Dallas Richardson:

Above: Dallas Richardson, Trees Pipers Brook, 2005, etching and aquatint20 x 24 cm
Right: Dallas Richardson, Four Aspects of Ascent, Cocooned in time, 1996, etching, aquatint, deep bite, colour relief roll, 53 x 52 cm
Below: Dallas Richardson, Rock Series 17 – Blue Mist, 1994, etching, aquatint and deep bite, 75 x 50 cm
Bottom: Dallas Richardson, Rock Series No. 1, 1989, etching, aquatint and deep bite, 30 x 30cm

 Dallas Richardson discusses her retrospective at Gallery Pejean in Launceston.

Imprint : What are some of the foundation ideas for the work in the exhibition, and what are visitors likely to experience?

Dallas Richardson: This exhibition will show prints made from the 1980s to 2013

Most of them are etchings including some of which I named, the ‘Rock Series’ prints. Generally, these works are about transition and renewal of the fluctuating and fragile human condition where the rock becomes a metaphor representing ‘the self’

It began in 1989, when I set up a still life using a granite rock that I picked up from our garden. I set it on a small, Ceylon tea, timber box and it developed from there. To start with, my aim was to simply make an etching, which showed the characteristics of a rock.

After this first still life the rock liberates itself from its tactile surroundings and is found in many varied, imagined environments; a theme develops from one print to the next as the rock finds itself in a myriad of different contexts. Within the earth, floating above, just out of reach of prospective danger, cocooned in a quiet place, sometimes it is split in two and in an atmosphere of darkness and sorrow. Always it is moving in time, changing, and at times finding ecstasy in renewal.

Thus, this humble rock becomes the main motif of my etchings and the ‘Rock Series’ is born

Other etchings, reflect the place that I lived in which was rural northern Tasmania.  I was always keen to trial different etching techniques in relation to these various scenes and so as well as making an etching I was depicting something local. These prints have more immediate appeal whereas the ‘Rock Series’ prints provide a more cerebral and intriguing view but which, I hope relates to the viewer’s varied experiences of life.

Imprint: How was the work developed technically and what were some of the challenges involved?

DR: In the ‘Rock Series’ prints my intention was to create the quality and character of a rock. This presented quite a challenge. Etching, however was the perfect medium. I therefore used zinc plate and nitric acid to achieve the results.

I started by using the sugar-lift technique to give the pock like marks of a rock. Before I began the technique, I blocked out the plate leaving open only the shape of a rock. I then splattered this rock shape randomly with sugar lift solution after which it was covered with a blockout solution. The dry plate was then submerged in warm water to lift the sugar solution. This worked well. I had a plate, which was mostly masked excepted for these random, pock like areas.   After this, I used a strong 4: 1 nitric acid to deeply bite into the plate. This created the surface I was looking for. I then needed to develop tone and texture to create a 3 dimensional appearance. For this I used both hand-held and dust box aquatints.

Originally, these works were black and white but after a while, I decided to introduce colour. I did this by firstly inking up the plate intaglio, then placing a transparent colour over the surface with a relief roller. I had to use a large roller and the roller could travel once only over the inked plate as it would pick up the intaglio ink and redeposit where it wasn’t needed. Because of this, it had to be washed each inking. This was time consuming and as I was using oil based inks, very messy and smelly, especially when using a solvent. However, the results were exactly what I wanted. So I persevered.

Imprint: What future projects are you working on?

DR:  In my new studio in Legana Tasmania I have an excellent setup. I have two mangle presses and all the materials and tools needed so I can practice both intaglio and relief printing.

I have decided that I will practice only non-toxic printmaking so this means I no longer do etching and I use only water-based inks.

I am now making collagraphs, drypoints and linocuts

My present works portray evocative landscapes mostly imagined but sometimes I use local scenes that I develop. With these, I intend to create a body of new work that I can exhibit.

Dallas Richardson – A retrospective is at Gallery Pejean until February 17.