Diane Masters: PCA Print Commission 2017

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

 

 

Jason Jegels: PCA ‘Student Showcase’

Jason Jegels: Smack 2, 2017 screenprint, edition of 5, 61 x 44.5 cm
Below: now and then: 50 Years of the PCA Print Commission at Collins Place Gallery.
Artist Jason Jegels, studying visual arts at Monash University, talks about his work in the ‘Student Showcase’ component of the new exhibition now and then: 50 years of the PCA Print Commission. The exhibition  includes work for the PCA Print Commission 2017, with an accompanying exhibition of past PCA Print Commissions. The dedicated ‘Student Showcase’ features prints selected from eight leading tertiary institutions.
Imprint: What are some of the foundation ideas that contribute to your work in general?
JJ: In general, I working with social, political and ideological themes in my image-making practice. The way that people interact with ideas is very insightful and I enjoy understanding the way things work and exist in the world through my practice.
I see myself as someone who makes images as my practice, and a lot of the time the influences and muse for the images I create come from the topical and from pop-culture. However, the way I refine my images is through research. This research delves into the historical, theoretical and the anecdotal.
Imprint: Can you tell us something about the work in the exhibition and why/how you made it?
JJ: The work in the show is an exploration of the intersection of beauty and violence. Often the things we experience or are witness to are not black and white, but they exist in a state of flux. The image of the poppy is used as an icon for war, the flower is beautiful and its products are intoxicating. The faceted identity of this flower embodies the way that life is experienced and the way experience may be interpreted. I wanted to reproduce the beauty of the flower and invoke in the viewer their ideas of the how the poppy is beautiful or painful.
Imprint: What do you like about group shows?
JJ: It is a cliche to say that art is not made in a vacuum, however, the group show is a place where ideas, skill and technique are put in context, contrast and compliment to the work of others engaged in the making process. I believe that the end point of a work of art should always be in front of the eyes of the audience and the group show allows the audience’s eyes to be educated as to what other contemporary artists have to offer, as they view your work.
Imprint: What is especially appealing about printmaking to you?
JJ: Printmaking is appealing to me because it has a particular language and context that I enjoy interacting with. The history of information distribution and its ties to many forms of resistance makes the language of printmaking a very rich context to work within. Furthermore, the practice and process of making a print is an important part of how I labour over the analysis and refining process of what I produce and send out to the world. I feel accountable for the things I say with my work and printmaking’s process allows me the time to work with an image until I feel confident in its meaning and its potential reactions.  – Andrew Stephens

now and then, 50 Years of the PCA Print Commission is at Collins Place Gallery, Shop 19, Collins Place (near entrance to Sofitel), 45 Collins Street Melbourne, until 18 August.

The exhibition is a fundraiser for the organisation and all the works (except for early rare archive impressions) will be available for sale. The Print Commission 2017 will be available to order from 8 August.

Wimble’s Wayzgoose Armidale

Market day at the Wayzgoose; Clint Harvey and the Wimble Albion; David Frazer giving an artist talk.

Helen Cole experiences the joy of the Wimble’s Wayzgoose.

During the early days of letterpress printing it was traditional for master printers to reward their workers with a picnic known as a Wayzgoose to celebrate the end of summer and a return to working by candlelight. It was traditionally held on St Bartholomew’s day (24 August). The resurgence of letterpress printing has seen the return of the Wayzgoose, and in the USA they now often include the printing of a huge block with the aid of a steamroller.

The New England Regional Art Museum’s (NERAM) Wimble’s Wayzgoose was so-named because NERAM’s Museum of Printing is based around the collection of machinery and equipment of F.T. Wimble & Co., acquired in 1998. The collection can facilitate printing in a variety of ways. In addition to fourteen presses, a linotype machine, type cases with wood and metal type, composing sticks, furniture, casting boxes and guillotines, it includes a large number of typewriters, duplicating machines and a library of over 1000 volumes.

The long weekend (28-30 April) event began with an afternoon of talks about letterpress and related topics: printmaking, design and typography; the past, present and future of print. Helen Cole spoke on the use of text in artists’ books with particular reference to the letterpress work of English printer Ken Campbell and Katoomba’s Wayzgoose Press. Ross Burnett kindly lent from his Uralla bookshop several Wayzgoose Press books including Dada: Kampfen um Leben und Tod: a prose poem by Jas H. Duke, The terrific days of summer by Ken Bolton and Ockers: a poem by ∏O. These allowed those present to see up-close the phenomenal perfection of both book design and the printer’s art achieved by this press. Dr Benjamin Thorn, whose book Keep the Presses Running was launched during the weekend, discussed the history and prevalence of newspapers in regional NSW and Victoria. At one stage he performed something akin to ‘I’ve been everywhere man’ using the names of small towns publishing newspapers. The University of New England (UNE) Rare Book Collection was discussed and displayed by Ian Stephenson, UNE curator. Books shown included the remarkable Aurora Australis, the first book printed in Antarctica, illustrated with etchings and lithographs and with text printed letterpress. Clint Harvey, letterpress enthusiast and designer from The Bacon Factory in Brisbane shared his latest research on F.T. Wimble, Australia’s first ink manufacturer. Cinematographer, designer and distiller at Dobson’s Distillery near Armidale, Stephen Dobson expanded on his design vision for the Distillery’s print and online presence. Wayne Thompson, type designer from Australian Type Foundry in Newcastle gave a fascinating introduction to the differences between designing type for print and digital uses.

Over the weekend local artists took advantage of workshops offered by visiting teachers: David Frazer in wood engraving and Adele Outteridge in bookbinding. A screen printing workshop was presented by Joanna Kambourian and Darren Bryant from Ms Brown’s Lounge in Lismore.  Letterpress printing demonstrations allowed visitors to use the type and equipment from the F.T. Wimble Collection with Clint Harvey. The Black Gully Printmakers who work out of the Packsaddle Studio on the lower level of NERAM celebrated the arrival of their new etching press just in time for the Wayzgoose. They presented a pop-up exhibition of works created using the F.T. Wimble collection. On display in the Print Room Gallery was the New impressions exhibition of letterpress printing from the Hamilton Wood Type and Print Museum in Wisconsin.

The last day of the weekend was the picnic proper, with artist talks by local and visiting printmakers, a printmakers’ market and the apogee of the Wayzgoose – the printing of the 1.2 x 2 metre Thunderbolt woodblock designed by Okara Harvey and carved by Mark Pai. No steamroller being available, it was necessary to make do with a lawn roller. It gave a more regional Australian flavour. It was a community event with many people helping to ink the block, and when the lawn roller failed to make a strong enough impression, returning with spoons and barens to rub the back of the print. Four copies were taken before enthusiasm waned. A final impression was taken by the helpers dancing on the block; not the best print, though perhaps the one with the most spirit.

As the first of a planned annual series the 2017 Wimble’s Wayzgoose augers well for the next event, being informative, creative and convivial. Put it in your diary for 2018!

Helen Cole

Gallery Thebarton: ‘Monumental’

Works from Monumental.
Above: Joshua Searson
Right: Andrea Pryzgonski, LifeSeems
Below: Margie Sheppard,  Monument 1
Bottom right: Christobel Kelly, One Perfect Day
Far Bottom right: Sandra Starkey Simon, KentState2

Jack Callil finds out about the exhibition Monumental, part of the South Australian Living Arts Festival (SALA)

The monumental is hard to describe. It’s a duplicitous feeling, one sown into the great pits and peaks of everyday existence. It could be the resonance of a child birth, the death of a friend, or being a half-litre deep into a Neapolitan tub after sudden heartbreak. In attempt to encapsulate this enigma, West Gallery Thebarton is hosting Monumental, an exhibition part of this year’s South Australian Living Arts Festival (SALA).

The anniversary exhibition features ten eminent South Australian artists, each offering an interpretation of the monumental. Gallery Director Margie Sheppard says the monumental to her was about the vastness of life. “Lift is monumental at times, from the vastness of nature to overwhelming life events. I chose this exhibition theme to explore how artists encapsulate the enormity of life and nature.”

Some artists explore connotations to size, reflecting that which is overwhelming in magnitude – while others look at explosive forces, both in nature and in people. For certain artists in particular, there were real life events to base their work on. Joshua Searson, who just celebrated the birth of one of his children, decided to signify the significance with a large quilt crafted from painted and screen-printed panels. “Bringing another human life into this world is a monumental occasion,” he says, “[and] as I pull the blankets up at night, I lie awake questioning how comfortable we really are.”

For Olga Sankey, the monumental speaks of a looming feeling which is simultaneously awe-inspiring and terrifying. “My works allude to pending dangers,” she says, which you can sense looking upon her triptych Leviathan. With a stippled grey skin bearing scar-like hints of blue underneath, there’s a remnant feeling of something foreboding beneath the surface.

With a similar abstractionist approach, Suzie Lockery offered an impressionist interpretation in her series Stratified Conditions of Possibility. With a light-hearted, warm aesthetic, her four-part work consisting of block shapes of pinks, greens and blues. She says they were created by “applying multiple layers of paint and screen-print over time” to form a “spatial dialogue, each layer revealing potential for subsequent outcomes.”

The exhibition is celebrating West Gallery Thebarton’s first year, which has – according to Sheppard – been “monumental itself!”. Monumental joins six other exhibitions shown since opening, starring over 26 artists from South Australia and interstate, showcasing printmaking, painting, sculpture, glass work, photography, road signs – all combining to make a rich and exciting first year. “I am extremely grateful to the artists, visitors and everyone who have helped to make the first year such a success,” Sheppard says, “our second year will continue to surprise and break new ground.”

Monumental is at West Gallery Thebarton in Thebarton, Adelaide (19 June-26 August). It features the work of Silvana Angelakis, Aleksandra Antic, Christobel Kelly, Suzie Lockery, Lloma Mackenzie, Andrea Przygonski, Olga Sankey, Joshua Searson, Sandra Starkey Simon, Margie Sheppard and Joel Gailer.

Clare Jackson: ‘This is not a place’

From top,works by Clare Jackson:
This is not a place, 2017, aquatint etching from two plates on BFK, 40.5 x 38.5 cm (11 x 15 cm – plate mark) 3/8
Move dust, 2017, aquatint etching from two plates on BFK, 40.5 x 38.5 cm (7 x11 cm – plate mark) 2/8
I saw it different, I must admit, (from series After landing) 2017, aquatint etching from two plates on BFK 49 x 38.5 cm (14 x 29.5 cm – plate mark) 1/8

Logan Ramsay speaks with Clare Jackson about her new show at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery in Canberra.

 Imprint: What draws you to etching as a technique?

CJ: I like the discovery process of intaglio; the fact that you never know exactly what your print is going to look like. While there are aspects of the medium that you can predict and control, there is always an element of the unknown. I feel a mixture of excitement and nerves when I’m about to pull the first proof from a new plate, because there’s a chance you’re going to be disappointed by what you see, but it’s worth it for those times you’re happy with the result. And if not, it means you keep searching for ways to make it work.

Imprint: How does time and memory come together in your work?

CJ: As my work has developed, I’ve realised that the idea of history has superseded that of memory. I am intrigued by the involuntary recollections that come unbidden to our minds when triggered by an aspect of our surroundings, yet my etchings aren’t illustrative of these recollections. Rather, each print forms part of an archive; I cannot communicate exactly what was seen or felt in a specific place but I can leave a trace, a memento of what transpired.

The nature of etching as a medium, means that there is always going to be a history held in the surface of the plate. I spend so much time working with the plates in the lead up to printing, from drawing on them in various locations, to taking them through technical stages in the studio, I see the act of taking a print as preserving this history in a single object.

Imprint: Where do you draw inspiration for your landscapes?

CJ: The experience of unfamiliar locations has become integral to the way I make work. I’ve been lucky enough to have undertaken artist residencies in varied and unique places, such as the Estonian Printing Museum in Tartu, Estonia, and Wollemi National Park and Woy Woy Bay in NSW, so my work depends on the location I’m in at any given time. Two of my recent series ‘Blue nights’ and ‘This is not a place’ contain a number of recurring visual elements that reflect those I’m attracted to in certain landscapes; details of coastal suburbia at night, Australian mid century architecture, the juxtaposition of tropical plant life with architectural details, and the way light interacts with all of these elements.

 

More recently I’ve started working on a series of etchings, ‘After landing’, which draws inspiration from photographic documentation of space capsules returning to earth, and personal accounts of those who have experienced orbital or suborbital space travel. Although this series is also framed around unfamiliar locations, this time I have not physically visited them. These works depict parachutes and the clouds of dust that erupt as they connect with the earth, signalling the return of a space capsule, and the end of a journey for the individuals inside.

 Imprint: Can you take us through your approach to intaglio/aquatint?

CJ: I took part in an excellent colour etching workshop with Melbourne-based artist, Kyoko Imazu, last year at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery, which really influenced the way I approach intaglio and think about colour. For me the process consists of different stages and always begins with drawing, whether it be on paper first or directly onto the copper plate. I enjoy this part of the process because I can do it anywhere, as I usually take plates with me to various locations and draw on site. Then I work in the etching studio, taking the plates through multiple stages of aquatint to build up areas of tone that will eventually work together in multi plate prints. Working with etching in this way means that the drawing and technical processes can sometimes be disconnected from one another; a lot of time might elapse after making the initial drawing. So when it eventually comes to proofing, the print itself serves as a reminder of where I was, and what I was thinking in that drawing moment.

Imprint: How do you build narratives into your prints?

CJ: The titles I choose for my etchings are often extracted or influenced by something I’m reading at the time, and a narrative builds around my responses. For my series ‘Blue nights’ (after Joan Didion’s memoir of the same name), I sought to explore the twilight hours during my artist residency in Woy Woy Bay. Whilst walking the suburbs at night, I made drawings onto copper plates, hoping to gather the fleeting and mundane curiosities of the period where dusk transitions to nightfall – the gradual retreat of people into homes, trees gathering darkness to their leaves, and the glow from windows appearing amongst them. The dying of summer marks the end of the blue nights, and brings forth a sense of loss – these etchings are a personal elegy to the experience of being alone with one’s perception.

Clare Jackson’s This Is Not a Place is at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery until 22 July.

 

Printmakers Association of Western Australia: ‘Hand Print’

Works from ‘Hand Print’: Wineglass Refractions (above); Art Deco Interior (right) and The Urban Jungle (below).

Elizabeth Morrison, president of the Printmakers Association of Western Australia, discusses the exhibition Hand Print, the 2017 members’ exhibition.

Imprint: What is the background to Hand Print and what are its aims?

EM: We chose to call it Hand Print this year to reflect our stated goal of promoting traditional print techniques while also embracing the new. All prints in our exhibitions must have an element of hand technique in them.

Our annual members’ exhibition is an opportunity for our members with all levels of experience to show their work in a professional setting. Less experienced members learn from the more experienced ones about framing, curating and how to manage an exhibition. We also aim to promote printmaking in WA to the widest possible audience. There were 69 entries from 28 printmakers. There will be collographs, monoprints, lino cuts, collaged works, mixed media to name a few techniques that will be represented.
Imprint: What are you thoughts about the WA printmaking scene – it seems to be very strong and cohesive?
EM: Considering WA is such a vast state with printmaking groups scattered across is we work together very well to assist and promote each other and to have our work recognised outside of the state and internationally.
Laura A. Taylor, WA Print Council of Australia, representative is doing a fabulous job of putting WA ‘On the Map’ as the forthcoming exhibition is called. There seems to be quite a resurgence of interest in the printmaking.
Imprint: What are the benefits to members belonging to organisations such as PAWA and the Print Council of Australia?
EM: Being a member of PAWA give our members access to our press and studio. We hold an annual members exhibition an host the bi annual Contemporary Print Media Awards. PAWA puts out a bi-monthly newsletter to which all members are invited to contribute.
PAWA also holds a monthly skill share session for members at our Tresillian Art Centre studio.We share lunch, print making ideas, learn new skills and practise new techniques. It is a social and learning occasion where the joy of collaborating in print can be experienced. We also hold regular workshops to provide tutoring in a variety of print techniques.
Sharing the vast experience and ability of our memberships is an important way to help printmaking in WA to continue to flourish. Being a member of the Print Council is invaluable in keeping us here in the west up to date with current nation wide news and opportunities for printmakers who can feel isolated by the distance of our state.
Hand Print is at Atwell Gallery, 586 Canning Highway, Alfred Cove, WA, until 23 July

How it unfolded: Artist Book Brisbane Event (ABBE) 2017

Above: Di Fogwell’s work at the artists’ book and multiples fair.
Right: Monica Oppen
Below: Noreen Grahame from Grahame Galleries and Editions.
Below right: Clyde McGill’s volunteers warm to their instruments.

Marian Crawford reports on ABBE 2017, held at Griffith University Queensland College of Art, Brisbane, on 6-7 July, held at the same time as the 6th artists’ books and multiples fair.

Convened by Queensland College of the Arts’ Dr Tim Mosely, the event looked a lot like a conference and talk-fest for some 65 thinkers, makers and a host of other keen participants who’d come to Brisbane from around Australia and beyond. Mosely called for papers that addressed the theme of ‘the fold’, drawing on philosopher Gille Deleuze’s thoughts about that edge that is not an edge, ‘the ideal fold is Zweifalt, a fold that both differentiates and is differentiated’.[1]

Two early-bird 8.30am keynote presentations set the tone. First, German collaborative duo USUS (Ulrike Stoltz and Uta Schneider) described the ways the fold might be found and employed in a book – the uncut page-fold waiting to be guillotined, horizontal folding folios or the vertically folded concertina, the thick folded fore-edge, the mountains and valleys of folds, and the inside-outside/verso-recto confusion of pages printed both sides. Divided into chapters, their presentation drew on philosopher Michel Serres’s understanding of crumpled time and space, and on Martin Heidegger’s concept ‘Ekstatikon’.

The second, more discursive, keynote presentation gave the audience a chance to make a music of sorts from books Clyde McGill had converted into sound-producing objects. Folded books wrapped in wiring were plugged into a mixing desk, and as the volunteers warmed to their new instruments and McGill’s suggestions – can we make the sound of binding a book? – a pleasing and musical cacophony filled the room. McGill also acknowledged Australia’s original inhabitants and their elders past and present in a discussion of his dark book Witness.

A day of shorter presentations followed each keynote. The artist book was described as having a ‘not-ness’ of exciting possibilities that are not book, artwork or architectural model (Marian Macken), and then as a ‘deformance’ where text is disrupted, letterpress type tipped on its tail and printed (Caren Florance & Angela Gardner). Protest and a vision of prisoners gazing towards the freedom of the sky was evoked by trembling hands and fold‘s publications (Paul Ulhmann). The inventive legacy of ANU’s Graphic Investigations Workshop was noted (Florance), and a new history of Australian art and artist books proposed (Monica Oppen). Personal and private histories were very sensitively revealed, and it was acknowledged we can never be ‘on the same page’ as the other (Ana Paula Estrada de Isolbi, Isaac Brown). The reciprocal nature of touch was linked to rock-climbing (Bridget Hillebrand) and also to a sense of belonging and hence to topography and place that was aptly demonstrated in a folded fabric made from soil and concrete (Tess Mehonoshen). The deviant woman was proposed as a disruptive stance to establish a subjectivity beyond copy culture (Carolyn Craig). The book was performed as a crawling paper being, shedding its pages to reform and be re-made and shed again (Julie and Virginia Barratt). ‘Knowing’ as dynamic activity was made distinct from given and static ‘knowledge’, in a possible theorisation of the book reaching back to Aristotle and Plato (Monica Carroll & Adam Dickerson).

And this is to mention just a few of the ideas tossed into the ring. Many of these papers will be published by Brad Freeman in JAB, the legendary Chicago based Journal of Artists’ Books. Freeman’s presentation and very attendance added lustre to the occasion.

Mosely, closing the gab-fest, suggested that we-the-audience might be the generators of the next book ‘event’. Given the thoughtful quality of the papers presented and the enormous goodwill, warmth and enthusiasm generated by the event, this seems a very likely scenario.

 

[1] Quoted by Arkady Plotnitsky in “Algebras, Geometries and Topologies of the Fold” in Between Deleuze and Derrida, Edited by Paul Patton & J Protevi. Continuum, London, 2003, p. 104.

https://www.gccar.com.au/griffith-centre-for-creative-arts-research/current/opportunities-blog/abbe-2017-call-for-papers Accessed 11.7.17

AHC McDonald: ‘Five Pieces of Sand’

Above: AHC McDonald, Five Pieces of Sand, 2017, freehand rubber stamps using archive ink on 5 panels of Rives BFK paper, 401 cm x 120 cm.
Right and below, details from Five Pieces of Sand.

AHC McDonald talks about the large-scale four-metre-wide work Five Pieces of Sand.

Imprint: What led to your development of this artwork from a technical perspective – choice of process and materials, for example?

AM: It was quite by chance that I started with rubber stamps. I was browsing books and saw one on the subject by UK artist Stephen Fowler.

I have been wanting to get involved in printmaking for a long time, (my background is photography), but the space and equipment was problematic. Equipment-wise, stamp-printing barely requires more than a scalpel. Fortunately, too, there has been a recent craze for ‘craft stamping’, making cards etc with pre-made rubber stamps, so the range and quality of inks available is surprisingly good.

Imprint: What sorts of ideas underpin the work, in terms of its content and impact?

AM: What are these spaces really like – these five beaches from Cottesloe to Scarborough? What do we as locals feel about them, but keep from outsiders? I wanted to throw in things like the shark attacks and the brutal parking regime of Cottesloe, the perverts in the dunes at Swanbourne and the violence and overwhelming unpleasantness of Scarborough. And across it all the dogs just keep walking. They are incredibly beautiful spots, but they are much more interesting than just beautiful. These are extremely idealised spaces, particularly important for how we present ourselves to the world, but even how we feel about ourselves. I made a study of part of the Cottesloe section, including sharks attacking a diver, for a small exhibition in Cottesloe and it had a huge reaction, negative and positive. It had to be taken off public display at one stage. On the other hand many people loved it and have wanted to buy it. Loved, hated and purchased. You can’t ask for a better reaction than that as an artist.

Imprint: Size obviously matters in this instance – can you please explain the background to how and why such a huge work came to be?

AM: I thought of making a big work covering a section of Perth coastline even before I cut my first stamp block. It just came to me that that is what I should print. I started making tests and studies for it the next day. A rubber stamp Bayeux Tapestry for Perth was the intention! I felt that the apparent naivety of the medium, such as its lo-fi resolution and bright colours could be set against a more serious theme and sophisticated composition. And most rubber stamp art is overwhelmingly small scale. I always want to do the opposite. I’m very grateful that the Fremantle Print Awards have accepted the piece, because it will be the first time I will have seen the whole thing up myself. I don’t have a four-metre long wall to see it all together.

Imprint: Has this adventure inspired you to do more work in a similar vein?

AM: I just love the medium – although in many ways rubber stamps are terrible things to use to make a print, especially something large! Some of the elements have four or five levels of masks and overprints and small pieces of rubber are incredibly difficult to register. The ink dries in seconds, almost before you can get the block to the paper, and you have to hammer every impression with your fist. It’s very time-consuming and easy to make a mistake that could ruin the whole thing. Having said that, building up a composition from many, many small elements means that you are essentially painting with prints, and every piece will be as unique as a painting.

I have been working at a number of pieces, although not at quite this scale, which you can see here

http://www.ahcmcdonald.com/rubber-stamp-prints

I have in mind a similar large-scale treatment for a section of Melbourne’s inner west, where I have family connections. But I need to find someone with a very big spare table over there.

Between the Sheets: Artists’ Books 2017 – Australian Galleries

Right:
Kestutis Vasiliunas, Tea-Book, tea bags, rope, 32 x 23 x 1 cm
Below right:
Pam Langdon, Under the Eaves, (detail) 2016, 31 reconstructed books, recycled blackbutt and jarrah, 25 x 29 cm each
Below:
Lesley LeGrove, Precious Weighted Words and Layers, ceramic sheets, plant fibre papers, words on shellac tissue, gold leaf ceramic pear, 17 x 32 x 25 cm
Bottom right:
Helen Malone, The Legacy of Silence, drawing, printmaking, ink pencil, image transfer, edition 2, 17 x 37 x 1 cm

Jack Callil surveys some of the work in Australian Galleries’ new exhibition of artists’ books.

Artists’ books have long tended to subvert the idea of a book itself. Holding a kind of authority, the form of a book is likely to command respect, and thus remain unaltered. Whether etched into stone, scrawled onto papyrus, transformed by Gutenberg, or digitised by the Kindle, its form is usually fluid and transforming. Despite the creativity behind its evolution, text has usually dominated aesthetics—but artists’ books challenge that notion.

In association with Gallery East, the Australian Galleries exhibition Between the Sheets: Artists’ Books 2017 includes more than 70 artists’ books from an international swathe of artists from eleven countries. Each piece differs dramatically, reflecting the variety of expertise of the artists involved: photographers, sculptors, printmakers, wordsmiths, painters, digital artists and more.

Some artists’ books in the exhibition are visual spectacles, such as Pam Langdon’s Under the Eaves­­­—a reconstitution of book pages into a floral cross-section through intricate curlicues. Or Stephan Spurrier’s Stranger in the Garden, a series of five chaotic, psychedelic collages exploring some sinister facets of our perception of gardens.

Other artists’ books represent the passing of time. Kęstutis Vasiliūnas’s The Tea Book is a hand-woven collection of each tea bag he used throughout one year. Naturally delicate, the book is worn by gloves whereas Lorraine Kwan’s Time to Change the Sheets is a sturdy, plastic-wrapped single-page book of lint—every piece of lint she retrieved from her dryer during one year.

Some artists pay homage to writers, such as in Clyde McGill’s Dreaming of Murakami (Kafka One and Two). A pamphlet collection of blue-and-white etchings, each one depicts either a cat or bowl—an allusion to motifs in Kafka on the Shore, a novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami.

Janis Nedela is Co-Director of Gallery East with David Forrest, and co-curated the exhibition. Nedela explains how the evolution of artists’ books reveals it hasn’t always been a respected art form. ‘In the early ’70s they were frowned upon, because they were considered only as ideas, not the real thing inside the book,’ he says. ‘But that’s changed. These artists are established in their own right, they might be painters, sculptors, printmakers, etcetera. But with books, they’re just another side to their art. Another way to express some of their ideas. Some of these books take as long to create as an oil painting, or a sculpture.’

When asked why people are drawn to this particular form, artists and audience alike, Nedela touches on the idea of familiarity. ‘People feel comfortable with a book,’ he says. ‘And they may be more comfortable with it than a painting or sculpture, or something totally abstract. But when they see a book, they know it.’

Between the Sheets: Artists’ Books 2017 is at Australian Galleries in Collingwood, Melbourne (13 June-2 July)

Denise Gillies and Lynne Mitchell

Right:
Denise Gillies and Lynne Mitchell, Traces in Time, 2017, dyptich collagraph, chine colle, collage, Blind embossed on handmade paper with cotton threads mounted on found handmade paper
Below right:
Denise Gillies  and Lynne MitchellConstellar 1, 2017, collagraph on hand made paper with hand printed fabric overlay and hand stitched cotton mounted on Indigo card
Bottom right:
Denise Gillies (right) and Lynne Mitchell (left) at work.

Denise Gillies and Lynne Mitchell discuss their collaboration for Bunbury Regional Art Galleries show On the Same Page.

Imprint: You both have an interest in the very broad area of landscape- can you give some background to your individual approaches to this and how you  encountered each other’s  practice and how it lead to this show?

Denise Gillies and Lynne Mitchell: Landscape is indeed a broad term that we both use to describe our individual works. In saying that, it may be landscape per se with some recognizable elements, very abstracted landscapes or it may be to do with the environment and man’s impact upon it.  Both of us also often include elements of time passing and history in our individual pieces.

At least some of our focus on landscape most likely stems from both growing up in rural areas, although in different countries, Australia (Denise) and England (Lynne).  Certainly Lynne’s background as a geologist definitely has a bearing on her choice of subject matter. We are also strongly influenced by the area where we both live, the Ferguson Valley, a beautiful area of small farms, hills and forests to the south of Perth, WA.

We had both been working and exhibiting separately as printmakers for some years before Lynne and her husband moved south to live here.  Consequently we met as members of The Southwest Printmakers group and exhibited together in various group shows for a few years.  From the beginning people commented on the visual similarities in a lot of our work, and most of this was from before we had even met.

We both do a lot of collagraphs while not restricted to this technique. Our individual works are often layered both on the paper with a variety of printmaking techniques, but also metaphorically in the way a piece’s content may be interpreted. And while we may branch out from traditional printmaking by introducing mixed media, our art is always print-based.

The idea of a collaboration grew from discussions around our commonality of print process and more importantly our like-mindedness.  Initially we planned to have a joint exhibition with just two or three collaborative pieces with the rest made up of our individual works. However, like many of our other plans, once we got started the end result was quite different.

Imprint: In collaborating how did you approach the nitty gritty of forming ideas and then making them work?

DG/LM: We thought collaborating might be difficult.  In fact it proved surprisingly easy.

Our exhibition title, On the Same Page, was decided long before any work was done.   It became our guiding principle and as our collaboration got underway we continually referred back to this title.

Initially there was a lot of brainstorming and writing of ideas.  This was only about the proposed collaborative pieces as we had decided that our individual pieces would be up to each of us. Having exhibited together over several years and become friends, we had confidence our individual pieces would work well in any exhibition.

One of the first working steps was to actually make most of the paper we used. We made it from leftover edges torn from our individual prints and we also integrated small pieces of actual discarded prints from both of us into the paper mush.  Hence we ensured we were both always On the Same Page.  This hand-made paper features in most of our collaborative works.

All our collaborative works were done with each of us in the same studio working side by side. We jointly made and printed small collagraph plates. We each printed fabric. We worked together composing the various elements of each artwork . Every step was a joint effort. (‘What about this?’, ‘Shall we put this here?’ ‘I prefer this colour’ etc. ) Our original plan was that each of us would make a plate or do a piece of art in her own studio then give it to the other to add to in some way. That never eventuated as we found the pieces we were most happy with, were those produced when we worked on them at the same time.

Imprint: What are some of the joys and possible pitfalls of working in this combined manner?

DG/LM: We only had joys in our collaboration. We grew in confidence in what we could do the longer we worked together. Because neither of us is precious about her work and because of the trust we had in each other the whole process was extremely smooth. We liked what we were producing and marveled that it was so different from our individual works.

In the end we produced seven individual pieces each and twelve collaborative pieces.

We can imagine there could be many pitfalls for others embarking on this process. Personality plays an important part in a collaboration such as ours. We think there could be major clashes unless each person was prepared to put his/her ego to one side. Two people working as we did, would need to trust and respect the other’s art practice. The temptation to dominate or overrule could lead to the loss of both a professional and a personal friendship.

We went into this collaboration with confidence our personalities were compatible enough that we could push through any possible pitfalls if they arose.  Luckily for us none did and it all worked.

Imprint: Now this work is complete what are your reflections on the ways others might respond to or encounter your work?

Because the exhibition has been opened and we have given artists’ talks we have had the opportunity to gauge the opinions of others.

When we first said we intended to do collaborative work, most people found it difficult to grasp how it could happen. When we explained how we had worked together, our artist friends in particular found it hard to believe. In other collaborations we have researched, the artists have worked independently on either the other’s work or plate to produce a single piece.  So far, we haven’t been able to find any other examples of artists working as we did.

Now the artworks are on display peoples reactions have been gratifying. However, people are surprised that the style is, as our friend who opened the exhibition said, as if there is a third artist. The work we have produced is far from anything else either of us has ever done. Little of either of our individual styles is present in the collaborative pieces.  Comments on our individual works are also interesting.  The general consensus is that our individual works are more confident and vary considerably from previous works.

We enjoyed the collaborative process immensely.  Not only did we produce a body of work of which we are very proud, but we had a lot of fun doing it. This collaborative process is something we plan to develop further.

On the Same Page is at Bunbury Regional Art Galleries until 17 August 

www.brag.org.au