Printmaking at the Tarnanthi Festival, Adelaide

Top: Adrian Stimson, Siksika (Blackfoot) Nation, Alberta, Canada, born 1964, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, Bison Mountains, 2017, Cicada Press, UNSW Art & Design, Sydney, aquatint, etching on paper; Cicada Press Collection, courtesy the artist. Photo: Saul Steed
Above: Laurel Nannup, Binjareb Nyoongar people, Western Australia, born 1943, Carrolup, Western Australia, No 28, 2014, Cicada Press, UNSW Art & Design, Sydney, etching, open bite and aquatint with hand coloured lolly tree; Cicada Press Collection, Courtesy the artist, photo: Saul Steed
Right: David Nolan, Wiradjuri people, New South Wales, born 1968, Goulburn, New South Wales, Bird on a Wing, 2012, Cicada Press, UNSW Art & Design, Sydney, etching, aquatint on paper; Cicada Press Collection, courtesy the artist
Below: Raymond Zada, Barkindji people, New South Wales, born 1971, Adelaide, Sorry again, 2015, Cicada Press, UNSW Art & Design, Sydney, aquatint on paper. Cicada Press Collection, courtesy the artist.

Curator Tess Allas discusses work from Cicada Press artists in the Tarnanthi Festival in Adelaide.

Q: The exhibition has its roots in the Storylines project – can you explain how this happened and what Storylines encompassed?

TA: Storylines was a three-year Australian Research Council-funded project. Vivien Johnson and I worked to interview as many Aboriginal artists as possible in order to write their biographies which were then uploaded onto the Design and Art Australia website (

We concentrated our research on artists south and east of the imaged line that C.D. Rowley drew across the nation. This line divided the Indigenous population into ‘Colonial’ (now known as ‘remote’) and ‘Settled’. We quickly discovered that many artists and communities of artists working outside the ‘art centre system’ of the north were not able to access some of the opportunities that art schools and other centres of art making can provide in outreach programs. It was agreed by Michael Kempson, the printmaker at Cicada Press, that we could invite some of these artists to a workshop during the university’s quiet times. And so, in 2012 the first workshop began for artists ‘below the Rowley Line’. David Nolan and Laurel Nannup, two of the artists in Under Pressure attended that first workshop. We also have been visited by individual contemporary artists who work in a ‘residency’ style situation throughout any given year.

Q: The artists are quite diverse – what sort of experiences have they had during the making process?

TA: Some of the artists, such as Laurel Nannup, are very familiar with the printmaking processes so she was very much at home from the moment she arrived. Some have had no etching or printmaking experience and have had to learn a whole new language in order to feel comfortable. Uncle Vic Chapman is one such artist. He is very familiar with ceramics and the language of that medium but printmaking was new to him. His first experience in this medium was in 2013 at the age of 82 and he has since become well-versed in the medium, the skills required and the language of etching and he is a regular weekly visitor to the Cicada Press studios. Raymond Zada’s first experience was a real test for him as the open studio environment took him out of his comfort zone. He was not used to sharing a space and having other artists around supporting, encouraging and critiquing during his artmaking process. The Cicada Press studio is a busy studio full of artists all engaging with each other and Raymond’s practice usually involves just him alone with his computer. We never really get to see his work until it is finished. The etching process that the workshops are built around is the opposite dynamic how Raymond usually works.

Q: What are some of the works in the exhibition and what approach do they take?

TA: Laurel Nannups’s work No 28 is an etching which brings together onto one etching plate, many of her stories which have previously been rendered as separate etchings, woodblock or lino cuts. Stories such as The Lolly Tree and Last Bath which tell of two memories from childhood (that of her uncle planting lollies in a tree and showing her and her sister that ‘lolly trees’ do exist and the story of her mother giving her and her sister their last bath before being taken away by the authorities). The title, ‘number 28’ comes from the number she came to be known as during the de-humanising events in her history when the authorities renamed her with a number. Dale Harding’s work W38 and E143 tell of similar histories, but these belong to his grandmother and great grandmother. They too, were taken and they too, had their family names denied them and were known by their alpha-numeric new names. Julie Gough’s work was initially commissioned by Campbelltown Arts Centre in 2016. Julie was a commissioned artist in the exhibition, With Secrecy and Despatch, which was an exhibition that commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Appin Massacre. Julie’s response was to shine a light on ten of the many many massacres and other acts of brutality that occurred during the Frontier Wars in Tasmania. Julie researched and found over 70 published newspaper articles or journal entries from the 1800s which documented atrocities as they happened. She eventually chose ten and screenprinted the text verbatom onto etched paper which was etched in such a way as to resemble old and decaying ‘wanted posters’. These works stand testament to Tasmania’s bloody history of its treatment of Aboriginal people.

Q: How does this project fit into broader/future aspirations at Cicada Press?

TA: The Cicada Press workshops not only provide new skills and new connections for the participants but the outcomes of these workshops are immense. We are constantly curating exhibitions that are shown in many galleries and community centres around the world including Cananda where we showed some work at the Montreal First Peoples Festival; in the United States at the Gorman Musuem at University of California, Davis; at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection in Charlottesville, Viriginia; in Utrecht in The Netherlands at the Aboriginal Art Museum; in Helsinki in Finland at the Kallio Kunsthalle Art Gallery as well as exhibitions in Australia including  an exhibition at Burrinja Cultural Centre in Victoria; at Wollongong Art Gallery where printworks by the shellworking Lombadina-based Sibosado brothers were included in the shellworking exhibition Shimmer;  at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute in Adelaide; and the previously mentioned exhibition With Secrecy and Despatch at Campbelltown Arts Centre. So you can see that this particular project fits very neatly into the proven exhibiting track record for which Cicada Press is known. It is wonderful for us to show a small selection of prints, that have been created over the past five years, in a State Gallery. We have not had an opportunity to show at such a prestigious institution prior to Tarnanthi 2017  and we are incredibly grateful such an opportunity was given to us.

Under Pressure is at the Art Gallery of South Australia until 28 January