Call that printmaking?

From top: ‘Call that Printmaking?’ images by Alex Asch, John Pratt and Nicci Haynes.

Alison Alder, Australian National University’s Head of Printmaking and Drawing, discusses Call that Printmaking?, an exhibition showcasing four decades of printmaking at the ANU.

Q: What were the foundation ideas for this exhibition, and what sort of parameters did you formulate for it?

AA: The ANU School of Art and Design is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and the Printmedia and Drawing Workshop has played a central role in that history. The school was established using a Bauhaus workshop model under the first director Udo Sellbach, himself a printmaker. There have been a few changes over the decades, for instance the Graphic Investigation Workshop was merged with Printmaking, however the focus of the school is still very much based on fostering the specialised skills of making. In Printmedia and Drawing students can learn intaglio, relief and screen printing as well as lithography, typography and book design combined with a focus on drawing taught through specialised courses.

Call That Printmaking? is a celebration of traditional, digital and contemporary modes of production brought to life by a piece of equipment that most people have access to somewhere – the humble photocopier. Reducing and enlarging, making multiples, altering the mark of a drawing and relishing the inky blackness of toner on paper is all part of the appeal.

Q: ‘Printmedia’ is a very broad phrase – what exactly does it encompass and what are its freedoms?

AA: Printmedia is indeed a very broad phrase which encompasses any transference of an image from one surface to another. The mediation of an image across platforms is really exciting – the potential to readjust, redraw and reprint allows for freedoms which many other media forego by the direct nature of some processes.

The potential to disseminate information within a community relatively easily is one of printmedia’s great strengths – the democratic multiple.

Q: The exhibition clearly covers a lot of territory, both in terms of time-span, technical considerations and content. Can you give some examples of the expanse covered?

AA: The exhibition includes work by artists who graduated in 1980,  and crosses the decades to include artists who graduated last year. There is a wide variety of approach in regard to how artists have used a photocopier to make new work. Some have embraced the particular photocopy ‘look’, whilst other artists have adjusted and amended existing work into something new. Scale has been experimented with, using the capacity of a plan printer to go up to A0 including combinations of photography and the reproduction of traditional print technologies.

Q: Working with printmedia and drawing students, you must be exposed to a lot of enthusiasm and interesting discussions. Are there some enduring themes that have emerged over the years?

AA: The most enduring theme, without a doubt, is that students develop a love affair with the rich inkiness of ink – any type of ink – and its long history of making beautiful marks, whether they be created by gouging, scraping, pushing, pulling, drawing, squashing or stamping.

Call that Printmaking? 40 years of ANU Printmaking is at Megalo Print Studio + Gallery until 14 October.