Canicular Days at Queenscliff Gallery & Workshop

Above: Lucinda Tanner, Porta D’Acqua, 2014, oil-based ink on paper/woodblock print, dimensions 210x200cm. Courtesy of Lucinda Tanner
Right: Lucinda Tanner, Basilisk, 2016, oil-based ink on paper/woodblock print, dimensions 150x100cm. Courtesy of Lucinda Tanner
Below: Lucinda Tanner, Der Brunnen, 2015, oil-based ink on paper/woodblock print, dimensions 170x130cm. Courtesy of Lucinda Tanner
Bottom: Lucinda Tanner, The Hodler Frieze I, 2017, oil-based ink on paper/woodblock print, dimensions 100x270cm. Courtesy of Lucinda Tanner

Lucinda Tanner discusses Canicular Days at Queenscliff Gallery & Workshop.

Imprint: How did your involvement with Canicular Days come about, and what is the premise of the exhibition?

LT: I exposed my first silkscreen in the solarium up at the local gym in our country town. I was experimenting with printing underglazes onto clay for my VCE art studies.

That was 30 years ago. I have since had many adventures with print in one form or another.

At a commercial screenprinters in Cairns, the strength of the sun was so constant we exposed the screens directly under the open sky. No exposure unit was needed.

In Melbourne’s CBD in the 1990s, I worked for fashion label Vixen Australia, hand-printing metres and metres of their divine silks and velvets.

Printing with master printer Osmond Kantilla in the screenprinting studio at Tiwi Design on Bathurst Island, was a particularly treasured time.

These past experiences were more practical applications of print. It is only since moving to Switzerland and falling in love with the woodblock print that I have steered in the direction of fine-art prints.

Maintaining an active presence as an artist in two countries requires quite a bit of energy. However, nurturing the connection with my home audience is important to me so I am happy to make that investment. I am grateful to Queenscliff Gallery & Workshop (QG&W) for the opportunities that my association with them makes possible, enabling me to cultivate an ongoing engagement.

Canicular Days is the gallery’s summer group show exhibiting current works of eight Australian printmakers.

 

Imprint: What were some of the foundation ideas for the work you have made for the exhibition?

LT: Not far from us, just over the border in France, is the Rixheim Wallpaper Museum. I have returned a number of times to view their Panoramics, or scenic wallpapers, landscapes formed from sheets of wallpaper pasted side by side to cover all the walls of a room. I love the notion of ‘setting the scene’ and this was one thing in mind when I approached this project.

The other was the question ‘what makes a place that place?’ The natural landscape to start with and then the cultural heritage that has been laid down over it. I have been contemplating heritage objects and what they represent by translating them into large format relief prints. Most recently, I printed a collection of objects found in the streets and houses throughout Baselland and Basel city. It was interesting to reflect on what they revealed about the differences between these two neighbouring cantons.

The Hodler Frieze (I & II of the series can be viewed at QG&W) is a large format, multi-coloured woodblock print consisting of 3 panels depicting a stylised mountain panorama. Inspiration for this vista was drawn from the landscape paintings of one of Switzerland’s greatest artists, Ferdinand Hodler (1853 – 1918).

The Hodler Frieze is an extension of the idea of translating cultural heritage into print. In this case I have ‘translated’ Hodler’s landscape paintings, capturing both landscape and cultural heritage. The Swiss landscape as informed by Hodler.

 

Imprint: How did you develop the work technically and what were some of the challenges involved?

LT: The print is a continued investigation of a cross-hatching technique I have been working with, all about layering and intersections. I spent a long time considering how the printing plates, which I restricted to three per panel, should interact with each other to convey the image.

The use of multiple layers and the cross hatching was aimed at achieving colours with depth and vitality. I did a lot of sampling to see how the colours interacted with each other.

I also trialled many papers to see how they took the multiple layers of ink. I couldn’t afford long drying times between layers and wanted a uniform matt finish. I needed an absorbent paper of sufficient size.

In the end I opted for the Hahne Mühle Alt Lünen 350gsm etching carton that comes on the roll. I liked the soft, smooth texture of the paper and the way it absorbed the ink so uniformly, even the third layer.

Tearing the paper down to the required sheet size in preparation for printing took a day alone. A process that required its own forethought and planning.

When working in the large format, the normal problems that printmakers face become large format problems. When it comes to the actual print production, a clear visualisation of how the printing process is going to run from start to finish is essential to avoid unexpected hitches. For example, when you have eight oversized, ink-covered sheets of paper that don’t fit into standard drying racks, you need a system in place to house them while the dry. These issues all must be planned for in advance or you risk ruining your work.

To ensure colours matched across all three panels of the frieze sufficient ink needed to be mixed at the outset of the print run. At the same time I was mindful of not mixing so much ink that it was going to go to waste. It was tricky to judge these large amounts of ink.

 

Imprint: What future projects are you working on?

LT: Firstly, I’m not done with the Hodler Frieze series yet. Up until now I have worked with transparent inks but recently started with some opaques which has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities. I want to re-work the Hodler plates and continue the series with an investigation of what effects can be gained from the usage of opaque inks.

I am in the planning phase of a project that will mark the Carl Spitteler jubilee in 2019. Carl Spitteler (1845–1924) was a Swiss poet who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1919. He wrote epic poems and I plan to produce an epic panorama depicting parts of his most famous poem.

For this project I have initiated a collaboration with a puppeteer and a musician/actor. The goal is to bring the poems alive through theatre with my prints serving as the set. This is part of an ongoing effort to seek more engaging ways of sharing print with an audience.

I have recently become interested in the woodblock prints of German artist Anselm Kiefer (born 1945) and can imagine his and Paul Gauguin’s woodblock prints having an influence on my Spitteler panoramic. But of course, one thing always leads to another and you never know where things might end up…

Canicular Days, featuring Rona Green, John Kelly, Michael Leunig, Soula Mantalvanos, Adam Nudelman, Lucinda Tanner, Deborah Williams and Joel Wolter. is at Queenscliff Gallery & Workshop until 25 February. qgw.com.au

Lucinda Tanner will be in the gallery demonstrating woodblock printing on the 28, 29 and 30 December.