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

Squatters and Savages: Ballarat Art Gallery

Right:
Megan Evans and Peter Waples-Crowe, still from Squatters and Savages, 2017, HD video – 06:00
Below right:
Megan Evans and Peter Waples-Crowe, Sovereign, 2017, Victorian era bedroom chair, leather, carving forks
Below:
Megan Evans and Peter Waples-Crowe, Bleeding Chandelier, 2017, antique chandelier, glass beads
Bottom right:
Megan Evans and Peter Waples-Crowe, Hunting Party 2, 2017, antique chair, embroidery thread, glass beads

Artists Peter Waples-Crowe and Megan Evans speak with Jack Callil about the Squatters and Savages exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

 –

Imprint: What is the Squatters and Savages exhibition about?

Peter Waples-Crowe: I was asked to reimagine some 19th century prints of Indigenous people the Art Gallery of Ballarat collects. It started in 2013 when I was using old images of Aboriginal people in collage techniques to revise them—and it grew out of that. The Gallery had this collection of Indigenous prints and didn’t know what to do with it. But they wanted an Indigenous person to work with it, so that’s how the project came along.

Imprint: What are you both trying to communicate through the artwork?

PW-C: What I’m trying to do in my work is bring some of these works into the contemporary. As a gay Aboriginal fella, some of them comment on that. Some comment on Aboriginal history. Things that weren’t covered then—that we’re not just objects of ornaments, we’re living people. I’ve put them in living scenarios and used a lot of sarcastic humour. I’m fascinated by the images themselves as an Aboriginal person because they don’t seem to represent me as a contemporary Aboriginal person.

Megan Evans: And I have a different perspective from Peter. My perspective is from someone of a colonial settler heritage. I’m interested in how someone in the 21st century can take responsibility for actions of people from the past—particularly people you’ve descended from. One of the things that I’ve always felt missing from the whole ‘Sorry’ apology movement, which went on for a long time and still goes on, is that no-one has really taken responsibility. The mistake a lot of people make is they think, ‘Well, it wasn’t me, it was something that happened in the past’.

Imprint: What reasons did you have for collaborating with one another, and what did it achieve?

ME: I’ve collaborated a lot in the past with Indigenous artists, but this was really special. We collaborated conceptually, but we didn’t work on each another’s work—other than the video piece—we just did our own response to these prints. So I think the benefit of working together was that our works bounced off one another, and his approach was different to mine, but we both responding to the same thing.

PW-C: Megan’s great grandparents were Scottish/Irish too, and they settled back in this place in north-eastern Victoria. And my mob are Ngarigo, and we go back up a bit further. So we come from a similar location, same sort of history, so that was sort of magic as well. And the show is much stronger with the two of our works there. Megan uses revisions of colonial furniture, and I was struck by her craftsmanship. I was interrogating that similar space, so I thought it would be amazing to work together. And I love collaborations.

Imprint: There’s an idea of inherited guilt in Australia – how did you approach that in this work?

ME: Peter asked me once if my work was all about ‘white guilt’. And I said it’s not about guilt, and that I don’t think guilt is a useful thing at all. In fact, guilt is a violent thing. All it does is suppresses the people who’ve been oppressed. They feel bad in bringing anything up, and they can’t get angry, they can’t express their pain.

PW-C: Yeah, Megan doesn’t want guilt. She says there’s this responsibility that people own up for that era. That’s what has to happen for true reconciliation. People have to see they’ve taken their white privileges at the expense of other people. A lot of Aboriginal art is about telling stories that haven’t been told, or were written out of history. History goes to the victor. Aboriginal history is written by non-Aboriginal people. We’re not in control of our own history. We’re trying to recapture that. Just trying to tell some stories. Tell some truths. I think people take that away. – Jack Callil

Squatters and Savages is at Ballarat Art Gallery until 16 July

Rona Green: Bendigo Art Gallery

Right:
Rona Green, Submission Magician, 2014, hand-coloured linocut, 56 x 76 cm
Below right:
Rona Green, Shitehawk vs Dirck ‘Foo-Foo’ De Cock, 2015, hand-coloured linocut, 72 x 108 cm
Below:
Rona Green, McGoohan, 2015, hand-coloured linocut, 51 x 66 cm
Bottom right: Rona Green at work.

Curator Jessica Bridgfoot discusses Rona Green’s new exhibition Champagne taste and lemonade pockets at Bendigo Art Gallery.

Imprint: What was the history behind mounting this exhibition, and how was Green’s work significant for the Bendigo Art Gallery?

Jessica Bridgfoot: Rona studied printmaking at La Trobe University here in Bendigo and graduated in 1995. During and since that time Rona has remained very active and visible in the Bendigo arts scene – exhibiting regularly at what is now the La Trobe Art Institute – which is directly across the road.  Rona’s work is so distinctive and the characters she has cultivated in her practice have become almost local heroes here. Of course, we felt it fitting that Green’s menagerie of dogs, rabbits, cats and birds come to Bendigo Art Gallery to ‘roost’ in what is a survey exhibition of the last decade of her printmaking practice.

Imprint: Green works a lot with ideas about identity – can you discuss the background to this and how it manifests in some of the works in the exhibition?

JB: Green’s ‘para human’ characters are absolutely unique but there is also a subtle unnerving familiarity about them which creates not only an interesting tension in the works but a kind of entry point for the audience. There are a number of devices Green uses to construct and disrupt notions of identity: the use of tattoos, clothing and body language all play on our embedded collective psyche and the way we ‘categorise’ the world. For example, Green’s work  Submission Magician is firstly a kind of brazen Aussie bloke, decorated in tattoos that suggest nationalist pride (the Southern Cross, Eureka flag), he has the head of a dalmatian and the body of young, lean man. His stance suggests that of an aggressor – maybe on the cusp of a confrontational head-butt – or perhaps he is taking a selfie, baring his allegiances to the world. We recognise Submission Magician as we have seen him somewhere before – he’s a family member, a neighbour, or the angry bloke pacing up and down the supermarket carpark, but somewhere beyond this artifice (in his soulful, puppy-dog eyes) there is also a vulnerability. In this way, Green’s work highlights our (predominantly Western) ascribed value systems and the dichotomies of identity – a serious subject delivered in the form of a playful punch.

Imprint: What were some of the elements of Green’s work you wanted to draw out and play with in the show?

JB: I wanted to convey the feeling that the characters in the works are active and very much alive and tried to reflect this in the hang, to play with notions of the gaze, the works aren’t passive – their eyes follow you around the room! The compositions or framing of Green’s subjects is a key device used cleverly by the artist. Green claims to frame her characters at portrait or ‘mirror’ height (i.e. from the waist up) to allow the audience a moment of self-reflection and in this sense the idea of the subject’s gaze (who is gazing at whom?) can be quite provoking. Many of Green’s characters are rather unnerving. Being confronted by a whole room of them can be a slightly surreal experience – as if the lights go out and they all get together to play midnight poker in the gallery.

Imprint: Are Green’s working methods, from a technical perspective, strongly influential on her compositions and aesthetic distinctiveness?

JB: Since her art student days Green has maintained a distinct aesthetic – notably the graphic use of bold black line. This kind of visual style was possibly shaped by her early use of linocut that lends itself to line-based work. Interestingly there are parallels between the way Green works as a printmaker and the way a tattoo artists works on the skin. Green prints in black ink on paper and then painstakingly hand-colours her work using watercolour and pigment inks – much the way a tattoo artist colours in between the outline of his/her design. This exhibition is a survey of the last ten years of Green’s printmaking practice, and while there are subtle nuances within her technique, the bold, vibrant, graphic language remains strong and I think that sense of conviction and cohesion in her technical process is one of the strengths of her work – that it is the language of Rona Green.

– Andrew Stephens

Champagne taste and lemonade pockets is at Bendigo Art Gallery  24 June-3 September

Milan Milojevic: Wunderkammerama

From top:
Milan Molojevic:
Wunderkammerama Objects, Digital prints, paper constructions and dome, 2017. Photo: Natalie Mendham

 

 

Fishface (the eyes follow you around the room), Digital print paper construction, 2017. Photo: Natalie Mendham

 

And your bird can sing, Digital prints, birds paper constructions and dome, 2017 (detail). Photo: Natalie Mendham

Milan Milojevic discusses Wunderkammerama, part of the Dark Mofo festival in Tasmania

Imprint: Can you outline the foundation ideas for this show, especially your interest in the wunderkammer?

MM: I was approached by Tracey Cockburn, Arts and Cultural Development Coordinator of the Rosny Farm, to see whether I would be interested in having an exhibition in the Rosny Barn as part of Dark Mofo. I was excited by the idea and put in a proposal and it was, thankfully accepted by Tracey and Dark Mofo. It’s a difficult venue , certainly not what I was used to, but it has a lot of atmosphere and I had to think outside of my usual exhibiting practice. My work for the past decade or so has focused on creating imaginary worlds and based on the Jorge Luis Borges book titled The Book of Imaginary Beings, published in 1967. My visual language is informed and inspired by the aesthetics and visual language developed by 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th century engravers and naturalist artists. I’m interested in museum diaoramas, the worlds Joseph
Cornell created. Wunderkammers and idiosyncratic collections and curiosities are also a strong influence on my work. So this exhibition gave me the opportunity to create my own wunderkammer, which offered a more challenging approach to my practice of breaking through the traditional two-dimensional print and creating three-dimensional paper constructions- objects in domes, small sculptural hybrids and an installation comprising of almost 200 printed birds. One of the highlights was a series of prints that had the surface embellished with beads and glitter by my wife Joybelle, who is an artist/sculptor.
Imprint: What were the challenges with putting this show together from a printmaking perspective?
MM: The challenges were in the space itself, there were restrictions because of its heritage status, there was  no way I could hang work directly on the beautiful sandstone walls, there were panels but I didn’t like that look so I wallpapered a number of panels. The building had great ambience and atmosphere so I realised it had to be a ‘theatrical’ installation and the idea of a wunderkammer fitted really well.
Imprint: Tell us about the imagery contained and how you compiled and explored these?
MM: I guess the exhibition gave me the opportunity to push the imagery further into sculpture. One work comprises 44 books of different sizes covered with my images, so it looks like a mini library, titled Unnatural histories.
Imprint: Is the setting for the show of especial interest – likewise is its inclusion in Dark Mofo significant?
MM: It is important, it’s great to have been included in Dark Mofo – the list of artists, performers, musicians is impressive – and I felt that I had to really lift my game to be involved and that was a great inspiration for my practice. It was a great risk in trying something else and it has now given me some great ideas to carry on with.

– Andrew Stephens

Wunderkammerama is at Rosny Barn, Hobart, until June 25

Lisa Sewards: Port Jackson Press

From top:
Lisa Sewards, Secrets, 2017unique state, etching, 28 x 22cm.
Lisa Sewards, Cloudy memory, 2017pigment print on cotton rag 300gsm
image 90x116cm, paper 110 x 136 cm, edition of 3
Lisa Sewards,  Grey Cloud, 2017unique state, oil on board, etching overlay, 24 x 24cm
Lisa Sewards, Love, 2017, unique state etching, collage, 34 x 28 cm

Lisa Sewards, Cloudy Memory, at LWOO Port Jackson Press Print Gallery

Imprint: Please describe the initial inspiration for this exhibition and how the experience provoked you?

Lisa Sewards: I have always attempted to convey a story and notions of reflection within my artworks.  As part of my preparation for creating I extensively research my subject matter, always searching and probing.  Back in 2013 my first large scale solo exhibition entitled White Parachute involved eighteen months of research and was pivotal to my artwork going forward.

My sketches, photographs and memories from several years ago when a close family member unexpectedly took flight and left behind clouded secrets provoked Cloudy Memory.  As a result this small body of work has resulted in the union of symbolic clouds, the parachute and a lone figure.

Imprint: Why do you think we human beings so love to gaze at clouds?

Lisa Sewards: I believe we all find Clouds very beautiful, mysterious and romantic.  We get lost in them if we find the time to gaze up at them, we want to touch them, float on them… and for me in this instance, combined with the parachute, they represent a portal, a womb of obscurity, where personal secrets were carried away.

Imprint: Clouds have featured so richly in the history of art – did this have any bearing on your work?

Lisa Sewards: Early in my arts practice under the guidance of Melbourne painter Sarah Tomasetti her beautiful works of the natural world influenced the way I approached my art.   Her teachings led me to “skying” reminiscent to the English Artist John Constable’s practice of making sketches of the sky and its moods, noting cloud formations and their elusive shifts in colour and light.  Included in this show are small oil paintings indirectly influenced by this past that have an etching overlay fusing both painting and printmaking.

The diverse and complex Printmaking processes influence my current practice.  I admire the varied Cloud imagery you find in many present and past Printmaking applications especially in Japanese woodcuts and wood engravings with those delicious clouds once created by William Blake.

Imprint: Why was printmaking the best process for this project?

Lisa Sewards: My Printmaking techniques continually evolve and incorporate traditional intaglio methods, etching using solar plates and also digital pigment prints.  This project has incorporated all these Printmaking methods in small intimate passive works and also allowed the mood to be captured perfectly in a large-scale velvety Cloud pigment print.

Imprint: How have your aspirations been realised in this exhibition?

Lisa Sewards: The parachute object remains at the heart of my arts practice and continues to be a fundamental inspiration, with many hanging throughout my studio.  I see so much beauty in the parachute, from its pure functional form to its rich association with past stories I have uncovered. To many people, myself included, they provide a universal symbol of strength, hope, security and grace.

Here in Cloudy Memory my parachute feels at home amongst the Clouds… the direction of the imagery has achieved its passive and tender display of love and reflection and the intimate space of Port Jackson Press Print Gallery’s LWOO is very fitting for their viewing… to compliment the artwork entitled Love that depicts the lone figure about to take flight, I have shaped a vintage white parachute canopy into a ‘fallen cloud’; it lays beneath this work and represents a metamorphosis return to the womb in the guise of an allusive cumulus. – Andrew Stephens

Cloudy Memory is at LWOO, Port Jackson Press Print Gallery, (23 June-6 July)

‘Winter’ at Gippsland Art Gallery

From top:
Wayne Viney, Clearing Storm, 2000, monotype on paper, 17.5 x 17.4cm (platemark). Collection Gippsland Art Gallery, donated by the artist 2014
Raymond Arnold, Elsewhere World, 2016, digital print on paper (unique state), 138.8 x 101.8cm (image). Collection Gippsland Art Gallery, purchased 2016
Deborah Klein, Sometimes Jenny took long and lonely walks along the long and lonely beach, 1988, linocut print on paper (edition 4/25), 61.3 x 45.6cm (platemark). Collection Gippsland Art Gallery, donated from the estate of Patricia Marie White 2013

Curator Simon Gregg discusses the exhibition Winter at Gippsland Art Gallery.

Imprint: What was the inspiration for this show and what are the sorts of parameters you decided upon in establishing the theme and content?

 

Simon Gregg: Winter is an exhibition of thirteen works drawn from the Gippsland Art Gallery’s permanent collection, designed to complement the two concurrent major exhibitions, one a survey of Kenneth Jack (1924-2006), the other, Bohemians in the Bush, being a survey of early Gippsland art (1860-1920).

 

So Winter is an exhibition that addresses the senses, and draws an emotional and physical response from visitors. I wanted to get away from the strict chronology of the other two historically-focussed exhibitions, and dip visitors into a pot of art bliss without too many parameters. There were no restrictions on the selection other than some relevance to the theme “winter”, which I wanted to interpret as broadly as possible. I had a wide array of artworks to draw upon for the exhibition (the collection has over 1600 works) but the thirteen I settled on cover a range of periods, styles and materials, while maintaining a certain coherence and, together, tell a compelling story.

 

Some of the works I selected, if presented in isolation, would not speak necessarily of the winter theme, but in this company I think they do. So I really wanted to encourage a different reading of some of the artworks. I always try to get people looking beyond literal interpretations, and to see with the heart, not just the mind. I think, overall, the works create a powerful and rejuvenating space to be in – most of the works look cold but they also have a depth and a warmth that I wanted to draw forward.

 

Imprint: What are some of the printmaking-related works you accessed while involved in the curatorial process?

 

SG: Of the thirteen works on exhibition, six are the product of printmaking processes, ranging from traditional etchings and linocuts to monotypes and a large digital print by Raymond Arnold, which is the result of digital manipulation of a series of etchings. The gallery holds hundreds of prints in the collection (I think about 400) so there was a lot of printmaking to choose from, representing every process imaginable. We have a wonderful range of works by Jorg Schmeisser, for instance, that might have suited the theme. Equally, some early prints by Jock Clutterbuck might have suited – we have some of his etching, aquatint and coloured stencil works – and they are among my favourite works in the collection, but it came down to what was going to be the most coherent within this setting.

 

Imprint: Would you elaborate on some of the printmaking-related works included in the exhibition, and how they reflect the wintry theme?

 

SG: Printmaking, for me, often speaks of a sense of distance, or separation, because there is a mechanical process that separates us, as viewers, from the creative act. I felt that especially with Lesley Duxbury’s relief etching A Certain Light and Raymond Arnold’s digital print Elsewhere World, and because of this separation there is a kind of inherent melancholy that I felt suited the winter theme. Both of them look cold, but they also speak of an internal world, and a withdrawal from the physical world. As a very introverted person I’m attracted to the idea of winter hibernation and being able to shut out the world. For me Judy Dorber’s work Chrysalis is about the magic found within – it’s about an artist looking inward rather than outward (Caspar David Friedrich famously said “an artist must paint what he sees within himself, not just what he sees outside himself”).

 

I suppose in a way I imagined the spirit of Friedrich watching over this exhibition, and these are kind of offspring of his own magical, wintry, romantic paintings.

 

Imprint: In what ways do you think audiences might respond to the show?

 

SG: Well, I hope people can park their expectations about art at the door, and open themselves to experiencing art in a new way. I don’t think the internal world of the gallery needs to be divorced from the external world of the seasons, and I always hope that when people leave the gallery they will look at their own world in a new way, and see new possibilities. By aligning the inside and the outside in this way, I hope to provide a direct correlation between art and life, to encourage this new way of looking. – Andrew Stephens

Winter is at Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale, until 27 August www.wellington.vic.gov.au

Southern Highlands Print Exchange

From top:
Kathryn Orton, Changing Places, Collagraph with chine colle.
Lucia Parella, Flee, (2014), woodblock.
Fan Ifould, Domestic Goddess, etching and chine colle.

Griffith Regional Art Gallery coordinator Raymond Wholohan celebrates the Southern Highland Printmakers’ Exchange exhibition.

 

Imprint: What is the origin of the printmaking exchange and how does it work?

Raymond Wholohan: The Southern Highlands Printmakers (SHP) are based in the Southend Highlands of NSW, centred around the towns of Mittagong and Bowral. The group was formed in 1993 to foster printmaking in the area and since its inception has exhibited regularly developing a particularly effective working relationship with the Sturt Gallery, part of the Sturt Australian Contemporary Craft and Design Centre in Mittagong.

They currently have 28 exhibiting members and try to maintain membership at around this number. Over the years, the group has built an enviable reputation for quality and innovation with members exhibiting widely in Australia and internationally. Many also teach printmaking in tertiary fine art courses and adult education programs.

Imprint: What are some of the mutual benefits for printmakers working in the exchange?

Raymond Wholohan: Unlike other established printmaking groups, the SHP does not have a physical base nor does it offer workshops on a regular basis. Rather the focus is on fostering opportunities for practicing artists for whom printmaking is important part of their work. The emphasis in on mutual support for each other’s professional practice, organising exhibitions of members’ work and developing links to other printmaking groups both in Australia and internationally.

In 2009, for example, the SHP initiated an international print exchange with print groups in Queenland, Wales and Hawaii. The portfolio of prints has been exhibited in the UK and Hawaii as well as different venues in Australia and full sets of the suite are now in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, the National Museum of Wales and Rockhampton Regional Art Gallery in Queensland. This particular exchange is to celebrate the group’s 21st birthday and has been exhibited at Sturt Gallery, Mittagong, Megalo Press, Canberra and now Griffith Regional Art Gallery.

Imprint: Can you tell us how the exhibition looks at Griffith Regional Art Gallery?

Raymond Wholohan: The works are all so diverse, so the SHP have utilised uniformity to bring cohesion to the visually rich exhibition. The vast majority of artists have a suite of three prints on similar sized paper, which are installed in vertically hung columns in identical frames throughout the exhibition. So the exhibition maintains the integrity of each artist’s imagery, but curatorially it’s neat little package.

Imprint: Are there any working methods or processes that are of particular interest in the exchange?

Raymond Wholohan: The exhibition encompasses all printmaking methods and techniques such as drypoint, wood- and linocuts, lithography, collagraph, digital printmaking, monotype, etching, screenprinting and multi-plate techniques. The whole exhibition is a 101 course in printmaking methods and techniques.

Imprint: Do you see any common threads emerging in terms of ideas and content in the prints entered?

Raymond Wholohan: As you can imagine the themes, narratives and preoccupations of the artworks and artists are as diverse as the printmaking techniques used to realise them. But if there is one thread that is more represented than another, it’s engagement with the natural world. – Andrew Stephens

Southern Highland Printmaking: Exchange is at Griffith Regional Art Gallery until 11 June www.griffith.nsw.gov.au

Flow: Counihan Gallery

From top: Flow at Counihan Gallery

Flow at Counihan Gallery, Brunswick (21 April-21 May)

Artists: Colleen Boyle, Clara Brack, Garth Henderson, Heather Hesterman , Bridget Hillebrand, Penelope Hunt, Rebecca Mayo, Harry Nankin, Jen Rae, Dominic Redfern, Cameron Robbins, Sarah Tomasetti, Maurizio Toscano

Curator: Heather Hesterman

Reviewer: Kate Gorringe-Smith

Flow is a peculiar type of motion. It is what water does when ice sheets melt; what makes rivers etch the earth over eons; it is the grand gesture of humanity’s movement from the past into the future; and, alas, it is also that unfeeling description of massive, involuntary human migration. Matter and energy flow, and information too: evidenced by the firing of neurons as much as the contagion of an internet sensation. Flow asks us to reflect on our experiences of flows and invites us to bear witness to the ecological present while hearing the call of our common ecological future.” *– Heather Hesterman

 

In this tightly curated show, “flow” defines the theme, the placement of works in the gallery, and the visitor’s experience. As part of Climarte’s 2017 Climate+Art=Change festival, the exhibition sits in a space with climate change at its centre, and each work addresses this crisis, whether directly, subtly or tangentially.

Counihan Gallery consists of three continuous spaces. In Flow, the first houses works characterised by feelings of helplessness underpinned by the implications of human agency. These are some of the most stark and pessimistic in the exhibition, works that peer with varying degrees of horror at the future and the role of humanity in the looming crisis. The first work, When All Else Fails, Jen Rae’s large drawing in white on a solid black background, depicts a lone climate refugee drifting in a small dinghy beneath a chaotic sky filled with the human debris of the ages. It is a bleak and unforgiving portrait – yet there is an innocence to the lone, childlike survivor, and the dinghy’s name is Resilience.

Next to Rae’s drawing is Bridget Hillebrand’s installation Floodlines. Beautiful and delicate, this is the exhibition’s sole work in traditional print media. Referencing articles from newspapers in linocuts of text, Hillebrand has created a downpour of words that both documents and mimetically recreates the flood-producing rains in the Wimmera in January 2011.

Water is everywhere. In Sarah Tomasetti’s work, the peak of Mt Kailash, one of Tibet’s most sacred mountains, floats against a white background, whose apparent solidity fades to the insubstantiality of muslin. This poetic piece captures both the endurance of the mountain and the rhythm of its human ritual of worship: pilgrims visit to circumnavigate the base of the mountain, on which no human has ever set foot. Four of South Asia’s major rivers have their headwaters here, fed by slow glacial melt.

The piece is a paradox: a floating fresco. “The plaster surface of the painting is made from marble dust and limestone putty, an ancient method that echoes the means of decorating the walls of Tibetan monasteries, using the materials at hand. The muslin used to bring the work away from the wall coils below, echoing the continual passage of feet in the dust at the base of the mountain, undertaking the Kora”. It is a work of reverence that also enshrines the threat that “…the estimated 46,000 glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau appear to be melting faster than those on other parts of the globe”.

Suspended next to Tomasetti’s work is Hesterman’s RISING. Hesterman has fashioned timber water-level markers that show current and predicted sea-levels for different sites along the Victorian coast. The markers hang from the ceiling and dance, casting painterly shadows, but this serenity is contradicted by their spear-like points poised to fall and stab, and their high-water marks – well over my head – that predict our inundation. Human-scaled, it is at once comprehensible and incomprehensible, beguiling and horrifying, marking the current point in time as much as a hydrological phenomenon.

In the room’s centre, Colleen Boyle’s floor-piece, I of the world, also invites us to consider where we stand in time. On the floor is an image she has collaged from two: the famous photo taken in 1968 by an Apollo 8 astronaut of the Earth’s rise above the moon, and a 15th century painting known as The Ideal City that became “a metaphor for good governance and the civilising presence of architecture”. At the time they were made, Boyle argues, both works caused a break in the flow of how humanity saw itself in relation to the world. Boyle plays further upon this idea by inviting the viewer to stand on the image and view oneself in a mirror suspended above the work – placing the viewer front and centre in this self-examination of exactly where we stand in relation to the planet.

There is disbelief and horror in this room at how we are changing things we have traditionally considered to be out of our hands. Linking the first and second spaces, however, is an element of hope: large digital prints by Garth Henderson of German industrial sites that have ceased their original functions to be preserved instead as playgrounds for society. It is a complex homage to the remains of an outmoded industrial history that has been repurposed for a different future.

In the second gallery space the works continue to relent. The mood becomes meditative through action, reflection and abstraction.

Cameron Robbins’ Creek Thing is an automatic drawing machine that, powered by the waters of the Merri Creek and with the assistance of children from the local primary school, creates abstract works that capture the creeks’ dynamism and autonomy as a place with its own life and identity.

Abstraction and identity also characterise Harry Nankin’s meditation on a stand of “old Belah trees (Casuarina pauper) found on the remote Meringur Flora Reserve in northwest Victoria”. In his images, overlaid gelatin silver film photograms on acrylic, backlit by a lightbox, and a pigment print, the shadows of the trees mingle into a complex abstraction. Nankin’s work, In defence of the pathetic fallacy, invites us to embrace the notion of Pathetic Fallacy to mitigate “…our well-reasoned suspicion of anthropomorphism [that] has become an irrational and exploitative indifference to nature for itself – an indifference central to the ecological crisis that besets us all”.

Rebecca Mayo’s piece, Bound by gorse, meditates on the flow of the Merri Creek, the growth of vegetation, of history and of colonisation, through the practices of clearing the noxious weed and making it into bricks to create a physical wall. Mayo writes that “Bound by gorse considers humans’ current relationship with Gorse conflating its historical use [as a hedging plant] to contain with the contemporary task of keeping it at bay”.

The fourth artist in this room, Clara Brack, has created a series of digital prints that appear as oversized postcards. Again reflecting the flow of history, nature and, here, thought – through hand-written messages, Brack’s work alone projects the artist herself into the exhibition space, allowing some viewers perhaps to engage more personally with the works.

Placed appropriately between rooms two and three, sits Janus, a sculpture by Maurizio Toscano who writes: “In antiquity Janus was the Roman deity responsible for watching over the thresholds of civic and domestic spaces. This two-faced figure reminded the citizens of Rome that the stability and fragility of the present demanded both a careful reflection on the past and a prudent contemplation of the future.” Janus literally appears to be a time bomb, the digital countdown displayed on the side of the piece ticking down to our destruction.

The third and final gallery space holds two works: digital pieces by Dominic Redfern and Penelope Hunt. This is the only space with a bench, and hence the invitation to sit. If the first space was characterised by interruption/examination, and the second by meditation, this space invites immersion. At its northern end, Redfern’s video installation Creek appears on five screens. It is a work that finds hope within compromise. Redfern’s creek is Riddell’s Creek, “…polluted and flowing at a trickle”, but nonetheless, “…in its diversity and tenacity…as beautiful as any other of nature’s expressions”. Mesmerising, the screens show the creek in macro, the detail absorbing and the light beguiling.

Hunt’s work, the exhibition’s final piece and – consciously placed by Hesterman’s curation – its lightest, is a four and a half-minute video loop projection depicting a landscape of rolling white clouds that silently reveal and erase a group of wind turbines. It creates a poetry of our engagement with renewables and climate change as it shifts from in and out of focus, from political to personal and back again, in and out of the media and our daily lives.

The climate change conversation is fraught with fear and helplessness. Throughout this exhibition artists have responded delicately and with great integrity. And although it does not shy from the possibility of destruction, the exhibition still offers an intrinsic message of hope: ironically, one can’t observe or comment on a “flow” without seizing upon one of its moments – we cannot comprehend the flow in its entirety – so a hiatus is created in which the viewer may question how and whether he or she dares interrupt the current flow toward environmental destruction. As Janus powerfully reminds us – we can stop the ticking, we can change the flow. – Kate Gorringe-Smith

*All quotations are by the artists from their artist statements (http://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/events-recreation/arts-and-gallery/counihan-gallery-in-brunswick/counihan-gallery-exhibitions/flow-exhibition-2017/)