Austin, Günter Grass and Bruegel.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a folio of prints based on Punch and Judy. It was started in 2006 as a State Library fellowship project. There is an exchange folio called Panoply organised by Rona Green and another for the Scarlet Fund. I have one print in each of these. I am also working on another limited edition book that I hope to have finished by the end of this year.

To view this year’s commission prints visit the PCA website, pick up a copy of the spring 2016 issue of Imprint (Vol. 51 No. 3), or visit one of the participating venue galleries listed below:

2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: Rona Green

From today until 31 October, our fabulous 2016 PCA Print Commission prints will be available to view at a range of venues around the country (please see details listed at the end of this interview). To celebrate and to offer a little peep into the worlds of the artists selected for the commission by our esteemed judges – Roger Butler, Senior Curator of Australian Prints and Drawings and Illustrated Books at the National Gallery of Australia, and master printer John Loane of Viridian Press – today we also kick off an interview series in which we will highlight one of the ten prints and artists involved in this year’s commission each week.

‘From looking at my work it is probably fairly easy to tell what is of most interest to me: animals, appearances, stories.’

Why do you make art?

It is deeply amusing to do so.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Involved and intense. It’s a very close friend.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

At La Trobe University in Bendigo during the early 1990’s I was taught by a couple of excellent printmaking lecturers (Peter Jacobs and John Robinson) who totally infected me with their enthusiasm for the medium.

How did you approach making your submission for the PCA Print Commission?

A lot of handsome cats have been drawing my attention of late so it seemed like a good opportunity to use one of these as a reference for the purpose of the print commission. The dapper cat character I conjured up lives a wild life. Hopefully he will provide interesting company for those who choose to have him come live with them.

Whose work have you been enjoying lately?

Derek Boshier, Michael Craig-Martin, Lee Lozano, Pauline Boty, Dorothy Iannone, Paul Compton.

Where do you go for inspiration?

From looking at my work it is probably fairly easy to tell what is of most interest to me: animals, appearances, stories. Artists whose work I admire include Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Francis Bacon, John Brack, David Hockney, Peter Blake, Diane Arbus, Philip Guston, Ida Applebroog, Leon Golub, and Ed Paschke. And I am particularly keen on Egyptian art and the Dutch Golden Age. Not to mention TV …

What are you working on now?

Preparing for a solo exhibition of printmaking at Bendigo Art Gallery and a solo exhibition of painting, drawing and printmaking at Australian Galleries, Melbourne. Both shows are scheduled for late 2017.

The 10th Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair: A Postcard from Laura Taylor

Images clockwise from top: DAAF map; Naiya Wilson (Durrmu Arts Aboriginal Corporation); Jean Baptiste Apuatimi, tungas.

Greetings!

As part of my day job with the Aboriginal Art Centre Hub of Western Australia (AACHWA) in Perth, WA, I had the opportunity to travel to Darwin at the start of August to attend the 10th Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF).

This popular three-day art fair is held each year to coincide with the prestigious National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (held at MAGNT), and provides visitors, galleries and serious collectors with an opportunity to buy art directly (and ethically) from Aboriginal-owned and incorporated art centres.

In 2016 DAAF hosted approximately sixty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned art centres from across Australia – an astounding number presenting a mind-boggling offering of 2D and 3D arts and crafts. And since I was there I happily wandered around during the three days to check out which art centres were presenting works-on-paper.

Unfortunately I can share only a few images here of the otherwise hugely diverse and incredibly exciting selection that was on display at the Fair. And, to be honest, until then I didn’t fully realise just how many artists and art centres have engaged in printmaking either independently, or with the assistance of a master printer and/or print studio. Worthy of further research!

Paul Bong, vinylcuts.

So, my teaser selection of art centres and works are:

Top l-r: James Gaston, At the Show, Linocut, Larrakia Nation Arts; Lisa Michl, Ntarr I, 2009, etching, Umi Arts.
l–r: Timothy Martin, Leon Pungili and Cyril Modikan (Durrmu Arts Aboriginal Corporation).

There were also numerous art centres from WA; however, I hope to blog about them separately next year (in April 2017) when Warlayirti Artists from Balgo, WA, hold a print exhibition at Mundaring Arts Centre to coincide with the annual Revealed – WA Emerging Aboriginal Art Exhibition and Art Market – held at Fremantle Arts Centre. Until then!

Cheers – Laura

PCA Committee Representative, WA.

Q&A with Marco Luccio

I don’t tend to wait for inspiration to strike, I just go in my studio and work. I do, however, take time away to restore my energy and allow space for new work to come into being.‘ 

How did you start out as an artist?

I started out as an artist by doing VCE art then completing a fine arts honours degree at RMIT. I was always encouraged to be an artist by family, friends and teachers from very early on so it gave me a strong sense of what I wanted to do with my life. It hasn’t always been easy to pursue an art career, as most artists will attest, but it’s never been boring! It’s very fulfilling and at times absolutely thrilling.

What is it about printmaking that attracts you?

 I love the marks, the directness, the chances, the accidents, the absolute joy of the first proof, the satisfaction of completing a challenging piece, the unique possibilities of expressiveness, the relationship printmaking has to drawing, the integrity of the medium and the fact that, for me, the subject and the medium are often the same, interconnecting quite often with the themes I pursue and the manner in which I create the plates.

I love the way it feels to gouge deeply into a plate to create powerful and rich velvety blacks, and the contrast of sensitivity that a light touch allows. Each plate offers a new passport to exciting new worlds … and, of course, it’s plain great fun.

Can you tell us about the process of making work for New York Mythic?

It all began with my first trip to New York in 2007. I have made several trips to Manhattan over the years. This is a very large show. It features three bodies of work and around eighty-five artworks.

It pulls together a selection of the 2008 drypoints from the series Citscapes of New York. Also it includes a body of etchings that were started in 2013 but etched this year and will be shown for the first time in Australia as part of New York Mythic. Then there is the forty or so artworks made just this year, a collection of paintings, charcoal drawings, drypoints and mixed media.

To create New York Mythic I started by making sketches in situ in New York from various vantage points such as the Chrysler Building but also, for the first time, used photos as a reference. These were snapped whilst white knuckled and terrified (I’m afraid of heights!) in a helicopter flight over the City of New York.

I wanted this show to capture New York as an imagined and expressive construct, views that may give the viewer a new perspective not only literally but also in the use of mediums and approaches.

Some of the works are very big – up to eleven and a half feet. I think this engages the viewer in a way that smaller works don’t.

With these big images I poured ink and water and built layers over and over until the images started to guide me. I wanted to have a sense of scale that I had not previously explored. I also have drypoints in this show that are four by six feet. They are deeply gouged and were incredibly physically challenging to scratch, ink and print – though I think this physicality, this exertion of energy is fitting. The subject and the medium, as mentioned earlier, become one. New York has this monolithic sense of imposing power and a formidable presence and I was driven by these feelings in making the work.

Do you have particular rituals or routines that contribute to your creative process?

Yes I do. If I have time I like to start with a coffee at my local cafe and write in my journal. Sometimes I like to plan my day and have an idea of what I may tackle but other times that may change completely. I like to be organised but it generally doesn’t last longer than two minutes, and that’s if I’m lucky! When I’m right in the middle of producing a whole body of work it’s often a bit chaotic with a constant reordering to make sure I’m on track.

I like to have all sorts of music playing, classical, pop and lots of jazz or sometimes the football … I’m a sad Collingwood supporter, but it offers me a nice break from the studio. Cricket also gets a run at times.

I like to work regularly in my studio but also have great enjoyment making paintings and prints in situ on worksites or in landscapes. 

I don’t tend to wait for inspiration to strike, I just go in my studio and work. I do, however, take time away to restore my energy and allow space for new work to come into being.

What do you hope people will get from the experience of viewing your work?

I hope people get the feeling that they are not only seeing an image that represents the physical place but also a sense of what it’s like to be there, what your body might feel like when it’s in front of these cities or landscapes. What your senses tell you about a place. I hope the viewer might feel a sense of connection to the marks that represent the subject as much as the subject itself. I hope that they also may get a sense of me in the work too, and of themselves as much as the places I draw.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a new book with the great author John Hughes.

Previously we worked on the book The Garden of Sorrows together, which featured sixty of my etchings, and are now collaborating on a new book. I have been making new drawings for that project. 

Also, The Garden of Sorrows is in early production to become a theatrical performance by the wonderful Snuff Puppets. The first introductory performance was performed at the NGV Australia last year and the further complete performances should be ready for touring next year.

New York Mythic will be on display at fortyfive downstairs from 13 September to 8 October.

Portland Bay Press: A Postcard by Kate Gorringe-Smith

Images clockwise from top: installation of Kate Gorringe-Smith’s work in the Portland Bay Press gallery window; Hertha Kluge-Pott, PBP Patron, printing on the new press 2003, photo by James Wallace; Carmel Wallace, Untitled, 1993, relief print, 120 x 80 cm (see exhibition details below).

Portland, Victoria’s oldest European settlement, lies four hour’s drive west of Melbourne and six hour’s drive east of Adelaide. Despite its geographical isolation, Portland has a thriving and outward-looking artistic community that in 2002 ambitiously decided to set up a public-access etching workshop and gallery.

The idea for Portland Bay Press (PBP) was born when a couple of presses became available from a local university print facility that was being closed down. In the end those presses did not find a home at PBP, but by then the idea had taken root, resulting in Carmel Wallace and Karl Hatton jointly submitting a successful grant application to Arts Victoria to establish an etching studio. At that time Carmel was the administrator of the Portland Emerging Artists Residency program and Karl was the Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Services Officer.

The energy that surrounded PBP’s beginnings was as volcanic as that which formed the local landscape. As a creative force it came into being fully-formed, boldly claiming its place on Australia’s printmaking map: it was opened on 19 July 2003 by Australian Print Workshop Director Anne Virgo and its champion and patron is renowned printmaker Hertha Kluge-Pott. Even before its official opening, PBP had already hosted six workshops with local and international artists: New York-based printmaker Denise Kasof; master printer Bill Young; Byron Bay artist Jay Pearse; retired head of printmaking at Deakin University Ron Quick; founding artist Carmel Wallace* and PBP patron Hertha Kluge-Pott. In its first months it also held three major exhibitions!

PBP is a facility that would be enviable in any city, let alone in a remote town with a population of under 10,000. The studio houses four presses: two Enjays (with beds 82 x 160 cm and 45 x 92 cm), a third smaller press, and a Wilson hand press. Based in the building of an old Hotel (the Union Inn, opened in 1849), the studio has beautiful natural light and the walls have been restored to create a professional gallery space.

To make PBP an even more enticing destination, artists can apply to use the two-bedroom apartment above the studio through the Portland Artist Residency Program. The program creates a mutually enriching opportunity for visiting artists and the local community. An original internal staircase gives artists immediate access from the apartment to the studio, providing the perfect opportunity for printers to stay in Portland and make use of the print facilities.**

A shopfront and an additional gallery space next door provide a hub for other branches of Portland’s creative community, and together with PBP and the apartment, these facilities form the Julia Street Creative Space arts complex. Portland is also home to Portland Arts Centre that has a gallery, a theatre and a studio space.

Since its ambitious beginnings thirteen years ago, PBP has confidently maintained its identity as a significant Australian art hub. Blessed by the proximity of the upstairs apartments and the strong artist-in-residence program, PBP continues to benefit from an ongoing flow of top-quality printmakers and other artists who are drawn to this inspiring part of the world.

*The founding members of PBP were: Carmel Wallace (Convenor), Therese Dolman (Secretary), Catherine Francis (Treasurer), Pat Jarrett, Deborah Bunce, Andy Govanstone,  Rebecca Marriott, Debby Punton, Jan Frost, Mel Halz, Annette Taylor, Pam Beinssen, Bronwyn Mibus, Mimi Murrell, David Burgoyne and Gordon Stokes.

**See the Portland Artist Residency website for further information.

Carmel Wallace: Printed in Portland – a survey of prints including early screenprints developed at portland community access print studio, and etchings, relief, and monoprints made at Portland Bay Press and in the artist’s studio – will be on display at Portland Bay Press from 2 September to 2 October. Opening: Saturday 3 September, 4 pm.

Kate Gorringe-Smith is an artist and the Vice President of the Print Council of Australia.

Q&A with Robert Avitabile

‘I became interested in prints because I like drawing. The simple expression of marks on a surface is both a beginning and an end and is very satisfying. Drawing can be a beautiful evolving statement of an idea and I like it when printmakers carry this freshness and energy into their work.’ 

How did you become interested in art and prints in particular?

Art wasn’t part of my childhood in semi-rural Ashwood – I was inclined to be outside most of the time, with the only distraction from this being early black and white TV after dinner.

My father’s night class charcoal drawings of Voltaire and The Discus Thrower, etc., from the National Gallery School in the late 1930s to early 1940s weren’t on our walls, but lurking in the back of his wardrobe.

Art came along when I was ready and ironically it was my father’s hidden drawings that sparked my earliest interest and attempts at drawing. The serendipitous opening of the NGV on St Kilda Road in the late 1960s had a profound effect on me since we were now living in St Kilda East. A beautiful world had opened up before my eyes. I could easily walk or catch a tram there and it all made sense.

I began Preliminary Year in Art and Design at Prahran Tech in 1972, and was able to develop ideas and techniques that I had no way of pursuing earlier. I did three more years of a Graphic Design major, with ongoing Life Drawing and electives in Printmaking and Photography also being an important part of my studies. After four years of drawing and the influence of wonderful teachers like Glenys McIntosh and Pam Hallandal, I cannot imagine my life without it and I mourn the downgrading of Drawing in educational institutes today.

I became interested in prints because I like drawing. The simple expression of marks on a surface is both a beginning and an end and is very satisfying. Drawing can be a beautiful evolving statement of an idea and I like it when printmakers carry this freshness and energy into their work.

How do you view the role of curator?

I am an artist and I became a curator by default. I like how art objects interact and (as a classic Libran) I like to arrange them. I also like stories of artists and their careers and I strive to tell these stories in the context of their art. This is how I work and I imagine it’s how others work. However, a gallery owner’s work as a curator is only part of a big job description.

When I was about 16-years-old I curated my first show in my father’s shed – it was a collection of my own Picasso copies. I have now been fortunate to put together some major shows at Metropolis Gallery in Geelong, working with a number of amazing artists including Marco Luccio, Adrian Lockhart and Andrew Chapman; the many prominent Australian printmakers around whom I have curated a number of Collectable Print shows; emerging local artists like Michael Gromm and Steve Salo; comprehensive retrospectives of Kenneth Jack, David Newbury and Bill Harding; and exhibitions in association with a number of prominent Aboriginal art centres. When I look back at each exhibition, it’s the artists’ stories that bring their exhibitions together to connect with viewers. And so it’s the role of a curator to help tell these stories in more ways than simply finding pictures to hang on the wall.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while working as a curator?

A curator understands how people will ‘read’ a group of works by an artist and how they can be presented in the gallery space to best advantage. An exhibition is a partnership between the artist and the gallery, with mutual respect necessary for a great result.

A simple answer might be that there are no challenges, only solutions.

What does a work day look like for you?

My working day starts at home and after the usual activities I check my diary and social media, but sometimes when hot weather is forecast, checking a bonsai before work is more important – apologies.

I usually drive but also regularly walk our dog to the gallery, so we both get a good half hour exercise. I check emails and chat with our gallery assistant if she’s working that day. After replying to emails while serving early customers and attending to anything immediate, I settle into the current exhibition management as well as keeping an eye on future planning. A lot of my day is ‘on the run’ and no two days are the same or predictable.

Upstairs we’re lucky to have our own in-house Geelong Picture Framers, so I also spend time there having a chat and making sure it’s looking good and running smoothly.

I enjoy interacting with customers, as this is an important part of running a gallery. Sometimes I might visit an artist’s studio or some galleries, or spend a quiet day working from home.

Most of my time is spent thinking of the future and staying one step ahead of what’s happening, while keeping my feet firmly on the ground in the present. You could say the drawing beneath all this is constantly changing and that’s how I like it.

Who are your role models?

While I believe that once the exhibition is on the wall the curator, exhibition designer and anyone else should be invisible, there are many anonymous curators in public and private galleries whose ideas I must have absorbed over many years – some reminding me what is good and some not so good. I am probably more influenced by many years working as a freelance designer, producing many interpretive design projects for historical, natural heritage and indigenous art sites. Many of those projects incorporated writing, illustration and design and many talented people for whom I worked were specialists in presenting beautiful visuals and stories in exciting, cohesive and innovative ways.

Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for, and process of, putting together your current group exhibition Mono?

When I look at monotypes the freshness of creation is still there: the energy of drawing is embedded in these works. Any artist brave enough to be involved in making monotypes must surely have been drawing for many years. You’ve only got one chance to pull the perfect mono and it seems artists like the adrenalin rush of this medium: not knowing exactly what’s going to happen when their painting on a copper or plastic plate goes through the press in union with a sheet of paper. You could say the artist and the print are both under a lot of pressure! If you are able to see this show, I hope the results achieved by Tony Ameneiro, Kim Barter, Anita Iacovella, Bruno Leti, Debra Luccio, Janice McBride, James Pasakos, Linda Robertson and Wayne Viney explain this better than words.

This exhibition was the brainchild of Wayne Viney who came to an opening of Linda Robertson’s here last year and said: ‘Why don’t we do a Monotype show?’ and I said ‘OK why not? Who else does Monos?’ So we stood around scratching our heads and put down a few names. Then with the help of Dr Thomas Middlemost (over the phone while agreeing to open the show), we finalised the exciting list of artists for Mono. Thanks Wayne and thank you Tom!

This early stage was one of introductions and pulling all the artists together and getting them working towards a common exhibition date, with exhibition details and gallery requirements emailed and positive replies received. Every stage of an exhibition is important – it’s like an organism that grows and grows and on the opening night of Mono there was a very positive response from artists and guests. The artists were there to celebrate, but the magic is that most people see this as the start of the exhibition – it really started last year!

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m talking to Mono visitors and passing on what I know about monotypes, the artists and their art processes. The exhibition is open and so it’s all about our visitors to the show.

But of course we do have another exhibition coming up in October, so preparations for Robert Ingpen’s Storybook Art has been a concurrent priority for some time at Metropolis Gallery involving cataloguing, photography, writing press releases, framing and presentation of about eighty works, then designing advertising and other printed materials.

In November we are presenting Panoply, a major exhibition of printmaking curated by Rona Green and including forty emerging and established Australian artists.

Between these two shows we have just slotted in an exciting little Collectable Works on Paper show, which came to us recently out of the blue. This is where flexibility as a curator is important to get it all done. Without the help of my partner Ilze, gallery assistants Amber Daly and Alex Game, and our framers upstairs, none of what we do would be possible.

Running a commercial gallery anywhere is probably one of the hardest things to do; however, it’s an occupation that incorporates everything I’ve ever learnt and experienced in art, design, life, business and so on, and importantly how to work within your means without becoming burdened.

 

Mono is on display at Metropolis Gallery, Geelong, until 3 September.

Afterlife at West Gallery, Thebarton

Review by Geoff Gibbons

Afterlife is the inaugural exhibition for a new gallery in the western suburbs of Adelaide that features spacious well lit exhibition spaces occupying the first floor of a modern building. The gallery is the initiative of Margie Sheppard, whose vibrant multi-plate colour etchings can be seen in several interstate galleries.

Margie SheppardCherish, 2016, etching, 62 x 79 cm.

This exhibition of prints brings together a selection of work by many of Adelaide’s leading contemporary printmakers. Curated by Christobel Kelly artists were asked to consider the theme of ‘afterlife’, invoking the analysis of ruins and ruination as described by Walter Benjamin in his Arcades Project.

A number of the fourteen artists represented have explored the potential of working with the randomness of marks left as a trace of earlier projects. Lorelei Medcalf’s exquisite artist’s book comprises collaged segments from etchings that take on hybrid forms constructed from industrial landscapes and plants, all made from a richness of mark making textures. Similarly Simone Tippett has explored the ghost print‘s relationship to its source, in this case a heavily corroded metal plate. She achieves a sense of transience in the subtle traces made on strips of monoprinted paper that seem to hover somewhere between real time and remembered time.

Olga SankeyBloom: Burn, 2016, digital/intaglio, 23 x 40.5 cm.

Olga Sankey references a key concept in Benjamin’s analysis, that of the capacity of ruined objects to divulge insights into their former life. Her paired images can refer to the aftermath of actions, the consequent transformation from abundant life (bloom) to alternate states (burn/blush). Altered states feature in Aleksandra Antic’s long scroll-like silkscreen, giclee and monoprint. Taking as her point of departure an eroded fence that separates a section of the Botanic Gardens from the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the perforations become points of connection providing glimpses into very different social spaces.

Michele Lane’s series of intaglio prints reference the destruction of the Baalshamin temple at Palmyra in Syria. If Benjamin believed that ruination could lay bare the truth of an object one truth is surely that it is impossible to maintain permanence and continuity in a mutable world. Sandra Starkey Simon engages with a related subject in her large screenprint, collagraph and stencil print Firestorm which references the periodic destruction of the city of Magdeburg. Amid the piles of rubble signs of former lives can sometimes be found and even new life in the form of chrysalises.

Sandra Starkey-SimonFirestorm, 2016, screenprint, collagraph and stencil, 76 x 56 cm.

Suzie Lockery’s frieze like print evokes cosmic realms complete with an oval shaped portal that suggests access to other states, even to other parts of the universe. The shimmering points of light on the surface of the portal evoke the myriad of stars in our galaxy. Flanking images recall the background static that is now believed to be the aftermath of the big bang when the universe was a cauldron of intense heat.

Joshua Searson plays with screenprinted images of early film posters. Their fragments recall the layers of torn and over-pasted prints that once adorned the walls and display stands of cities throughout the world. These prints also reference Benjamin’s concept of the Dream World to describe the way that consumer goods and mass culture epitomised by Hollywood films can become the source of an alternative fantasy world that is both seductive and illusory.

This exhibition exemplifies a renewed interest in finding new forms of visual language derived from printmaking that are richly allusive yet capable of engaging the viewer for their graphic qualities.

Afterlife will be on display at West Gallery Thebarton until 10 September.

Geoff Gibbons is a foundation member and chairperson of Bittondi Printmakers Association Inc. that was formed in 2008 to provide an access workshop for artist-printmakers. He has taught printmaking in TAFE and at the Adelaide Central School of Art where he currently lectures in art history and theory.

Q&A with Clayton Tremlett

‘Originally I studied as a painter but the processes of printmaking, particularly the excitement of the reversed and uncontrolled magic of the first proof, eventually got me.’ 

Image: Clayton Tremlett with life mask, 2016. Photo: Carrington McArdle.

Why do you make art?

For me art making is about identifying connections and commonalities in life experience. In more recent years my practice is about examining history and drawing from events or people that influence my identity, to make works that encourage others to reflect on who they are.

I enjoy aesthetic challenges and also like to make print projects that use the printing industry or printed matter like wallpaper or stamps as a historical context.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

It’s about experimentation with materials and processes, by challenging or corrupting a traditional technique and cultivating something personal.

When I started printmaking, my focus was multi-colour reduction linocuts (up to twenty colours) because of the textural beauty I found in the layering of ink.

For my most recent series Beard and Influence I have advanced a technique I’m calling Laser Resist Etching which combines photography, Photoshop and the photocopier to make a new form of photo etching.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I suspect it was subconscious connection with my father’s practice of carving leather. As a child, I recall watching him use a swivel knife and tools to effortlessly cut and sculpt leather which has many parallels to carving lino with a scalpel and then removing the waste with gauges.

Originally I studied as a painter but the processes of printmaking, particularly the excitement of the reversed and uncontrolled magic of the first proof, eventually got me.

Who is your favourite artist?

Favourite is a transient thing. Many artists have been very influential depending on their ideas and technical skills. I admire artists for their individual pursuit of a personal expression and this translates across many disciplines. If I had to name a favourite sustained influence it would be the electronic music of Kraftwerk and their conscious aesthetic as it relates to visual art.

 What is your favourite artwork?

This too is transient and dependant on a particular changing set of receptive moments in life. Recently I travelled with my family to Vietnam and was overwhelmed with the technique of lacquer engraving on panels. Although it is an old technique it was a new experience for me and for a time my most favourite type of work because of its combination of carving and painting.

In my hall at home is a portrait of Captain Cook by Rew Hanks. I particularly enjoy looking at this work because of its technical skill and confidence with the medium.

Where do you go for inspiration?

More recently that would be the Public Records Office in Melbourne.

History is tangible when you are holding a book that is over a hundred and forty years old with detailed information on a prisoner’s appearance, crime, punishment, religion, occupation and tattoos.

Crime and Punishment and Inking Up are artist book projects that explore prisoners held in the old Castlemaine Goal. Crime and Punishment focused on the types of sentences you could get for misdemeanours like riding your bicycle on the footpath (one day), while Inking Up highlights tattoos favoured by a selection of prisoners in the 1890’s – the most common being an anchor between the thumb and forefinger.

What are you working on now?

My current exhibition has taken four years to produce. The works are large scale self-portrait linocuts in the guise of twelve bearded Australian Bushrangers. This was my first performative series where I grew diverse hirsute appearances in order to re-create the original photograph of each bushranger.

After each project, I like to flip the concept to see what is revealed on the other side. Following on from Bushrangers it seemed logical to research the phenomenon of being lost in the bush.

I am also documenting central Victorian ANZAC memorials (the lone soldier) as the central image for a series of anti-war linocut prints.

Collection as Nexus: Community, Culture, Connections

John Coburn, Sacred site, 1987, screenprint. Image courtesy of the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.

Wagga Wagga Art Gallery is the home of the Margaret Carnegie Print Collection, which holds over fifteen hundred original works by Australian artists. For the past three years this collection has been used as a nexus for education and engagement programs, making connections through printmaking.

These broad ranging programs have built upon and expanded successive iterations of outreach initiatives that have used printmaking to involve community and cultural perspectives. The success of these programs has also been founded upon partnerships across multiple institutions, particularly between the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), and the Arts Unit of the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities.

One of the programs, Ngulagambilanha: be returning home, has used artworks by Indigenous artists H J Wedge, Tommy McRae, and Lorraine Connelly-Northey from the AGNSW collection, and, from the Margaret Carnegie Print Collection, Wiradjuri artist Roy Kennedy’s prints My original mission – Darlington Point and Booligal weigh station. These etchings have been used as a catalyst for students to explore techniques and ideas at the on-site workshops at Wagga Wagga, which also drew heavily upon the AGNSW education kit Home: Aboriginal art from New South Wales.

Kennedy also participated in a video-excursion from the AGNSW during this program. Kennedy provided a particularly strong focus as he grew up on Police Paddock Mission during the Depression, then moved away when his mission closed in 1941. His work draws on ‘his mother’s stories and his own experience … documenting a life of dislocation and deprivation, from the Depression years up until the abolition, in 1940, of the notorious Aborigines Protection Board that managed the missions in New South Wales.’[1]

Roy Kennedy, My original mission – Darlington Point, undated, etching. Image courtesy of Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.

Another education program KaPOW! (Kids and Print Outreach Workshops) has featured a broad range of prints from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, including G. W. Bot, Jock Clutterbuck, John Coburn, Rona Green, Treahna Hamm, Arone Raymond Meeks, and Judy Watson. These works have provided models for different printmaking techniques which were then integrated into participatory workshops. For example, John Coburn’s Sacred site screenprint was used to model the reduction relief printmaking process.[2]

This expansive suite of programs has generated a synergistic flow of energy, creativity and expertise across a broad range of regional, remote and rural communities. The Gallery itself has provided a welcoming environment to bring together local Indigenous representatives, specialist print educators, curatorial staff across multiple disciplines, and learners of all ages. In addition, the development of complementary outreach programs has brought the Gallery out of the institutional framework and into the wider region – significantly encouraging participation from community groups lacking previous experience of arts-focused education activities.

Engagement programs such as KaPOW! and Ngulagambilanha demonstrate how the use of well-established collections can provide an innovative and rich means of reaching out into communities, as well as extending the traditional exhibition focus of galleries. Many different programs can be initiated and structured around these collections, relating to cultural contexts, art making and appreciating. Such programs also enable the development of strong connections between the art gallery and its collections, and the community not just within the artistic sphere but well beyond. In turn, this provides opportunities to open up a greater discourse around cultural practices, community engagement and artistic practice in reference to collections.

 

Gulbalanha: know and understand each other is the culmination of the second utilisation of the partnership between AGNSW, The Arts Unit and WWAG. On display at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery from 17 September to 20 November 2016.

 

References

[1] Hetti Perkins in Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2014

[2] Linda Elliott, ‘Catalysing Collections’, Imprint Vol. 48 No. 3, 2013.

Linda Elliott is Curator Education and Public Programs at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.