Q&A: Burnie Print Prize 2017
The Burnie Print Print on display
Performance printmaking by Performprint.
Patricia Wilson-Adams, Positions 1 to 3 (2016), letterpress on Chinese paper, wax, slate, wood and metal, edition 1/4, framed triptych, 35 x 105 cm
The Burnie Print Prize has announced its winner, Patricia Wilson-Adams for her work Positions 1 to 3 (2016), letterpress on Chinese paper, wax, slate, wood and metal. Imprint speaks with curator Birgitta Magnusson-Reid.
IMPRINT: What is the history of the Burnie Print Prize and how does it relate to the Burnie Regional Art Gallery’s impressive collection of works on paper?
BM-R: The inaugural Burnie Print Prize was held for the first time ten years ago in 2007. The Director at the time, Belinda Wright, had a vision to develop the gallery’s permanent collection on a national basis through an acquisitive award and in doing so, bring the best of contemporary printmaking to public view.
The Burnie Regional Art Gallery opened in 1978. Due to the difficulty for a new gallery to grow a comprehensive collection of artworks surveying the history of Australian art, it was decided, in 1980, to adopt an acquisition policy with a principal focus on collecting works on paper. This reflected the strong historical presence of the papermaking industry in the region and enabled the collection to so have an emphasis on contemporary Australian art.
In line with this policy, the gallery started to subscribe to the Print Council of Australia’s annual print commission. These prints form a significant part of the gallery’s collection and with the addition of the winning, purchased and donated works from the Burnie Print Prize, the historical and cultural values of the gallery’s collection are greatly enhanced.
IMPRINT: What are some of the special qualities evident in Patricia Wilson-Adams’ Positions 1 to 3?
BM-R: The judges were looking for works that show a great feeling for the material presence of a print as well as displaying innovation in regards to tradition.
They also paid special attention to artists whose work demonstrated some sort of progression in their making and how their work has developed over the years.
Wilson-Adams‘ work was awarded the prize on the basis that the judges felt it engages most directly with the viewer, posing questions, setting up moments of involvement. It is a work that promises to maintain its ability to captivate and will be an asset to the collection.
IMPRINT: What is the most unusual work entered for the prize this year?
BM-R: When the entries to the prize opened we received a phone call from the print collective Performprint.
They wondered if they would be considered for entering as their prints are made as live action performances with a pro-skateboarder as the printer. To us, this seemed both innovative and exciting, but in the end it was up to the judges to make this decision during the pre-selection. Their entry was accepted by the judges and the group arrived at the gallery and selected a space big enough for the print action to take place in front of the judges.
IMPRINT: How far afield do entries typically come from?
BM-R: The Burnie Print Prize has for the majority of instalments, received entries from all Australian states and territories. This year, for the first time, the prize was opened to the whole Oceania region. Out of the 133 entries, five were international and out of those two were included in the final exhibition of 52 works.
IMPRINT: Why is printmaking still such an important part of the art world?
BM-R: Printmaking is the art form which for centuries has been performed in a symbiosis with technology, derived from it but also driving the development of the tools and techniques used. You have to ask yourself would we have poster art without lithography and later screenprinting and where will 3D-printers take the print art?
The different print methods have of course always required very different skill sets. I don’t think we will see a loss of expertise in the future but rather a new development where all printing techniques will be used in interesting ways.
We don’t know how or why the artists included in the Burnie Print Prize have turned to printmaking as their preferred method of expression, but somehow the idea that printmaking is part of human nature springs to mind, as ninety-nine per cent of us at some stage in life have carved into something, be it grandma’s colonial table or a message of everlasting love on a tree. Inking up and taking a print may not have been included in that context but for the print artists it is and continues to be!