Jacqueline Aust: PCA Print Commission 2017

Above: Jacqueline Aust, Lie of the Land – Mildura, 2017, drypoint, photogravure and chine colle, 67 x 45 cm (image) 76 x 56 cm (paper).

Jacqueline Aust discusses her work selected in the 2017 PCA Print Commission.

Q: What is your relationship to printmaking and how did you develop this interest?

JA: I was introduced to printmaking by Barry Cleavin as part of the graphic design programme at Christchurch Polytechnic in the 1970s. Much later I discovered the print studios at the polytechnic in Wanganui and was encouraged by Marty Vreede to develop my skills in the print studios, often during the weekends. I became interested, as many printmakers are, in the role of the artist as a form-giver who celebrates the concept of individual originality relative to the process of creation through repetition. Much later the print as paradox, valued as unique, yet editioned with machine-like similarity from the same matrix, became a central theme of my masters thesis and the subject, particularly of my installation works. But while the theory of print fascinates me, really it’s the endless variety of what happens between hand, plate, ink and paper that keeps me going!

Q: How did you approach your submission for the PCA Print commission 2017?

JA: The first time I was selected, in 2014, I found the process of printing an edition of 40 challenging, as at that point my editions were rarely bigger than ten and usually more like five. Increasingly I have been developing series of unique state works using the same plates in different combinations. The challenge in my approach to the commission this time has been to find a way to develop a work that is fundamentally driven by the visual structure and concepts of the series I am working on, yet make it editionable.

Q: What are some of the foundation ideas that have guided the creation of the visual content of the work you submitted?

JA: Lie of the land – Mildura is part of a series of works about the process of navigating environments that are foreign to me. It represents a map of my recollection of physical experience and visual perspective while participating in a residency in Mildura. Compared to the intense, wet, green/blue/black colours of New Zealand, the country around Mildura is predominantly dry, ochre or burnt sienna in hue. The Murray River features as a dividing line between states, and as the source of water for huge areas of land ploughed for agriculture. The issue of water use seemed to sit like an elephant in the room, or like sharply defined shapes hovering above the surface of the land. I was often overwhelmed by the scale of the environment and found the simple action of drawing a circle around me in the dirt provided a sense of containment from which to absorb my surroundings. Later these circles became a strong structural link to the same shapes in my ‘navigating’ series.

Q: How does it relate to your broader body of work?

JA: The ‘navigating’ series developed as the result of artist residencies in Arenys de Munt (Spain), The Art Vault (Mildura), and Rakiura-Stewart Island, (New Zealand), between 2015 and 2016. These residencies provoked a significant shift in my work, both in terms of subject and of scale.  Each of these places provided very different visual and physical experiences to draw on. While each print in this series is unique, it begins with the same print matrix on which expressive marks are laid as if creating a map for navigation.  Layers are added that include reference to the half tone dots used to translate images to mass produced print. Each layer serves to obscure and reveal, leaving a history and residue. This layering process imitates my recollection of physical experience and visual perspective, tracing a path from past to present to future.

Q: What were some of the technical challenges involved?

JA: Three plates are used in Lie of the land – Mildura, two photopolymer plates and a dry point in aluminium. The circle components of the dry point plate are printed on cut out circles of abaca paper placed on the plate at the time of printing, and later rearranged along with the previously printed photopolymer images. Ensuring the plates are wiped consistently and placing each of the circle components exactly for consistent effect has been the most technically challenging aspect.

Q: What other projects are you working on?

JA: Research for my ‘navigation’ series through residencies and collaborations is occupying most of my attention including, for example, working at the Umbrella studios in Townsville later this year and participating in the International Print Biennial of Douro in Portugal next year. On the home front I’m participating in a project generated by the Print Council of New Zealand that is loosely titled ‘boundless’, in which printmakers are encouraged to explore the boundaries of print. The most recent version of this project is an exhibition that is touring regional galleries in New Zealand, and will culminate in a print conference in association with the final exhibition at the Waikato Museum in Hamilton next year.

Prints can be ordered at www.printcouncil.org.au