Q&A: Global Oceans
Laura Castell, Just one More, 2017, reduction linocut on aquatint etching 300 gsm, oil based ink, 14.8 x 21 cm
Mary Moore, Inheritance, 2017, photopolymer etching with digital chine collé on Ho Sho and Somerset White papers, Ink Jet colour and Charbonnel Noir etching inks, 14.8 x 21cm.
Mary Pulford, Mangrove and Samphire, 2017, linocut on hand made seaweed paper, 14.8 x 21cm
Julia Wakefield is behind Global Oceans, the title for this year’s ambitious Adelaide International Print Exchange, centred on the health of our increasingly endangered ocean environments. The results are being exhibited at Adelaide’s Hahndorf Academy.
IMPRINT: What is the foundation of the theme ‘global oceans’ for this year’s Adelaide Print Exchange?
JW: ‘Global oceans’ is a term that is used when conservationists refer to the importance of retaining an ecological balance throughout the marine environment. Everyone on the planet is affected by what happens in the oceans, and the devastating effects of our own human activities on the oceans are only now becoming terrifyingly evident. The oceans have always been not only a communication highway between civilizations, but also a challenge to our imaginations, tempting us to take our ships ever further towards that distant horizon, or tantalising us with prospects of hidden treasures or fearsome monsters lurking in the depths below. I invited printmakers to let their imaginations roam around this subject, which is also an appropriate metaphor for the communication flow that develops around an international print exchange. Our previous theme in 2015, ‘Winged Messengers’, also evoked images both natural and philosophical.
IMPRINT: How diverse – geographically and artistically – were entries in the exchange?
JW: I received prints from the UK, America, Singapore and New Zealand, as well as five different states in Australia. Most of the printmakers are very experienced, and have taken part in many other print exchanges. A few have been encouraged to take part in a print exchange for the first time, but you would be hard put to tell which ones are the relative novices, given the general overall high standard.
IMPRINT: What is the history and importance of this event?
JW: I have taken part in international print exchanges since the 1990s, when I was living in the UK. I began to see the value of striving to produce high-quality editions so that I could build up a collection of prints from artists from other countries and cultures that would both educate and inspire me. I exhibited 15 of these exchanges at the Hahndorf Academy in 2013.
In 2015 I established and exhibited the biannual Adelaide International Print Exchange, with the aim of bringing printmakers from all over the world together to create a unique exhibition. Twenty-nine printmakers from all over Australia, from America and Singapore took part.
The primary purpose of the AIPE is to encourage as high a standard as possible for these prints, by exhibiting them and offering them for sale.
The second, but equally important purpose, is not only to raise awareness about global environmental issues but also to raise funds for organisations that are working to improve and preserve our natural environment. Each print is sold for the same price ($85 including commission), and the artists donate all profits from the sale of the first print to a designated charity.
Our first beneficiary was Birds SA. All profits from sales of the prints were donated and used to help fund research students at our local universities.
This time the number of contributors has grown to over 50, and the charity we are supporting is the National Marine Conservation Society.
IMPRINT: Why is printmaking so important to you?
JW: It’s difficult to explain. The excitement of discovery is always part of the process. The perfect simplicity of an idea expressed in a print can transcend linguistic and cultural barriers. The friendships that printmakers can develop, even through the simple act of exchanging prints, are genuine and lasting. Printmaking also seems to go hand in hand with a concern for the environment, perhaps because we are now more aware of how toxic printmaking processes can be, and we want to minimise our negative impact on the natural world.
A handmade print asks to be held and valued as a precious object, but it is not a useful object like a piece of pottery or jewellery. It has value as a work of art, yet it is, more often than not, one print from a limited edition, which means it can be bought or exchanged with far less pomp and ceremony than an original painting. Many prints are precious, not because they have monetary value, and not necessarily because they are intrinsically beautiful; their value lies in the unique message that is transmitted from the artist to the owner of the print: a message that words alone cannot express. – Andrew Stephens