A moment when torn remnants of failed intaglio prints came together mentally. Something drew me away from my planned oil paintings and diverted me back to pieces of an old ‘jigsaw’. Unarticulated at the time, compositions that slipped away from my mind but returned and demanded unexpected attention.
The first image titled Leaving Lake Mungo, 2016 in diptych format, consists of a collagraph with an image of a dune that joins to an intaglio from which a figure is pulling away to merge into obscurity beneath layers of chine-colle and pieces of collage.
The second image titled Planning to Dive, 2016 refers to an older series of images titled The Diver, 2011, an allegory about a type of creative process. it consists of intaglio, collage and torn intaglio, transparent paper and pianola paper with punctured holes as well as a piece of pastel paper with frottage.
The Goddess Return, 2016 consists of a collagraph on top of which sits a small intaglio joined by transparent paper over silver leaf. The goddess image ‘joins the sky and earth’.
Post exhibition slump and scratching around in my studio, gathering together half done images left in mid-stream when I focussed on exhibition preparation. It is so easy to overlook a piece of paper put aside temporarily or put in the too hard basket when something else captures my imagination. However I found a half-finished etching with frottage that was part of my series about the Pilbara and the gorges at Karijini National Park. This one about Weano Gorge was dated and sited on the frottaged rice paper.
Somewhere in the process back in 2014 I got to the stage of shredding and tearing up parts of the original etching; areas that were badly printed, ink too thin or the opposite, sludgy, that were discarded and the best bits retained. I keep these pieces of original intaglio or collagraph and put them in a box containing many remnants consisting of torn rice paper, handmade paper, sketches or any other piece of interesting imagery, textures, lines, tones or colours. Unexpectedly one of these remnants completed this image.
The original process consisted of printing the black intaglio, wiping the light areas in order to intensify the highlights. Over this print I placed rice paper containing a frottage taken from the gorge but the image looked incomplete so months later I added reddish pastel and then a piece of red paper, now partly obscured. The next layer above consists of a rectangular shaped torn piece of paper containing part of the original intaglio but the opposite end of the original image. The torn image had fallen out of the remnant box and onto the floor where it caught my gaze as I rubbed in the red pastel and collaged the line of red paper on the left into the composition. The remnant seemed to ‘jump’ into the composition and now sits happily in its spot I think-fragments of paper and rock fragments.
Gorge Fragmentation, 1/1, 2015, intaglio, frottage and collage
Three artworks from my series titled And then the Ocean Rusted were the first to be sold on opening night. What was very heartening was the ‘return’ of “Karijini” to Perth in Western Australia by the purchaser, artist Susan Griffiths who works in similar media using frottage, but pushing it further than I do, and is exhibiting in Perth as I write.
The second image was about Weano gorge. The purchaser had embarked on an extensive bush walk in Karijini National Park in an area referred to as the Pilbara, at this particular location, descending into to this very deep gorge where to viewers from above, situated at the lookout, a person below was barely visible. My frottage was taken from the rim of the gorge.
Rust 1 taken home by an artist, ceramacist and scientist who also walks in out of the way wild places. I heard on Radio National a very apt description by Andrew Denton who referred to this exploration in the Outback as, quoting from memory off the top of my head, ” the search for wild places that imprint on the heart”. Loved it.
The other wild place, Lake Mungo, while not 3 billion years old like the Pilbara, is known for its 40,000-60,000 (circa.) archaeological Indigenous history and its haunting landscape.
Touching the Terrain at Mungo 2, 7/8, V.E. 2015, etching collage, 14×27 print, 20×30 paper
The Sound of Mungo, 6/8, V.E. 2015, intaglio and silver leaf.
Occasionally a viewer would ask what V.E. stands for – Variable Edition. This type of edition stands in contrast to the traditional Edition where multiples of the one image are reproduced, for example 1/100 up to 100/100. A large edition is possible with a zinc plate and a larger number of images may be reproduced from a copper plate which is harder than zinc. However a collagraph plate is often not as robust and degrades quickly, cardboard especially and even on masonite – like material the surface texture may be fragile.
My reason for variable editions has nothing to do with these technical factors but is about boredom which descends when I just reproduce one image after another. My brain demands continual push and pull of the pictorial, textural and formal elements in various compositions and formats to feel satisfied. Then I often see things in different ways taking me off in other directions or a further development of the one I’m working in.
The purchasers of these three images love the environment and are engaged in various activities both employment, activism and hobbies that nurture out habitat.
Tidal Surge, 2010, intaglio and collage 26×16 cm print, 48×35 cm paper
Closer to home Tidal Surge is from my series Return to Sand and Water about erosion at Point Roadknight along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria areas and tracks of which are frequently walked by the purchaser. As years roll on more and more of this intriguing landform gradually being lost to the sea diminishes in size and texture. For instance the often termed Petrified Forest that is a part of this small promontory, consisting of mineralised root systems that resonate with images of ancient ruins, has eroded into rubble with very few ‘columns’ remaining. I feel as though I am recording one effect of Climate Change as seas rise.
Several friends, unable to come to my exhibition can view selected parts of the show online here. Many people relate to the bleached-out landscape of Lake Mungo and are haunted by it and, like me, have had quite a battle engaging with this amazing place as an archaeological, cultural and geological site.
I hadn’t set out to arrange artwork in a narrative sequence, however in the corridor of the gallery
I’ve noticed that on both walls are images about sand, erosion and climate changes. The ancient climate change thousands of years ago at Mungo depicted in small etchings sit opposite slightly larger etchings in which I had depicted aspects of erosion around Point Roadknight that is being rapidly transformed by incoming tides.
The images depicting aspects of Mungo are part of a variable edition. That is, one plate is used many times and combined with chine-colle and collage with the result that each image is a one off. I get really bored printing an edition in the traditional way, same image repeated as reproduction. I’m ok with about four identical images then I get bored and my mood demands change and variety. I’m sure I’m not alone here.
The chine-colle can be transparent or semi-transparent letting through underneath layers or alternatively opaque or metal leaf.
Sometimes in bleached-out places like Mungo the air has a metallic quality that’s hard to explain but its ‘shiny’ and ‘thin’.
Somehow by applying metals leaf I think I’ve made the atmosphere look a bit heavy but it does shine.
Because I had once lived in Central Queensland I was ready for the blast of heat and sensory bodily exposure. There are no cosy elements here; streams in which to cool off or gorges or foliage for shade, just desertification and dryness.
My first trip here was like a return to that type of country when I used to look for small micro climates in endless expanses of brigalow and mulga trees or like trying to paint in a dry river bed and observe small details like rocks and detritus left behind after the Wet.
Both these images, the composition and forms were arranged randomly, settled into this format as I pushed around each element then blew air onto the, at first, carefully arranged pieces of collage and then let hand made paper waft around and land anywhere. A bit more shuffling around, walking away, letting a few more elements land around central pieces of imagery, tearing more paper, overlapping to obtain transparencies and nuanced areas until the desired effect settled in my mind.
The pieces of collage consisted of torn drypoint etchings, intaglio etching, pastel and handmade papers as well as dotted pianola roll paper.
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