Sister City Prints

Above: Lady Lumps, 2017, Kate Zizys and Tosh Ahkit, Digital image, 42 x 59.4cm, edition of 30. Photography by Kate Zizys Right: Reef, 2017-18, Glenda Orr and Kathy Boyle, Mixed print media – digital, monoprint linocut, embossing, etching, screen print), archival box with digitally printed interleaving, Prints: 20 x 20cm, Box: 22 x 22 x 16cm, 30 Unique state prints. Photography by Glenda Orr Below: Floating Worlds 1, 2017, Sandra Starkey Simon and Fanny Retsek, Monotype, chine collé, 76 x 56cm, Unique state, Photography by Alex Makeyev Bottom: Re-Navigate, 2017, Suzie Lockery and Kristina Paabus, Screen print & synthetic polymer on matte polyester film, 178 x 224cm (irreg.), Unique state. Photography by Mu Young

Sister City Prints: an intercontinental collaborative project

The Sister City Prints project adopted a novel approach to art making and turned it into a show brimming with inspiring stories and exciting artworks, all with a printmaking flavour.

In the spirit of true global cooperation, Adelaide artist and occasional curator Andrea Przygonski has brought together 11 contemporary Australian printmakers with 11 international artists and asked them to create something together.

Artists from Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth were teamed with artists from Chicago, Ohio, San Francisco, New York, Ireland, France, Estonia, Canada and New Zealand.  The catch – most had never met each other before.

The project was borne out of a desire to reconnect with colleagues from overseas. After a residency in Canada in 2009 and study in Chicago 2012-2013, Przygonski returned to Adelaide with a directory full of new contacts. Yet, distance inevitably sees many friendships fade and she began to ponder how she could maintain the wonderful connections she’d made. What better way than to create something together. The seed of Sister City Prints was planted.

Being involved in collaborative partnerships and working alongside international artists throughout her career, Przygonski was curious to see how these two things might blend together in a broader group context. Acutely aware of the struggle women artists have in the art arena, she also wanted to develop a project that enabled women artists to be conspicuous in a space that is invariably male-dominated.

In late 2015 while on a road trip from Adelaide to Mildura to attend the inaugural Print Triennial, the focus of her idea sharpened, and in 2016 Przygonski began inviting artists from across Australia and the globe to participate in the Sister City Prints project. Twenty-two artists in total. All women. All ages. All stages of their careers. Various disciplines.

Eleven contemporary Australian printmakers were each teamed up with an international artist. Many of the Australian artists knew one another, however most had never met their international partner before, so it became a leap of faith to engage at this level.

Keen to move away from the usual prescriptive thematic exhibition style, Przygonski left concept development up to the artist-teams. The only parameter was for the work to contain or allude to printmaking. Each team was tasked to create artworks in any scale, medium or format.

Emerging from this is a group of fascinating works that test the boundaries of printmaking, some with very tenous connections indeed, yet this becomes part of the delight of this project, to see what happens and accept whatever emerges. Traversing the globe as they were being created, the artworks are signifiers of the deep connections developed and of the forging of individual sensibilities into one voice.

“What happens when we open the door, invite somebody else into this strange and intimate process? What happens when, rather than jealously protecting the treasures hidden within us, we trust another creator to help us bring them forth, in an entirely new way?

Artists participating in the Sister City Prints collective exhibition have expressed surprise at the unexpected ways that creating in collaboration with a partner has changed their work. Surprise, yes, but also delight. Stories of artists posting half-finished pieces across the Pacific Ocean, scribbles and sketches and all the vulnerability of sharing that which has not yet been polished to perfection, to find that upon arrival it has found new life in her partner’s hands, and has moved in a direction that she would never have dreamed of alone, towards expressing the deep ideas and beliefs shared between the two collaborating artists. Perhaps collaboration is the quiet form of rebellion we have been searching for.

Here, female artists and printmakers surpass the boundaries of distance, age and vastly different degrees of commercial success to build relationships and create work that expresses individual interests and concerns. Women’s stories at the forefront, but interwoven with explorations of home and place, of immense love and concern for oceans and the land, and of the still-strange, still-new, barely-yet-tested world of digital communication.

The egalitarian nature of this collaboration joins together women artists and asks them to create something together, regardless of age or seniority. By resolving the difficulties involved in communicating across borders and time zones, the artists are able to discover the myriad possibilities that come from creating works together. Collaboration gives permission for women to be kind to one another, and to lift each other up; simply, it gives us permission to care. Nothing feels more radical.”[1]

Sister City Prints project exemplifies the essence of cooperation across the barriers of race, class and nation. It is about women as innovators, it builds awareness of the possibilities no matter distance or age and it is about the right of all women to be heard. – Andrea Przygonski, BVA MVA, Adelaide, South Australia

Sister City Prints is at West Gallery Thebarton, 15 March-15 April.

Participating artists: 

Amanda Lawler (Vic) and Traci Horgen (New York, USA)

Andrea Przygonski (SA) and Victoria May (California, USA)

Glenda Orr (Qld) and Kathy Boyle (NZ)

Hanah Williams (SA) and Rea Lynn de Guzman (California, USA)

Jess Boyce (WA) and Kate Conlon (Chicago, USA)

Kate Zizys (Vic) and Tosh Ahkit (NZ)

Loique Allain (Vic) and Rosie Teare (France)

Lorelei Medcalf (SA) and Gwen Davies (Nova Scotia, Canada)

Robyn Finlay (SA) and Ruth McEwan-Lyon (Belfast, Ireland)

Sandra Starkey Simon (SA) and Fanny Retsek (California, USA)

Suzie Lockery (SA) and Kristina Paabus (Ohio, USA/Estonia)

[1] [1] Moffatt, Lucy Only Connect, Sister City Prints exhibition catalogue essay, Adelaide: Andrea Przygonski, 2018, pp5-6