Tory Richards: The Sorcery of Print

Top: Bonded, 2016, aquatint intaglio, 54 x 65.5cm.
Hand-printed using copper plates, hard ground and rosin aquatint, etched in oily ferric chloride to promote the unexpected. The bond between horses living in a herd is like an invisible beam of light, that we are sometimes privileged to feel ourselves. It is the same bond between schools of fish and birds in flight.
Above: The Clydies, 2015, intaglio, 80 x 115 cm.
Hardground intaglio etching on copper in nitric acid.  Drawn with a chisel. The unbridled power, harmony and breathtaking beauty of these friends in a windy, natural environment.
Bottom: Cicada2016, open-bite aquatint intaglio, 48 x 38 cm.
Open bite, stepped aquatint intaglio etching on copper plates. The orchestra of cicadas in the bush reaches a crescendo after 19 pulses and descends across a further 19 during the heat of summer. The vibration is powerfully physical and washes away the stresses of life.

Tory Richards discusses her new exhibition and the alchemy of printmaking.

Q: Your new exhibition The Sorcery of Print has a very evocative title. What were the beginnings of your enchantment with the “sorcery” aspect of printmaking, and how has this unfolded?

TR: Deep within the alchemy of intaglio etching, shielded in overalls, gas mask, goggles and gloves, it’s easy to liken oneself to a wizard practicing the ancient arts.   Printmaking is in truth one of the most ancient artforms known to humanity, centuries old and practiced by some of our most inspirational and celebrated artists, including Rembrandt who has had a particularly strong influence on me.

As a child, we lived alongside an open-cut copper mine in Bougainville Island near the Solomons.   My civil engineer father instilled in me a love of rocks and metals.   I remember being strangely drawn to intaglio etchings and needing to know how it was done.   From the first day I held in my hands a polished copper sheet and a simple dry point tool, I was completely and utterly hooked on the idea of platemaking. It was a defining moment. I subsequently embarked on a concentrated journey of printmaking experimentation in many of its forms, enjoying instituting my own techniques along the way. There is the idea that it is one of the oldest traditional art forms in terms of process and yet in practice, printmaking always presents as new and unpredictable. Regardless of any applied discipline or acquired knowledge – the final proof of any hand-printed image remains a delightful surprise. That keeps it ‘alive’ for me.  The excitement and sense of joy in the process has never waned – rather it strengthens as I develop my practice.

Q: What do you find about printmaking that makes it work well with the ideas and/or themes you want to explore?

TR: As a devout nature- and animal-lover, I wish to raise awareness of the inspirational, precious creatures around us and in our care. It is my ambition to use my work as a conduit to greater respect and understanding, leading to changed behaviours towards other species. Printmaking often needs to be discussed to be fully appreciated and understood and through that discussion there lies a unique opportunity to impart a considered message. I wish to connect and present a notion to the observer that becomes important to them, that can then be personally resolved in a way that promotes incremental, positive change.

Q: What are some of the works in the exhibition that were especially challenging for you to make, both technically and in terms of foundation ideas?

TR: The Gift series I, II and III represents my most passionate message about the incredible intellect and generosity of horses.  The Gift triptych speaks of the need for us to learn to communicate with them in a way that they understand in order to fully access the extraordinary ‘gift’ that they offer.     Each individual image was produced using three registered, intaglio etched, coloured plates. This challenging interplay of layered images and inks to produce colour etchings is not for the feint-hearted and requires a certain tenacity.  Grasping this process however reveals many opportunities for amalgamating techniques to produce an interesting spectrum of imagery. Our understanding of communication with other species is also in its infancy. As a parallel, learning to communicate in a symbiotic way with horses is also complex in its layers, with an exciting spectrum of possibilities.

Q: What other projects do you have in the wings?

TR: I am expanding my work on octopuses in the series Copper Bloods over the next couple of years. Platemaking design and development in what I believe is unique and pioneering in its technical foundation rests at the core of this series, which I launched at the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair 2017.  ‘Getting to know my plates’ is a strong mantra in the evolution of this body of work, which is where this innovation lies, combined with other archetypal ideas developed specifically for this series. Central to this work is a message regarding the precious nature of the octopus as a species. One to wonder at, cherish and learn from before it’s too late. I confidently challenge anyone who ‘googles’ the capabilities of the octopus to not be utterly delighted.

The Sorcery of Print is at Maroochydore Library until 28 October. gallery.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au