Q&A with Robert Avitabile

‘I became interested in prints because I like drawing. The simple expression of marks on a surface is both a beginning and an end and is very satisfying. Drawing can be a beautiful evolving statement of an idea and I like it when printmakers carry this freshness and energy into their work.’ 

How did you become interested in art and prints in particular?

Art wasn’t part of my childhood in semi-rural Ashwood – I was inclined to be outside most of the time, with the only distraction from this being early black and white TV after dinner.

My father’s night class charcoal drawings of Voltaire and The Discus Thrower, etc., from the National Gallery School in the late 1930s to early 1940s weren’t on our walls, but lurking in the back of his wardrobe.

Art came along when I was ready and ironically it was my father’s hidden drawings that sparked my earliest interest and attempts at drawing. The serendipitous opening of the NGV on St Kilda Road in the late 1960s had a profound effect on me since we were now living in St Kilda East. A beautiful world had opened up before my eyes. I could easily walk or catch a tram there and it all made sense.

I began Preliminary Year in Art and Design at Prahran Tech in 1972, and was able to develop ideas and techniques that I had no way of pursuing earlier. I did three more years of a Graphic Design major, with ongoing Life Drawing and electives in Printmaking and Photography also being an important part of my studies. After four years of drawing and the influence of wonderful teachers like Glenys McIntosh and Pam Hallandal, I cannot imagine my life without it and I mourn the downgrading of Drawing in educational institutes today.

I became interested in prints because I like drawing. The simple expression of marks on a surface is both a beginning and an end and is very satisfying. Drawing can be a beautiful evolving statement of an idea and I like it when printmakers carry this freshness and energy into their work.

How do you view the role of curator?

I am an artist and I became a curator by default. I like how art objects interact and (as a classic Libran) I like to arrange them. I also like stories of artists and their careers and I strive to tell these stories in the context of their art. This is how I work and I imagine it’s how others work. However, a gallery owner’s work as a curator is only part of a big job description.

When I was about 16-years-old I curated my first show in my father’s shed – it was a collection of my own Picasso copies. I have now been fortunate to put together some major shows at Metropolis Gallery in Geelong, working with a number of amazing artists including Marco Luccio, Adrian Lockhart and Andrew Chapman; the many prominent Australian printmakers around whom I have curated a number of Collectable Print shows; emerging local artists like Michael Gromm and Steve Salo; comprehensive retrospectives of Kenneth Jack, David Newbury and Bill Harding; and exhibitions in association with a number of prominent Aboriginal art centres. When I look back at each exhibition, it’s the artists’ stories that bring their exhibitions together to connect with viewers. And so it’s the role of a curator to help tell these stories in more ways than simply finding pictures to hang on the wall.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while working as a curator?

A curator understands how people will ‘read’ a group of works by an artist and how they can be presented in the gallery space to best advantage. An exhibition is a partnership between the artist and the gallery, with mutual respect necessary for a great result.

A simple answer might be that there are no challenges, only solutions.

What does a work day look like for you?

My working day starts at home and after the usual activities I check my diary and social media, but sometimes when hot weather is forecast, checking a bonsai before work is more important – apologies.

I usually drive but also regularly walk our dog to the gallery, so we both get a good half hour exercise. I check emails and chat with our gallery assistant if she’s working that day. After replying to emails while serving early customers and attending to anything immediate, I settle into the current exhibition management as well as keeping an eye on future planning. A lot of my day is ‘on the run’ and no two days are the same or predictable.

Upstairs we’re lucky to have our own in-house Geelong Picture Framers, so I also spend time there having a chat and making sure it’s looking good and running smoothly.

I enjoy interacting with customers, as this is an important part of running a gallery. Sometimes I might visit an artist’s studio or some galleries, or spend a quiet day working from home.

Most of my time is spent thinking of the future and staying one step ahead of what’s happening, while keeping my feet firmly on the ground in the present. You could say the drawing beneath all this is constantly changing and that’s how I like it.

Who are your role models?

While I believe that once the exhibition is on the wall the curator, exhibition designer and anyone else should be invisible, there are many anonymous curators in public and private galleries whose ideas I must have absorbed over many years – some reminding me what is good and some not so good. I am probably more influenced by many years working as a freelance designer, producing many interpretive design projects for historical, natural heritage and indigenous art sites. Many of those projects incorporated writing, illustration and design and many talented people for whom I worked were specialists in presenting beautiful visuals and stories in exciting, cohesive and innovative ways.

Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for, and process of, putting together your current group exhibition Mono?

When I look at monotypes the freshness of creation is still there: the energy of drawing is embedded in these works. Any artist brave enough to be involved in making monotypes must surely have been drawing for many years. You’ve only got one chance to pull the perfect mono and it seems artists like the adrenalin rush of this medium: not knowing exactly what’s going to happen when their painting on a copper or plastic plate goes through the press in union with a sheet of paper. You could say the artist and the print are both under a lot of pressure! If you are able to see this show, I hope the results achieved by Tony Ameneiro, Kim Barter, Anita Iacovella, Bruno Leti, Debra Luccio, Janice McBride, James Pasakos, Linda Robertson and Wayne Viney explain this better than words.

This exhibition was the brainchild of Wayne Viney who came to an opening of Linda Robertson’s here last year and said: ‘Why don’t we do a Monotype show?’ and I said ‘OK why not? Who else does Monos?’ So we stood around scratching our heads and put down a few names. Then with the help of Dr Thomas Middlemost (over the phone while agreeing to open the show), we finalised the exciting list of artists for Mono. Thanks Wayne and thank you Tom!

This early stage was one of introductions and pulling all the artists together and getting them working towards a common exhibition date, with exhibition details and gallery requirements emailed and positive replies received. Every stage of an exhibition is important – it’s like an organism that grows and grows and on the opening night of Mono there was a very positive response from artists and guests. The artists were there to celebrate, but the magic is that most people see this as the start of the exhibition – it really started last year!

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m talking to Mono visitors and passing on what I know about monotypes, the artists and their art processes. The exhibition is open and so it’s all about our visitors to the show.

But of course we do have another exhibition coming up in October, so preparations for Robert Ingpen’s Storybook Art has been a concurrent priority for some time at Metropolis Gallery involving cataloguing, photography, writing press releases, framing and presentation of about eighty works, then designing advertising and other printed materials.

In November we are presenting Panoply, a major exhibition of printmaking curated by Rona Green and including forty emerging and established Australian artists.

Between these two shows we have just slotted in an exciting little Collectable Works on Paper show, which came to us recently out of the blue. This is where flexibility as a curator is important to get it all done. Without the help of my partner Ilze, gallery assistants Amber Daly and Alex Game, and our framers upstairs, none of what we do would be possible.

Running a commercial gallery anywhere is probably one of the hardest things to do; however, it’s an occupation that incorporates everything I’ve ever learnt and experienced in art, design, life, business and so on, and importantly how to work within your means without becoming burdened.

 

Mono is on display at Metropolis Gallery, Geelong, until 3 September.

Q&A with Clayton Tremlett

‘Originally I studied as a painter but the processes of printmaking, particularly the excitement of the reversed and uncontrolled magic of the first proof, eventually got me.’ 

Image: Clayton Tremlett with life mask, 2016. Photo: Carrington McArdle.

Why do you make art?

For me art making is about identifying connections and commonalities in life experience. In more recent years my practice is about examining history and drawing from events or people that influence my identity, to make works that encourage others to reflect on who they are.

I enjoy aesthetic challenges and also like to make print projects that use the printing industry or printed matter like wallpaper or stamps as a historical context.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

It’s about experimentation with materials and processes, by challenging or corrupting a traditional technique and cultivating something personal.

When I started printmaking, my focus was multi-colour reduction linocuts (up to twenty colours) because of the textural beauty I found in the layering of ink.

For my most recent series Beard and Influence I have advanced a technique I’m calling Laser Resist Etching which combines photography, Photoshop and the photocopier to make a new form of photo etching.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I suspect it was subconscious connection with my father’s practice of carving leather. As a child, I recall watching him use a swivel knife and tools to effortlessly cut and sculpt leather which has many parallels to carving lino with a scalpel and then removing the waste with gauges.

Originally I studied as a painter but the processes of printmaking, particularly the excitement of the reversed and uncontrolled magic of the first proof, eventually got me.

Who is your favourite artist?

Favourite is a transient thing. Many artists have been very influential depending on their ideas and technical skills. I admire artists for their individual pursuit of a personal expression and this translates across many disciplines. If I had to name a favourite sustained influence it would be the electronic music of Kraftwerk and their conscious aesthetic as it relates to visual art.

 What is your favourite artwork?

This too is transient and dependant on a particular changing set of receptive moments in life. Recently I travelled with my family to Vietnam and was overwhelmed with the technique of lacquer engraving on panels. Although it is an old technique it was a new experience for me and for a time my most favourite type of work because of its combination of carving and painting.

In my hall at home is a portrait of Captain Cook by Rew Hanks. I particularly enjoy looking at this work because of its technical skill and confidence with the medium.

Where do you go for inspiration?

More recently that would be the Public Records Office in Melbourne.

History is tangible when you are holding a book that is over a hundred and forty years old with detailed information on a prisoner’s appearance, crime, punishment, religion, occupation and tattoos.

Crime and Punishment and Inking Up are artist book projects that explore prisoners held in the old Castlemaine Goal. Crime and Punishment focused on the types of sentences you could get for misdemeanours like riding your bicycle on the footpath (one day), while Inking Up highlights tattoos favoured by a selection of prisoners in the 1890’s – the most common being an anchor between the thumb and forefinger.

What are you working on now?

My current exhibition has taken four years to produce. The works are large scale self-portrait linocuts in the guise of twelve bearded Australian Bushrangers. This was my first performative series where I grew diverse hirsute appearances in order to re-create the original photograph of each bushranger.

After each project, I like to flip the concept to see what is revealed on the other side. Following on from Bushrangers it seemed logical to research the phenomenon of being lost in the bush.

I am also documenting central Victorian ANZAC memorials (the lone soldier) as the central image for a series of anti-war linocut prints.

Q&A with Bridget Hillebrand

‘As a child I was fortunate that sketch books and charcoal were always at hand. My mother attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna before immigrating to Australia and introduced me to art at a young age. She always encouraged me to draw from life and drawing is still a large part of my practice.’ 

Why do you make art?

My earliest memories as a child are of climbing over the back fence and drawing in my neighbour’s garden. My neighbour’s yard was always far more interesting than my own. It was wild and overgrown and I spent many hours contemplating how to draw the curve of a leaf or the angle of a falling roof gutter. As a child I was fortunate that sketch books and charcoal were always at hand. My mother attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna before immigrating to Australia and introduced me to art at a young age. She always encouraged me to draw from life and drawing is still a large part of my practice.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Constantly evolving!

How did you get interested in printmaking?

After finishing my painting degree in the early 80s I travelled overseas for a year. I remember the first time I viewed prints by Dürer, Kokoschka, Kiefer, Schiele, Kollwitz and Rauschenberg to name a few, at the Albertina in Vienna. Some of the works resonated with my senses so strongly that I went back numerous times to view them. On my return to Australia I was committed to making prints and rarely picked up a paint brush again.

Bridget HillebrandRites of Passage, 2014, linocut printed with crushed quartzite and limestone, 30 x 113 cm.

Who is your favourite artist and do you have a favourite artwork?

A large range of artists and artworks inform my practice at different times. I am open to encounters that not only inspire but also challenge my way of thinking. I enjoy artworks that provoke a variety of responses. James Turrell’s Skyspace Within without is on my list of favourites along with many others.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Most recently Mt Arapiles, but inspiration can come from a variety of sources: a conversation, a passage from a book, music, exhibitions or an encounter in the landscape. Most importantly the act of making inspires me to explore and experiment with new ideas.

Bridget Hillebrand, Site Unseen, 2015, hand-stitched artist book, bind embossing and chalk, 17 x 39 cm (closed).

How has the experience of completing your PhD affected your practice?

Completing a PhD provided time and focus to develop a body of work related to my experience of the landscape and more specifically to rock climbing. It encouraged me to articulate my thoughts and experiences, which in turn enriched my experiences in so many areas. Writing an exegesis allowed me to rediscover my love of reading. I also researched a wide array of material that I may not have looked at otherwise. The research also stimulated my interest to further challenge and explore the corporeal and spatial aspects of my work, to increase the kinaesthetic nature of my creative research, and to further explore an interactive engagement between viewer and artwork.

What’s next for you?

My solo exhibition Touchscapes will be exhibited at MADA Gallery, Monash in August and comprises the practical component of my PhD research. In developing artworks that reflect a rock climber’s intimate and sensory encounter with rock, the exhibition presents new possibilities for seeing and looking, where the viewer is invited to engage with the works through touch.

 

Touchscapes will be on display at MADA Gallery, Monash Caulfield, from 10 to 16 August. bridgethillebrand.com

Q&A with Jonathan Tse

‘My inspiration comes from things I collect. There are many things I love including early children’s toys. When my family migrated to Australia from Hong Kong in 1975, my parents only bought the necessities and much of our childhood belongings were left behind.’ 

Why do you make art?

I always enjoyed drawing and making things as a child. In 1978, while in primary school, my mum submitted an application for a Creative Art Scholarship offered by the Trustees of the Queensland Art Gallery and I was offered a place at Kelvin Grove Primary School on Saturday mornings. Ever since then I have always had the itch to create and today I still love it.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

From 1987 to 1989, I completed my degree at the Darling Downs Institute of Advance Education, Toowoomba, now USQ, in (Creative Art) and then QUT in Brisbane in (Visual Arts). I am currently working at Queensland College of Art in Brisbane as the technical officer in Printmaking.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

My interest in printmaking, specifically screenprinting, began at USQ, back in 1987 under the guidance of Normana Wight, lecturer and Head of Printmaking at the time. She was the one who got me interested in making prints and since then I have been fascinated by print and all its techniques.

Who is your favourite artist?

That’s a tough question – there are many artists/printmakers who I admire and draw inspiration from. If I had to narrow it down to three, these would be my favourites: George Baldessin, Jörg Schmeisser and Ray Arnold (and yes they are all etchers).

What is your favourite artwork?

My favourite artwork is an etching by Jörg Schmeisser called Looking Back. I have this print on my wall and it was the first print I saved up to buy when I was a student.

Where do you go for inspiration?

My inspiration comes from things I collect. There are many things I love including early children’s toys. When my family migrated to Australia from Hong Kong in 1975, my parents only bought the necessities and much of our childhood belongings were left behind. Today when I find something ‘Made in Hong Kong’ at a garage sale or the flea market, I remember back to the early days when I had one of those. The nostalgia makes me want to collect it again. Today my work is not only about family and connections, but also looking back and finding the past.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on a survey exhibition of prints titled The Collector to open on the 5 August at Queensland College of Art in Brisbane. The show is an insight into the fascinating world of the artist as a collector and the influence this has had on my work. I hope you will be able to see it.

 

Jonathan Tse’s survey exhibition The Collector will be on display at Webb Gallery, Queensland College of Art, from 3 to 13 August.

Q&A with Clare Humphries

‘I’m inspired by questions that I can’t answer easily, and by unexpected connections I discover through artworks, experimentation, conversations and reading.’ 

Why do you make art?

What draws me to art – as a maker, and also as someone who experiences the work of others – is its potential to produce a contemplative state formed through the senses. Art allows me to engage ideas through the body and to explore alternative spaces and temporalities. Making is also an act of attention, a way to form questions and to materialise the immaterial. Simon O’Sullivan suggests art engages introspection as a ‘technology of transformation’; this resonates with my experience of working with materials and processes, and it also reflects the kinds of effects an encounter with another person’s practice can have on me.

What is your relationship to printmaking?

Ever since I produced my first print I have been fascinated by touch as both an intimate and yet distanced element within the means of production. I remember my first printmaking experience in which I spent hours making sustained and intense physical contact with the printing plate as I carved an image. I then stood back and witnessed the detached, momentary and mechanical contact between paper and plate as they passed through the press together. I was compelled by the intimacy of plate-making coupled with the fleeting contact necessary to pull a print. Since then, much of my work has been concerned with exploring and re-configuring the relations between the hand and the printed surface.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

My father was an art teacher, so I was exposed to many fields of practice from an early age. Our home was full of artworks including screenprints, linocuts, paintings and hand-forged objects. My father gave me many opportunities to explore different materials and processes and through this I discovered a fascination for what I call the ‘haptics’ of printmaking. Since these experiences I have also uncovered an enduring interest in imaging technologies that function beyond their ‘time’, that is, beyond the time when they function as a commercially viable medium. New possibilities are always uncovered in obsolescence. 

Who is your favourite artist?

Different artists and artworks inform and enrich my practice at different times. Recently I have been looking at Anni Albers in relation to a new body of work I am developing. I’m investigating the potential of cloth to trace a liminal zone between presence and absence, particularly as it might be evoked through the idea of a winding sheet or burial cloth.

I’ve been investigating Albers’ weavings and writings because of their exploration into the materiality of cloth, including the ideas of the ‘path’ and ‘event’ of a thread. It’s interesting to consider her move to printmaking later in her career, and to look at works where she has translated qualities of tactility, tension and pliable surfaces to the two-dimensional picture plane.

What is your favourite artwork?

A number of still life works by Spanish Baroque artists were very influential on the work in my current exhibition. For many years I kept a reproduction of Juan Sánchez Cotán’s Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber (c. 1602) on my studio wall. Whenever I look at this work my sense of worldly vision seems to stop at the far edge of the shelf depicted in the painting. Beyond the ledge the intimately rendered vegetables have no spatial coordinates and the darkness seems to suggest that even gravity may cease to exist there.

In Cotán’s work ordinary objects emerge from dense black fields and appear somehow more than real, transfigured by a dramatic play of darkness and light. 

Where do you go for inspiration?

I’m inspired by questions that I can’t answer easily, and by unexpected connections I discover through artworks, experimentation, conversations and reading. Inspiration, for me, is a desire to act and, like curiosity, it feeds on itself: I find the more I act, investigate and experiment the more I want to act, investigate and experiment. Inspiration also arises when something gets displaced in my thinking, so I find the more I can be open to questions and experiences, the more curious I become about future possibilities.

What are you working on now?

I have just finished hanging a solo exhibition called Exhume at Counihan Gallery in Brunswick. It presents a body of work I produced as part of my postgraduate research and includes some new work that extends on the project. The exhibition addresses the idea that after a person dies their personal belongings enter new systems of circulation and value. I extended a methodology of printing for the project that aims to reconfigure the relation between the hand and the printed surface.

My next project represents a shift of focus that extends on some of my persistent concerns. As I mentioned earlier I’m exploring the space between bodily presence and absence, between ‘here’ and ‘not-here’. My starting point is an investigation of cloth that has potential as a wrapping for the body. I’m interested in how the notion of a winding sheet might suggest the limits of embodiment and evoke notions of ritual and transition.

Clare Humphries‘ exhibition Exhume will be on display at Counihan Gallery in Brunswick from 22 July to 14 August.

ON HIRAETH

Above images l–r: Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune, Keepsake I, Keepsake II and Keepsake III, 2016, collagraph and etching, 50 x 37.5 cm.
Right: Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune, Hiraeth, 2016, etching, aquatint and lithography on somerset paper, unique state, 76 x 75 cm framed.

‘We stumbled across ‘hiraeth’ while working on the collaboration and it seemed to define some of the indescribable feelings we each try to capture in our work. The fact that there isn’t a clear-cut definition or translation in English made it even more intriguing and appropriate. ‘ 

An interview with Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune

by freelance writer Kate Ellis

In Hiraeth, a new collaborative series about to go on display at Port Jackson Press’s Little Window of Opportunity, printmakers Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune reflect on their shared experience of relocation.

The artists came across each other’s work in 2013. Despite obvious differences – Stephanie’s etchings being heavily detailed compared to the abstracted works that Danielle produces – they immediately recognised parallels between their landscape-influenced works on paper.

They also recognised that their lives mirror a much deeper connection of relocation. Both have lived abroad in various places – Danielle, originally from Australia, is now settled in Barcelona, and Stephanie, originally from England, lives in Melbourne.

Hiraeth (a Welsh word) does not translate easily to English. It describes a deep longing and nostalgia for home, a home that may not even exist; a yearning of spirit and imagination, though not necessarily a desire to return.

Through the prints in this show, each artist has explored their emotional relationship with their two homes.

Kate Ellis: Having both spent many years away from home, relocation has been a significant part of both of your lives – how has living abroad impacted your work?

Stephanie Jane Rampton: As I grow older I think I have become more sentimentally attached to my birthplace. While I don’t wish to return, there is always a sense of nostalgia. Perhaps memories become more important as we age. I believe my work explores, albeit subconsciously, the dichotomy of feeling an emotional connection to two ‘homes’. Often what begins as an Australian landscape takes on English characteristics. Memories of bare trees against a winter sky seem to encroach on everything I draw.

Danielle Creenaune: I also feel that there is a merging of place in my work. Often the works take on a hybrid form merging past memories of place and the present moment, which is what results in the spontaneous expression/representation.

KE: Why do you prefer the discipline of printmaking over other mediums and how has printmaking assisted in communicating your style and theme?

SJR: I had always drawn, particularly pen and ink drawings, so printmaking seemed a natural fit. Preparing plates allows time to consider what the final image is going to portray. Everything is a bit of a surprise; left-hand drawing becomes right-hand composition. You don’t really know what you’ve got until the very final moment and even then no two prints are the same. The result is a collaboration of artist and process – a synthesis of subject matter, emotion, materials, and techniques – that’s exciting.

DC: Printmaking allows me to ebb and flow through different techniques and means of expression. I work across lithography and intaglio, often concurrently, and find it’s the variation in marks, cause and effect, having control but leaving to chance, which enables me to communicate different emotional responses to landscape. I like the thrill of experimentation and feel there’s always something new to learn.

Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune, Traverse I, 2016, etching, aquatint and lithography on shikishi paper, unique state, 26 x 69 cm framed.

KE: Landscape is a recurring motif within both of your practices – what are the aesthetic qualities of nature and the environment that you find inspiring and what do they symbolise?

SJR: Perhaps it is the sense of solitude, calm, tranquility, and natural balance. Symbolically trees are representative of life. They grow, they reproduce and they die. Images vary depending on the state of mind: open spaces and distant horizons can convey a lightness of spirit; gnarled trunks and twisted roots may indicate the trials and tribulations that the trees have endured, or perhaps express their strength and connection to the earth. The choice is made on the basis of what is emotionally meaningful at that moment.

DC: Landscape represents a multitude of things for me. If I had to pinpoint a key aspect in my current work, it would be the significance of change and the evolving nature of landscape. It’s not static; it’s always in a state of change. I think it’s this state of flux that motivates me to create the type of images I do. The awe of that energy before me is possibly what drives me to try and emulate a similar kind of energy in the work. It also symbolises a connection to family, memory, place, history, present, and the co-existence of perfection and imperfection.

KE: Where did you first discover the term ‘hiraeth’ and why did its meaning become such a significant aspect of the project?

DC: We stumbled across ‘hiraeth’ while working on the collaboration and it seemed to define some of the indescribable feelings we each try to capture in our work. The fact that there isn’t a clear-cut definition or translation in English made it even more intriguing and appropriate. The more we researched, we realised it had everything to do with how one feels in and about place, home and longing.

Stephanie also came across a poem called ‘Hiraeth‘ by Tim Davis which we felt commented on the focus of our project. We made contact with the author who agreed to allow us to use it in conjunction with the works. The poem reads (in part)…

 

Hiraeth beckons with wordless call,
Hear, my soul, with heart enthrall’d.
Hiraeth whispers while earth I roam;
Here I wait the call “come home.”

Like seagull cry, like sea borne wind,
That speak with words beyond my ken,
A longing deep with words unsaid,
Calls a wanderer home instead.

Tim Davis, 2007

Stephanie Jane Rampton and Danielle Creenaune, Traverse II, 2016, etching, aquatint and lithography on shikishi paper, unique state, 26 x 69 cm framed.

KE: Please explain your process when developing a new body of work. Do you take a sensory approach?

SJR: Sometimes it is a particular image that captures my attention; sometimes it is a process that I want to explore further. I work from sketches with photographs as references. During the process the original image almost always changes. One of the joys (although sometimes also a frustration) of printmaking is the process itself. The effect of materials on the image and the maker, and how accidental effects might change the experience and the outcome.

DC: I take a sensory approach, I guess. For me, it’s one continuous body of work exploring landscape and emotion developing over time. In a technical sense, I experiment, find new tricks that interest me and learn how to achieve different results, along with researching the place or subject. I feel a need to squeeze something new into each body of work both technically and subjectively as it motivates me to keep making.

I usually have a place in my mind at the time of creating the drawing on the matrix. I rarely use photographs as they contain too much detail for me. I prefer to work from quick line sketches. This allows me to recall the place but also to allow for chance, intuition and immediacy in creating the marks. The image comes from memory, drawings made in situ and the how I feel at the moment of laying down marks. I love the undergrowth and to draw I usually position myself right in the middle of the forest or surrounding. Here I witness nature’s energy through unordered forms and it gives me a lot of compositional ideas.

KE: When working on the project, were you aware of the distance between you and did you feel that you were mindful of each other’s style and technique?

DC: Through various visits and a lot of emails, a lot of mobile phone shots, and really interesting discussion about ideas and the significance of landscape, we have come together on this. We met a few times to pen down technical details, but due to smart phones and new technologies we’ve been able to go to-and-fro responding to each other’s work consciously along the way. It would’ve been nice to have a coffee and a meal together while doing it all but, hey, you can’t have everything.

KE: There are very obvious similarities between your work – how was the experience of working collaboratively and sharing these similarities different to working independently?

SJR: The main challenge for me is the sense of responsibility to an artist whose work I admire. I don’t think it’s changed how I work so much as how I see my own work, through trying to visualise from afar how our different styles can sit together in harmony. Although, I’ve recently begun working on some much larger pieces and they are sparser in detail compared to previous prints. Perhaps there has been a subconscious influence. Rather than fill every available part of the plate I have begun to explore negative space – it’s been liberating!

DC: I enjoy working collaboratively. It’s great to click with people creatively and see that things move with ease. I think a mutual admiration between collaborators is important. Stephanie’s work is so awe inspiring and I cannot fathom how she creates such detail. My work is somewhat contrary, but there are key things binding us and it goes further than style or visual similarities. The best thing for me has been the dialogue regarding what landscape symbolises for us, really getting down to the nitty gritty and asking ourselves what our work actually means. As collaborators, we have become friends who share some profound motivations driving our work. These connections add life and meaning to working each day alone in the workshop.

 

Hiraeth will be showing at Port Jackson Press Print Gallery’s Little Window of Opportunity, Collingwood, from 15 July to 5 August 2016.

Q&A with Jo Lankester and Hannah Murray

Above images clockwise from top: Jo Lankester and Hannah Murray, Forrest Green, 2016, collagraph and etching, 50 x 37.5 cm; Wallflower #1, 2016, collagraph and etching, 1/5, 101 x 60 cm; Field of Dreams #2, 2016, collagraph and etching, 1/1, 101 x 60 cm.

‘Every time I work with another artist I walk away with a deeper understanding of art as a whole. Together we realise work that couldn’t be created individually and inspire each other to think differently.’ 

Jo Lankester is a printmaker, collaborator and exhibition organiser based in Townsville, Queensland. She is a founding member of PressNorth Printmakers, and often collaborates with and editions the work of other artists. In her own practice, she creates large scale works inspired by the natural environment. Her works are represented in the National Gallery of Australia Print Collection, Artbank, as well as numerous public and private collections throughout Australia and overseas.

Hannah Murray is a Magnetic Island based artist who was born in Ayr, North Queensland. She has completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts (2002) from James Cook University, and a Graduate Diploma in Education (2003), The University of Melbourne. A part-time artist, arts worker and art teacher Hannah works across a variety of different mediums including printmaking, painting and illustration.

How did your collaboration begin?

Jo Lankester: I first collaborated with Hannah in 2011 for our exhibition Paper Bird, which was held at the Umbrella Studio of Contemporary Arts. Hints of both of our artistic styles showed through in all of the pieces that we worked on together; however, they were ultimately unique to anything we were able to make individually. The process of working with another artist, a first for both of us, had been an unexpectedly positive and inspiring experience. In 2014 we furthered this relationship by creating a suite of collaborative prints for the PressNorth Printmakers exhibition Wanderlust. This new work saw a shift in our imagery from birds to orchids, combining our distinctive styles to create unique state prints and variable editions with a unique aesthetic approach.

Can you tell me a bit more about the works you will be showing as part of Wallflower and how they developed?

Hannah Murray: Wallflower, as mentioned, is an extension of an ongoing print collaboration that explores the symbolic and aesthetic qualities of Jo’s abstracted patterns found on tree trunks and rock formations with my floral, orchid imagery. Conceptually it is both a play on words and also almost literal in meaning. As with any collaboration an unlikely relationship exists between two seemingly opposing forces. Trees and rocks, like a wall, share ideas of antiquity, enduring strength and protection. In contrast a flower is fragile and fleeting. The exhibition aims to bring these two elements together to present a resolved body of work.

My current body of work explores the aesthetic and symbolic qualities of flora, particularly orchids, as found in history, mythology and literature. My primary practice involves working directly onto reclaimed, vintage wallpaper in mixed media with the deliberate intention to exploit the tactile and distinctly ornate qualities of the wallpapers surface, pattern and colour. Naturally I find Jo’s beautifully rich, textural abstract work a nice extension of this, which I thought would complement my more illustrative imagery well.

Jo Lankester and Hannah Murray, Delicate #1, 2016, collagraph and etching, 50 x 37.5 cm,  1/1.

What do you view as the benefits of working with another artist (or other artists)?

JL: Every time I work with another artist I walk away with a deeper understanding of art as a whole. Together we realise work that couldn’t be created individually and inspire each other to think differently. I found that there was a large amount of experimentation in our collaboration and that both of our artistic styles worked together to create something entirely unique

HM: An artist by inclination spends a considerable amount of time working alone so any chance to make art in collaboration is a welcome and thoroughly enjoyable venture. I love the challenge of exploring and discovering visual solutions that respect and best complement each other’s respective imagery and mark making. It’s an exciting experience where the outcome is strangely familiar yet refreshingly original. I am not primarily a printmaker so I also greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn from more experienced and knowledgeable artists such as Jo. Akin to a master and apprentice, this hands-on sharing of skills and technique is incredibly valuable.

And the dangers?

HM: There are so many variables in printmaking and the pressure of not pulling a perfect print when someone else’s work is at stake can be unduly stressful.

JL: Every time you decide to collaborate with another artist professionally you are taking a risk, even if you have worked with that artist before. Any number of things could go wrong throughout the process due to miscommunication, difference in opinion, scheduling errors, and many other factors. However, this should not deter you from experimenting with collaboration.

How would you describe the mechanics of this collaboration?

JL: Hannah and I worked rather naturally together; we began by brainstorming a concept, number of works, scale, medium and subject matter for the exhibition. We decided to work primarily in intaglio to produce a suite of limited edition prints. However, towards the end of the project we shifted back to working with printmaking mediums that were in each other’s comfort zones using collagraph and relief printing to create the installation. We like to work together in the studio and being available to assist each other technically where required, although we also need a reasonable amount of time to work individually on separate aspects of the exhibition.

HM: The collaboration process seems to occur rather organically and with shared artistic trust and freedom. Depending on who is leading a print or image I think we both work rather instinctively and in a way that respectfully considers and complements each other’s imagery, aesthetic and mark making. Having said that I greatly appreciate and rely heavily on Jo’s technical advice and printmaking experience.

Jo Lankester and Hannah Murray, Wallpaper in studio, collagraph and relief, 100 x 1800 cm (installation).

You mention that either one of you might ‘lead’ depending on the piece – can you talk about these dynamics a bit more?

JL: I feel that Hannah and I were able to work both alongside and in tandem with each other easily due to our professional history. It was Hannah’s idea to work together on Wallflower – she realised that my abstract prints would go perfectly with her orchid illustrations and suggested that we collaborate. Throughout the process Hannah would often be scratching her etching plates while I was printing the backgrounds.

HM: I think we equally contribute to the development of an artwork once we have gained a shared understanding of each other’s imagery, ideas, colour palette and overall aesthetic. For the most part and with my key plate images in mind Jo would set about creating work that carefully considered the scale, composition, shape and line direction of the orchids. In support of this I would then respond in choice of colour for the final key plate. Alternatively some of the smaller prints were developed in reverse whereby I selected a key plate or image specifically with one of Jo’s prints in mind.

If you had to pass on one lesson from the experience, what would it be?

JL: Produce an exhibition that celebrates the strengths of both artists’ individual styles.

HM: Allow the collaboration process to develop slowly and naturally with lots of time to effectively experiment and explore ideas thoroughly. Coordinating collaborations and working to a deadline on individually busy schedules can create undue pressure – the more time the better.

What is next for each of you?

JL: I will be working to regain focus on my artistic practices for the foreseeable future. My mind is bursting with ideas that have been waiting patiently throughout the printing for Wallflower that I am excited to get down on paper.

HM: In between part-time teaching commitments I look forward to returning to my mixed media practice developing new work for a number of upcoming exhibition opportunities.

 

Wallflower will be on display at Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts in Townsville, Queensland, from 8 July to 14 August.

Q&A with Peter Lancaster of Lancaster Press

Top: installation view of Between a Rock and a Hard Place at Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop (29 June – 1 August); Wayne Viney, Winter Light.

‘Any time I open the drawers to look at past prints memories surface from fruition of a friendship or overcoming various technical problems. Making choices for this exhibition wasn’t easy. It’s not about big names, it’s about any artist having the courage to take up the challenge to translate their work into print – it’s rewarding to assist in orchestrating that.’

In May this year, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, an exhibition celebrating the work of Lancaster Press, was displayed at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery in Canberra.

In the lead up to Between a Rock and a Hard Place opening at Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop (29 June – 1 August), Lancaster answered some of our questions about his attraction to lithography, running a workshop and putting together the exhibition.

How do you explain what you do to strangers who may not be familiar with lithography and fine art printmaking traditions?

People often look a perplexed when I describe what I do! It doesn’t fit into any obvious category, drawing on Bavarian limestone. I do love introducing a stranger to the process of drawing on a test stone and then saying: Voila! You made a mark – we could print this!

What attracted you to printmaking as a profession, specifically lithography, and how did you start out?

I’ve always loved drawing. I tried to get into to drawing at the Prahran Technical School under Pam Hallandal and missed out. Printmaking was suggested – I then discovered lithography and the directness of drawing on stone. I was completely seduced by the process.

Tell us about the experience of selecting work for Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

Any time I open the drawers to look at past prints memories surface from fruition of a friendship or overcoming various technical problems. Making choices for this exhibition wasn’t easy. It’s not about big names, it’s about any artist having the courage to take up the challenge to translate their work into print – it’s rewarding to assist in orchestrating that.

What have been some of your favourite collaborations and why?

I have a core group of artists who keep coming back. It’s rewarding to see them taking control of the medium and pushing the boundaries.

Given your many years of experience as a master printer, are there still challenges for you in terms of printing projects and collaborations?

My attraction to lithography is its  directness to the mark. I still don’t feel like a master, things still go wrong, you can have a love–hate relationship with the process. It’s like being an artist, there’s always room for improvement, always challenges, but you can’t give it up!

What is next for you and Lancaster Press?

Where I go next is tricky, it’s always been a struggle financially and I’ve never had grants – it’s not in my make up. I’ve since had another printer Adrian Kellett working with me in the studio, we have a similar work ethic. It’s great having someone to discuss technical challenges that would bore most people to tears! We do talk of having a larger studio and combining our expertise so we could take on more ambitious projects together – this excites me! I’ve also set up a small litho access in my front studio for ex-students or established printmakers allowing after hours access, relaxed environment, a space to call your own!

Lou Tomlinson, The Arrival

Further notes:

Phil Day, founder of Mountains Brown Press and co-founder of the former Finlay Press, is currently putting together a book called Bedrock: 25 years with Lancaster Press. The following observations are from some notes about Lancaster Press that Day shared from his essay in Bedrock:

Recognition of the artist’s autonomy.

While looking through Peter’s seemingly endless pile of lithographs, it became clear clear to me that Peter drew to him people who had within them that strange silent communication that has held the attention of children and adults the world over as far back as our prehistoric ancestors – the desire to draw. Which is not to be confused with the desire to make art. Art, as it is popularly understood today, is measured by arts institutions. They decide which artworks they deem important, and worthy of study and protection for posterity. Which is different to the history of Peter’s lithographs. It is true that many of Peter’s lithographs carry the marks of artists that various institutions deem as worthy, however there are other lithographs that carry the marks by artists who remain unknown. Regardless of this, I found in each of Peter’s lithographs an equal level of care and attention to detail each artists received. A mindful attention from Peter’s eyes irrespective of any notion of ‘lasting appeal’.

Q&A with Minna Gilligan

Minna GilliganYou’re lovely, but it’s not for sure, 2016, acrylic and collage on found image, 18 x 13 cm. Courtesy the artist and Daine Singer Gallery. Image commissioned for the cover of the Imprint winter 2016 (Vol. 51 No. 2) and produced as an unsigned and unnumbered edition of 100 A3 posters. Posters available for purchase for $15 each through the PCA website.

‘My Grandfather was a watercolour artist, and, although he passed away before I was born, his paintings have adorned every room in every house of all my family members for as long as I remember. I grew up being very used to looking at art, looking beyond what was right in front of me and into framed portals.’ 

Artist Minna Gilligan lives and works in Melbourne. Photograph by Selina Ou for Gallery NGV Magazine.

Congratulations on being awarded the 2016 Nillumbik Prize recently! Can you tell us about some of the moments/encounters that have informed your path to becoming an artist?

Thank you! It was lovely to gain some recognition in my hometown for my art practice.

I wouldn’t be able to define a specific moment that has informed my path to becoming an artist, but I would say it is due to the broader environment I was raised in. My Dad is a garden designer and my Mum is a florist, and I was brought up thinking aesthetically and critically of my surroundings and chosen projects. My Grandfather was a watercolour artist, and, although he passed away before I was born, his paintings have adorned every room in every house of all my family members for as long as I remember. I grew up being very used to looking at art, looking beyond what was right in front of me and into framed portals.

How would you define contemporary printmaking and where do you think your work would fit within this?

I suppose contemporary printmaking sits within a digital realm now. I would go as far as to define saturated reproduction of images on platforms like Instagram and Tumblr as a means of creating a duplication, as a means of extending the original – which is where I see printmaking existing. I think the definition is wider, now. My art exists on the aforementioned digital platforms and is reproduced there. It is also reproduced in digital prints on fabric and paper. I see scanning also as a vital element to contemporary printmaking. It gives you so much control over scale and quality.

How did you approach the winter 2016 cover commission for Imprint?

I wanted to make something that was positive and playful. I struggle with winter as a season and dread the lack of light and the negativity associated. I thought it would be fun to make a painting/collage that is the complete contradiction of the season.

Can you tell us about some of your favourite artworks and where their power lies for you?

My favourite artworks are very disparate, varying from Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World to the work of Yayoi Kusama, Helen Frankenthaler and Matisse. In more contemporary spheres I love the work of Keltie Ferris, Katherine Bernhardt and K8 Hardy. As of this weekend, a specific body of work I saw in the flesh was Paul Yore’s exhibition at Neon Parc. The power in this work lies in the unapologetic generosity of his cornucopias.

What do you hope people will get from engaging with your artwork?

When people look at my work I want them to feel joy, magic and maybe a slight sense of uneasiness. I don’t want to project an entirely utopic realm but I do want what is projected to be optimistic. I enjoy people projecting their own struggles, exhalations, etc., onto the work, too, and I enjoy it when people tell me those thoughts.

Do you have any advice for artists just starting out?

The only advice I ever really can rely on is to work really hard. I repeat that to everyone who ever asks for advice, which is a little contradictory considering at the moment I’m trying to take a step back from my work for a short period of time, just to consolidate and reflect on what I’ve achieved over a non-stop period of four years since graduating.

What are you working on now?

Currently I’m in the final six months of my residency at Gertrude Contemporary, and as I don’t have any specific exhibitions scheduled for the rest of this year, I’m revelling in being able to make work without an end point in mind. I am also beginning work on an artist book with a publisher in Canada, which will be a compilation of collages that I’ve made over the past 6­–7 years. Other than that, I’m taking my first holiday since 2012 in July and I’m going to Japan. I can’t wait!

www.minnagilligan.com

Q&A with curator Noreen Grahame

‘A lively cultural scene, be it in an art museum or gallery, is dependant on the curator setting up an exhibition, which stimulates both artists and public. Basically the role is one made for those who look, look and look at work and who are open.’ 

How did you become interested in art and prints in particular?

Like most people I visited galleries and art museums and found I was fascinated by the print and wanted to find out more about how prints were made and who made them. I was living in Zurich in the 1970s, a time when prints were booming, and one could say I stumbled into the scene.

How do you view the role of curator?

A lively cultural scene, be it in an art museum or gallery, is dependant on the curator setting up an exhibition, which stimulates both artists and public. Basically the role is one made for those who look, look and look at work and who are open.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while working as a print curator?

The artists’ books + multiples fair, although not strictly curated, posed many challenges from writing descriptions of artists’ books I had only discussed with the artists to finding that, in one case, the book submitted no longer resembled the catalogue description in any way. The artist decided at the last moment to alter it completely.

Can you tell us a bit about what a working day looks like for you?

It may be a little akin to giving birth. You forget all the pain of ‘that’ working day.

Who are your role models?

Pat Gilmour was the print curator at the Tate when I was in Europe. I had read about her and how she would be all over London visiting even the smallest gallery shows and artists’ studios. When I returned to Australia, I found she was the International Print Curator at the Australian National Gallery – now the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). I phoned her number at the NGA. She picked up and we had a long discussion about the prints of the German artist Friedrich Meckseper, whose work I was showing. She was, of course, completely au fait with his prints. Likewise Anne Kirker, former curator of prints at Queensland Art Gallery, Roger Butler (NGA), Anne Ryan (AGNSW) and Cathy Leahy (NGV) are always open. I hope I am like them.

Which exhibitions or projects are you most proud of?

Always the one I am working on, which is currently Big Impressions, prints from the collections of the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery (TRAG) to celebrate the Print Council of Australia’s fiftieth anniversary.

Can you tell us more about this project?

Originally I spent quite some time making a first selection for Big Impressions from a list of TRAG’s print collections before driving to Toowoomba. With Tiffany Shafran and Eloise Tuppurainen-Mason I went through Solander box after Solander box and found a rich collection including PCA member prints from 1994 onwards. The challenge I faced was to reduce my third selection by fifteen prints and still do justice to the show. The decision was to show three prints – three big prints. Big Impressions reflects the enormous contribution the PCA has made to printmaking in Australia and to Australian culture over the last fifty years.

Michael Schlitz (artist) and Karen Knight (poet), Balancing, 2013, relief woodblock on Kozo paper, triptych, 66 x 264 cm, edition of 4. Courtesy Dick Bett Gallery.