The work of 36 members of the Sydney Printmakers group is currently on display in a new exhibition at Umbrella Studio contemporary arts. Inspired by the studio’s name and tropical location, the Sydney-based collective decided to theme their show ‘In the Shade’, with an astoundingly diverse array interpretations resulting in a beautifully eclectic mix of works.
We caught up with Sydney Printmakers Janet Parker-Smith, Karen Ball and Denise Scholz-Wulfing ahead of the exhibition opening.
How did this exhibition come to be?:
Janet: I did a residency here, not last year but the year before and had a good relationship with Angela [Little, Umbrella’s Gallery Coordinator] and Jonathan McBurnie who works here as well and then we talked about the possibility of having Sydney Printmakers coming up and doing an exhibition in this space. We often find it hard to find big spaces in Sydney, so this was perfect because it meant people could make large works; and we haven’t shown here before, so we thought it was a good opportunity to come up to Townsville.
How has the theme been interpreted?
Karen: In a variety of ways. Some literal, some metaphorical, some through the technique. Everybody has interpreted it very differently.
Janet: My work is really about the environment and the fact that we go into animals’ spaces and we’re not really conscious of what we’re doing and we tend to take over. So for me, my animals – bird-like humans that are here – they’re trying to sit inside the shade to get some coverage and to get away from what we as humans are doing them.
Karen: My work is self-referential. I really refer to my life experience but I also reinterpret words in a different way, so I’ve been learning to knit and I’ve reinterpreted the knitting terms in my work. This is Casting On, Casting Off and Losing the Thread. When I started to learn to knit I realised the terms could mean a whole lot of things that have got nothing to do with knitting. Because I was interpreting ‘In the Shade’ as well, it’s like the meaning is in the shadow, and I’m drawing it out. That’s how these came about.
Denise: Mine are much more literal. I’m a very literal person. In printmaking you do a lot of proofs and in etching, the way I start off is to do the linework in the landscape and then you gradually add the tone or add the shade. With my work, I really play with the tone, the shade. So whilst a couple of these works look very similar, this is very light and white but I didn’t like the effect, I wanted that area to be more silhouetted, so I then put the tone back into the work. It’s the same with the bottom row here – playing with the tone – this tree just didn’t work being very light and I really pushed it back into making it much darker and it works with the composition much better. And also, talking about the conflict between man and nature and the landscape; and referencing the theme in the shadow or the shadow against the harsh Australian sun. Literal, but metaphorical as well.
Karen: That’s what’s great about the Sydney printmakers: nobody works with exactly the same mindset or exactly the same technique, event though we might be using one of numerous different printmaking techniques, everyone uses it in a different way and nobody would do the same work.
Printmakers seem to be a prolific bunch. What is it that makes you all so open to collaboration?
Janet: I think it’s because a lot of us have to share studios. The equipment for printmaking is so expensive, so we end up having to use facilities such as this where you can work with other people in a hired space with presses. Because of that, you end up talking to other people about your work and borrowing inks and materials, so I think that’s one reason.
Karen: Also printmaking is all about process. It’s not as if you start and finish something quickly. It goes through stages, so printmakers talk to each other a lot about process: ‘What did you do to get that? How did you go about it?’. You’ve gone through different processes, different stages for the print to evolve, so you’ll speak to other artists within a studio or meeting and ask ‘How did you achieve that?’. There’s a lot of discussion between printmakers. It’s all about people who like process, rather than the instant result. We’re all very patient people!
What makes this particular show different from others?
Karen: there’s a lot of different printmaking techniques on show here. Anyone who doesn’t know a lot about print – if they walk around a read about the different techniques, they’ll be quite amazed that it’s not just one form of printmaking. There’s also a lot of combinations of forms of printmaking. That’s the enlightening thing for people seeing print for the first time.
Janet: Not all works are on paper and not all works are two-dimensional. People use different substrates to get the end result.
In The Shade will be on display at Umbrella Studio contemporary art until 1 July 2018. Members of Sydney Printmakers will host an Encaustic Printmaking Demonstration on 10 June 2018.