Victorian College of the Arts graduate exhibition

Above: Ben Stephens, Untitled, #1, 2017.
Right: Elias Arce Toner, Untitled #2, 2017
Below: Ben Stephens, Untitled #4, 2017
Bottom: Elias Arce Toner, Untitled #4, , 2017


Two graduates discuss their work showing in the graduate exhibition at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery at the Victorian College of the Arts. 


(who recently completed a Bachelor of Fine Art in Drawing and Printmedia at the VCA where he has studied from 2015-2017)

Q: What were some of the foundation ideas for your work in the VCA Graduate Exhibition?

BS: It was all a bit of a happy accident.  I had done some small prints earlier in the year and the textures that came out were really striking, way more than the actual image that I had made, so I wanted to play around with that a lot more.

I just worked with photos I had taken around campus and nearby buildings as a reference point.  I knew I wanted to do something print based, but the whole thing really came together in a short period of time- a few weeks, and then once I had a bit of a framework for I wanted to do I just started making, making, making.

Q: How did you develop the work and what were some of the challenges involved? The work was really just developed from trial and error. A lot of editing… mostly editing.  I tend to just make as much stuff as I can and then try and find what works and what doesn’t and then build a body of work from there.

BS: It was mostly practical things, but thankfully the staff in the print workshop were very patient and helped me to solve those issues.

Q: How has your relationship with print-based media evolved during your time at the VCA?

BS: I came into the degree knowing very little about printmaking, outside of some screen-printing I had done in high school. I didn’t really do an awful lot of printmaking until my final year, and it just felt like a natural fit.  It was a good medium for me to get all my random ideas and experiments of the last three years and get a little more focused.

Q: What are your plans for future print-based projects?

BS: I want to mix up things a bit. Rather than just using photo-lithographs I want to do more hand drawn plates.  Mostly I just want to refine, less detail, more colour.



(who came to Melbourne from Costa Rica in late 2014, specifically to apply to VCA. He began a Bachelor of  Fine Arts majoring in Drawing and Printmaking in 2015.)

Q: What were some of the foundation ideas for your work in the VCA Graduate Exhibition?

EAT: Being bilingual, I have always been very interested in that moment in translation where I am not interpreting the information through either language but as a whole. I found that whenever I would try to translate an idea from one language to the other, some parts of that idea were lost while others were gained, although at the moment of conceiving that idea, in my brain, it would be whole.

Printmaking can be very similar to translation; you have an idea of what the final image might look like, but once you start translating that onto the copper or stone, it can change drastically and gain or lose meaning. I’ve been reading a lot of the works of H.P. Lovecraft and have become so inspired by his reluctance to describe the horrors his protagonists perceive that I felt like that moment of being so stunned by a concept or feeling that you cannot put words to it is very similar to the impasse that happens when I try to translate an idea from non-language to Spanish or English. For these prints, I’ve tried to show recognizable forms and spaces that actively deny description, trying to capture that impasse: images that can’t be corralled by words.

Q: How did you develop the work and what were some of the challenges involved?

EAT: I went through a lot of rounds of drawing, each time making sure I wasn’t equating the forms and spaces with words, something much easier said than done. I also wanted to use different schools of printmaking, not only etching but also lithography. This proved difficult since, having focused in copper etching techniques for most of my three years at VCA, my lithography skills weren’t up to par. I was advised to make the most of my etching and so I did.

Q: How has your relationship with print-based media evolved during your time at the VCA?

EAT: Before I started at VCA, I had never done printmaking other than a couple of relief prints here and there. As soon as we were taught copper etching, I became enamoured by the possibilities it presented for my work. Having always focused on linework during my development as an artist, hard-ground became very attractive to me and so I based my main practice around etching. Copper has a very alluring quality to it: just stare at your distorted reflection in a freshly polished piece of copper and you’ll see what I mean. So many of the processes surrounding a copper etching have to be so precise and well planned out that I take great pleasure in traversing that journey, and finding little accidents that enrich the work. It took me a while to understand these mistakes and embrace them as an essential part of the printmaking process.

For most of my course, I was so involved in etching that I neglected lithography, but in this last year, I’ve become increasingly interested in it and have expanded my skillset a little to include some lithography techniques, although I have much to learn.

Q: What are your plans for future print-based projects?

EAT: Learning the deep history of printmaking and all the little tips and tricks you can use is so much fun that I feel I will never stop learning, and that really excites me. I will continue my etching practice but mainly I want to focus on developing a strong set of lithography skills, and become “bilingual” in printmaking as well, enriching my vocabulary so once I have learnt enough, I can start my un-learning stage and hopefully find something new.