Clare Jackson: ‘This is not a place’

From top,works by Clare Jackson:
This is not a place, 2017, aquatint etching from two plates on BFK, 40.5 x 38.5 cm (11 x 15 cm – plate mark) 3/8
Move dust, 2017, aquatint etching from two plates on BFK, 40.5 x 38.5 cm (7 x11 cm – plate mark) 2/8
I saw it different, I must admit, (from series After landing) 2017, aquatint etching from two plates on BFK 49 x 38.5 cm (14 x 29.5 cm – plate mark) 1/8

Logan Ramsay speaks with Clare Jackson about her new show at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery in Canberra.

 Imprint: What draws you to etching as a technique?

CJ: I like the discovery process of intaglio; the fact that you never know exactly what your print is going to look like. While there are aspects of the medium that you can predict and control, there is always an element of the unknown. I feel a mixture of excitement and nerves when I’m about to pull the first proof from a new plate, because there’s a chance you’re going to be disappointed by what you see, but it’s worth it for those times you’re happy with the result. And if not, it means you keep searching for ways to make it work.

Imprint: How does time and memory come together in your work?

CJ: As my work has developed, I’ve realised that the idea of history has superseded that of memory. I am intrigued by the involuntary recollections that come unbidden to our minds when triggered by an aspect of our surroundings, yet my etchings aren’t illustrative of these recollections. Rather, each print forms part of an archive; I cannot communicate exactly what was seen or felt in a specific place but I can leave a trace, a memento of what transpired.

The nature of etching as a medium, means that there is always going to be a history held in the surface of the plate. I spend so much time working with the plates in the lead up to printing, from drawing on them in various locations, to taking them through technical stages in the studio, I see the act of taking a print as preserving this history in a single object.

Imprint: Where do you draw inspiration for your landscapes?

CJ: The experience of unfamiliar locations has become integral to the way I make work. I’ve been lucky enough to have undertaken artist residencies in varied and unique places, such as the Estonian Printing Museum in Tartu, Estonia, and Wollemi National Park and Woy Woy Bay in NSW, so my work depends on the location I’m in at any given time. Two of my recent series ‘Blue nights’ and ‘This is not a place’ contain a number of recurring visual elements that reflect those I’m attracted to in certain landscapes; details of coastal suburbia at night, Australian mid century architecture, the juxtaposition of tropical plant life with architectural details, and the way light interacts with all of these elements.


More recently I’ve started working on a series of etchings, ‘After landing’, which draws inspiration from photographic documentation of space capsules returning to earth, and personal accounts of those who have experienced orbital or suborbital space travel. Although this series is also framed around unfamiliar locations, this time I have not physically visited them. These works depict parachutes and the clouds of dust that erupt as they connect with the earth, signalling the return of a space capsule, and the end of a journey for the individuals inside.

 Imprint: Can you take us through your approach to intaglio/aquatint?

CJ: I took part in an excellent colour etching workshop with Melbourne-based artist, Kyoko Imazu, last year at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery, which really influenced the way I approach intaglio and think about colour. For me the process consists of different stages and always begins with drawing, whether it be on paper first or directly onto the copper plate. I enjoy this part of the process because I can do it anywhere, as I usually take plates with me to various locations and draw on site. Then I work in the etching studio, taking the plates through multiple stages of aquatint to build up areas of tone that will eventually work together in multi plate prints. Working with etching in this way means that the drawing and technical processes can sometimes be disconnected from one another; a lot of time might elapse after making the initial drawing. So when it eventually comes to proofing, the print itself serves as a reminder of where I was, and what I was thinking in that drawing moment.

Imprint: How do you build narratives into your prints?

CJ: The titles I choose for my etchings are often extracted or influenced by something I’m reading at the time, and a narrative builds around my responses. For my series ‘Blue nights’ (after Joan Didion’s memoir of the same name), I sought to explore the twilight hours during my artist residency in Woy Woy Bay. Whilst walking the suburbs at night, I made drawings onto copper plates, hoping to gather the fleeting and mundane curiosities of the period where dusk transitions to nightfall – the gradual retreat of people into homes, trees gathering darkness to their leaves, and the glow from windows appearing amongst them. The dying of summer marks the end of the blue nights, and brings forth a sense of loss – these etchings are a personal elegy to the experience of being alone with one’s perception.

Clare Jackson’s This Is Not a Place is at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery until 22 July.