The Residency Show
4 - 22 December 2006
Curated by Richard Harding
Non-print based artists often state how they would, "love to make some prints but..."1 This desire to create prints is usually countered by a humble trepidation of the medium due to its labour intensive processes and technical precision.
To counter this, the premise for the 2005/6 Print Summer Residency Program was to select artists with an art practice that had a leaning towards or was informed by a print-like aesthetic, as a way of opening up the program and the medium to artists other than printmakers. The objective was to introduce or re acquaint artists, from a range of medium bases, to a variety of print media.
Sculpture based artist Kate Just has combined the newest arrival of print mediums, digital, with knitting, crocheting and macramé to evoke the cultish power of craft. Just's melting pot of electronic collage plays with history on many levels. Set in an installed environment featuring wilted knitted candelabras, and a hand latch-hooked hellfire welcome mat, the work creates a poignant yet humorous discourse on woman's work and the witch...
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.2
In a subversive and liberated manner, Mark McDean's work also employs craft to merge imagery and meaning as needlework is utilized to undermine the traditional notions of maleness. McDean's practice has flirted with a print aesthetic for many years. His use of the multiple and reproductive techniques with innovative installation creates spatial environments that suggest a unique otherness. "It is the place where the physical and material world bumps, twists, threads and weaves with the psychological and cultural".3
Stacey Ryan's prints have a quirky Eurocentric flavour and, "draws on a mixture of kitsch and baroque decoration to compare trashiness with preciousness".4 The constructed faux décor uses archetypes to construct a narrative of multiple readings through scale and position. The feminine interior is countered with the trophy-like deer or elk, while the headless woman in the 'spare room' conjures up the Hollywood style Victorian ghost floating down the stairs. The elusive narrative is purposeful and suggests that everything is connected in some way.
Simon Pericich's work compliments and challenges the perception of the rarified print. With a Warholesque aesthetic, he uses swimming pool plastic to screen onto, and gaffer tape to install. 'DOOOM ISLAND' is placed in a contemporary Atlantis setting through materials and requires the viewer to 'read the fine print'. Pericich talks of, "all the things your mum warned you about", and "all the stuff on the news that makes you not want to get out of bed in the morning". Is this a 21st Century Danger Island?5 Or am I trying to find Wally?6 Either way, the fun and fantastical notion of 'DOOOM ISLAND' is highlighted with glitter and a sense of the theatrical to ease the reality of the social commentary and dark humour embedded in the work. You might not find Wally, but you will navigate through otherness no matter who you are.
When Michael Vale talks of "interventions"7 in his work the word at first summons interpretations of a twelvestep program or the sitcom Seinfeld8. Though for Vale it is the use of found images and inserting the motif of the Smoking Dog to construct a new contemporary narrative through collage, painting and now print. The Smoking Dog was one of the first popular subjects in the "age of mechanical reproduction"9 and has been appropriated and incorporated into Vale's practice as a symbol of the disregarded, or the wandering outsider. The anthropomorphic satire of J.J. Grandville10 and Cassius Marcellus Coolidge11 has been re located into a contemporary ironic humour, that then elevates what is considered lowbrow illustration and kitsch back into the rarefied limited edition print. This conceptual folding of medium and idea continues on and then dissipates like smoke rings in the original images triggering smokers to call the Quit line 137848.12
Kate Stones 'Cat Problem' uses the making of prints in its most social form, to discuss cultural conflicts, using the relationship between native and introduced species. Stones talks of her growing awareness through involvement and care of land in central Victoria. "Perhaps this is a safer option than looking to our own introduced status and the impact that Western culture has had on the landscape, its' biology, and peoples".13 From her background in drawing and photo-media, Stones presents an apparently homogenous Australian landscape through the medium of dry point etching and introduces the 'foreign' element of photo-collage, representing animals at the top of the most wanted list of introduced species.
Looking into Ursula Bloch's circular works becomes hypnotic. The swirling letters and numbers pull the viewer into a vortex of possibilities that baffle and frustrate. This plays with the idea of speech not seen, not heard, not yet deciphered. There is a random nature to the placement of letters and numbers, almost always never spelling anything out but every so often revealing a word. The work implies the use of codes or a cipher disc14 that could reveal secrets or much needed information. The baffling nature of the work is its key. The idea of a continuum or structures that are continuous fool the viewer into trying again and again and are thus drawn in to the geometric forms that mimic the ideas of abstraction. Bolch's work counter balances itself and places special stress on the centre where there is a respite from the self-conscious search for meaning. This disparate group of artists has been united through the socializing element of printmaking and has added to the ranks of the medium, seven more practitioners.
Coordinator or Printmaking
1. This is an anecdotal statement I have heard over many years. Add an excuse after the but... and you will get the idea.
2. William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1 http://www-tech.mit.edu/Shakespeare/macbeth/
3. Julie Adams, Catalogue Essay, Monash University 2005
4. Stacey Ryan, Artist statement, 2006
5. Danger Island was part of the Banana Splits Adventure Hour TV-Series 1968-1970
6. Wally is the character created by the British illustrator Martin Handford. The goal is to fi nd a certain man, Wally, in a busy picture.
7. Vale's use of the word intervention relates to the architectural use through adding or subtracting elements to change an existing spatial environment.
8. Seinfeld, The Pez Dispenser, Episode#: 31, Season#: 3, First Aired: January 15, 1992 Prod Code: 314
9. Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, essay 1936
10. In 1828–29 J.J.Grandville' published Les Métamorphoses du jour a series of lithographs in which individuals with the bodies of men and faces of animals are made to play a human comedy.
11. Cassius Marcellus Coolidge's illustrations of gambling dogs found a huge audience via mass production in the early 1900s
12. Quit Victoria, http://www.quit.org.au/
13. Kate Stones, Artist statement, 2006
14. Simon Singh, The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes & Code Breaking, The Mechanisation of Secrecy, p124 London Fourth Estate, 1999 The cipher disc was invented in the 15th century by Leon Alberti and is considered the earliest cryptographic machine.