Above: Diane Masters, Ocean Drifters, 2017, carborundum and solar plate etching, 38 x 57.5 cm (image) 38 x 57.5 (paper)
Diane Masters discusses her work selected in the 2017 PCA Print Commission.
Q: What is your relationship to printmaking and how did you develop this interest?
DM: Printmaking is a process-driven fine art and I think that really suits my personality. I love the fact that there are multiple options for image development. Creating an etching plate, lithographic stone, screenprint or linocut is always an exciting challenge but there is nothing quite like the joy of pulling the first proof to see if an idea is working and/or to revel in some unexpected outcome. After that, the repetition and rhythm of printing a series of prints is very satisfying.
My first introduction to print media was when I moved to Christmas Island in 1995. The Ran Dan Circus troupe was on the same plane, heading to the island as part of a four-month residency to develop activities with the island community for an arts festival during Territory Week. I quickly became involved in all aspects and particularly screenprinting T-shirts and promotional material. There was an active arts community on the island and all were willing to share their knowledge and experience.
With printmaking, you never really have to deal with the problem of having to confront a blank canvas. The very act of pulling an old print through the press, provides a physical starting point and often inspires new work.
Q: How did you approach your submission for the PCA Print Commission 2017?
DM: I have been collaborating with scientists for the past two years, looking at plankton. This proved to be an exciting project culminating in an exhibition Undercurrent at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) gallery. I really enjoyed the opportunity to use visual arts as a means of communicating the importance of science in understanding our impact on, connection to and dependence on a healthy environment.
The PCA commission is a continuation of that project and exhibition. The PCA image is focussing on the elegance of multiple jellyfish drifting as a group rather than images of a single discreet creature.
Q: What are some of the foundation ideas that have guided the creation of the visual content of the work you submitted?
DM: Working with scientists, I felt a sense of urgency about drawing attention to plankton, these amazing, minute creatures which play such a life-preserving role in the scheme of our life on Earth. Jellyfish are also plankton and are ‘canaries in the coalmine’, signifying the health or otherwise of a particular marine environment. Looking into the microscope to me, was like looking into deep space and that is the basis of the visual content, deep space and a need to draw attention to our life preservers.
Q: How does it relate to your broader body of work?
DM: My imagery is often drawn from my experiences of living in small rural and remote (island) communities. They address ideas of migration and resettlement, cultural shift and environmental impact.
One of the scientist collaborators in my recent work was my dive buddy at Christmas Island and when we dived together, we would ‘drift’ observing the minutiae of the ocean. Planktos means drift and that idea fits with my own movement through various landscapes, experiencing all they have to offer culturally, physically and emotionally.
Q: What were some of the technical challenges involved?
DM: My print has two layers. To create the richly coloured background layer as ‘deep space’, I needed to use a lot of ink. The drying time in winter, for that layer, proved to be a little stressful as the deadline loomed.
I often confess to be the messiest printer in the world so the production of a full print run of up to fifty prints in immaculate condition was challenging but also a great lesson.
Q: What other projects are you working on?
DM: I am currently completing work for a solo exhibition in September at Handmark Gallery in Evandale, Tasmania, called Elemental. The work is quite experimental in that I have placed multiple steel etching plates into the environment to be naturally etched by the four elements over a period of four-five months. This means I had plates hanging in trees (air), in saltwater and fresh water and also buried in the earth, compost and farmland. I also used fire on several plates for imagery based around that fourth element. This also means that many of the prints will be unique states as some of the plates have proven to be very fragile after five months in the elements.
I am participating in a group show called Vanishing Point in October in Hobart, which is another science/arts collaboration dealing with micro-plastics in the marine environment. This will also involve some awareness education programs being made available to schools during the course of the exhibition.
Prints can be ordered at www.printcouncil.org.au