Navigating peripheral spaces: The intangible printed mark
Curve Gallery, Newcastle, NSW, 10 December-29 January
Reviewer: Sarah Robinson
Greg Fuller, Jason Hicklin and Tracy Hill, explore a unique collaborative practice that transcends both digital and traditional printmaking. In Fuller, Hicklin and Hill’s Common Ground, intangible encounters within the landscape occur for all three UK artists while navigating a landscape on foot. Through their conceptual excavation of the landscape this mapping process follows public rights of way and footpaths, along the Mersey Estuary in Liverpool, UK, and the Hunter Estuary in NSW, Australia. The artists’ intention through the act of walking in parallel estuarine locations asks how the full range of sensory experience might influence place-making.
Fuller, Hicklin and Hill each bring elements of their individual printmaking practice to this collaborative process. The three artists converse with each other during specific walks searching for purposeful intersections, where intangible marks (drawn, dotted and pixel) are collected as ‘data’[i].
Navigating the contemporary prints in the gallery context reveals the common ground to be at the point where land, sky and earth meet; it is more than an ethereal space. Common Ground embraces a diversity of printmaking that challenges how this might be perceived. A dialogue exists between the prints revealed by a visible dynamic that can be followed throughout the exhibited works. Each artist determines individual points of navigating the peripheral space in the prints that encourages a physical movement – as the negating of landscape or viewing a conceptual line of perception is clearly transferred to the experience of the gallery visitor.
Hicklin’s work is subtle, conceptually underpinned by the process of walking repeatedly in, on and through a landscape, often crossing the same path many times. Hicklin describes himself as being ‘blind’ without drawing while walking in remote locations as time and space construct a peripheral re-coding and cognitive etching of place. Hicklin’s Headland (2016) is atmospheric space alive with the traditional aesthetic and materiality of etching, employing open bite and aquatint. Visual technologies scholar Sean Cubitt (2014), whose extensive research into the historical origins of the central features of digital imaging, offers intriguing evidence for the origin of pixels in nineteenth-century prints. It appears that the pixel might tentatively lie in at the point of Hicklin’s open bite etching residing in the materiality of the image.
Jason Hicklin, (2016), Headland (Diptych), Etching and Aquatint, Editioned to 30, size 98 x 47cm. Courtesy of the artist.
Hill digitally scans wetland landscapes (employing a FARO Focus 3D laser scanner) which physically puts her in a unique position, the scanner cannot scan itself; there is a digital blind spot at the centre of the ten-metre scanning radius.
Tracy Hill, (2016), Scanning On Gowy Meadows, Ellesmere Port Cheshire, UK. Courtesy of the artist.
A blind spot is the place where Hill stands and surveys Wetlands; a similar position to standing in front of her work Harmonious Constituents (2016), where the immersion into a new space asks what it is you are actually seeing? Hill removes specific data from digitally scanning the real wetland landscape to leave a liminal boundary held in intaglio type, ingeniously fitted into a new cognitive space, one that Hill calls a ‘re-imaging of place’.
Hicklin and Hill are explorers bringing back ‘data’ by provoking innate human senses in the Curve Gallery. Seeking the intangible mark in Mud Printing on the River Mersey, (2016) Fuller walks, draws and responds to the moment, like the tidal ranges Fuller observes in the field, tides of beauty develop in his work informed by searching under the surface of the familiar. For Fuller, the collaborative methodology creates moments to observe The Mersey River in a different way, informed through the narratives of people he encounters along the riverbank.
All three international artists are passionate in disseminating their printmaking skills to others. Fuller, Hicklin and Hill consider the educational process through lecturing and maintaining contemporary printmaking workshops crucial to the development of a different kind of ‘Common Ground’; one that is key in the guardianship of traditional printmaking processes. Hicklin talks of the democracy of print as common ground, stretching over continents, a universal language that survives material and technological advances.
Common Ground: Curve Gallery, Newcastle, NSW, 10 December-29 January
Eames Fine Art Gallery, London, represents Jason Hicklin.
Sarah Robinson is a creative practice-led researcher and contemporary artist based in Perth, WA.
[i] Data here is interpreted as digital, drawn or cognitive.