To Townsville, With Love

Umbrella Studio contemporary arts' first exhibition since the Townsville floods, Postcards from the North & South, will launch this Saturday night at 380 Flinders Street. IMAGE: Numbat (detail) by Sandy Fisher


It’s a word that has been thrown around lots over the past couple of months, and for good reason: rarely have we seen our community come together as much as they have following Townsville’s severe weather at the start of February.

From providing shelter to neighbours through to helping complete strangers clean out their houses or giving them a shoulder to cry on, the level of support and companionship citywide has been heart-warming.

This sense of community makes Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts’ Postcards from the North and South exhibition all the more meaningful. The exhibition features artworks sent in as part of a print exchange, facilitated by Townsville’s PressNorth Printmakers and Victoria’s Firestation Print Studio – and which this year will also feature work by Blue Grass Printmakers and Second State Press from the USA.

PressNorth Printmaker and event organiser Zelma Schulten said the exchange had been especially difficult for Townsville artists this year – but they didn’t let that stop them.

“This year’s exhibition has been particularly challenging due to the recent flooding, but our members did not disappoint. Many of our members were affected but despite being exhausted, still finalised and delivered their prints,” Zelma said.

“It was heart-warming to hear that one of our printmakers had to evacuate their home at short notice and her prints were one of the priority items she took with her.”

IMAGE: Night Flyer by Kerrie Cleverdon (PressNorth Printmakers)

Postcards from the North & South has been a recurring print exchange since its inception, and quickly became global.

“One of PressNorth’s members, Rhonda Stevens, came up with the idea in 2011. She frequently visited Edith May, the manager of Firestation Print Studio at the time, and they discussed the idea of exchanging postcard-sized works for two collaborated exhibitions.

“The concept was embraced by everyone as the works were small so costs for participants would be minimal, and the first exhibitions opened in 2013.

“Since 2014 international guest studios have been involved, with prints travelling to Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, and the USA. I took over the project from Rhonda in 2016 and it’s a project I continue to work passionately on.”

The 2019 exhibition will feature a record 125 prints by 95 participants from the four studios.

“As PressNorth are celebrating our 10th anniversary this year, we decided to go big and invited two American groups to join us. Each participant presents the first few prints from an edition – with one to be exhibited at each location – with over 30 members from PressNorth involved in each exhibition.

“PressNorth began in 2009 with roughly 20 local printmakers who wished to share their knowledge and skills with backgrounds ranging from emerging to professional printmakers. Today we are a vibrant community-based and not-for-profit organisation with more than 60 members striving to promote innovative printmaking, foster excellence, inspire, and transfer skills.”

10 years since forming, PressNorth has successfully fostered a global community of artists who continue to inspire and educate each other – all from an act as simple as sending a postcard.

“This year’s works range from very traditional printmaking techniques such as etching, linocut, mezzotint and drypoint to solar plate and digital prints. Subjects range from personal investigation and social awareness to nature and experiences while travelling. The works are well-executed prints, mostly done by hand, and all with a lot of passion.”

Catch Postcards from the North & South along with other exhibitions at Umbrella Studio contemporary arts’ temporary venue, 380 Flinders Street, from 13 April – 12 May.

IMAGE: For All the Times by Sarah Pitrus (Second State Press)


Irene Rae – PressNorth Printmakers, Townsville AUS
“For me the exchange is an important event. It allows us to be involved as a group locally and to participate with other printmakers in Australia and overseas. While the overseas country varies from year to year, Townsville and Melbourne stay consistently. The interaction with other printmakers expands our view of current trends and allows us to see what other groups are doing.”

Karen Neal – Firestation Print Studio, Melbourne AUS
“I’m fortunate to be one of the printmakers that has a studio upstairs in our building, an old firestation. This exchange is a great opportunity to spread our work to new audiences. One of the unique characteristics of printmaking is the ability to generate multiple images. Compared to many other mediums, this creates the opportunity to enable much wider sharing of original artwork. I really like the postcard size and find it good for experimenting with processes before trying larger prints.”

Adrienne Dixon – Bluegrass Printmakers, Kentucky USA
“This is our inaugural year in the print exchange. We have eight printmakers participating and I’m sure we would be happy to continue to contribute to this project in the future. I think it’s of great importance for artists to not only share ideas, but also for people in general to exchange culture and inspiration. Printmaking has been a very fun and freeing practice for me, and I hope I can contribute to spreading the knowledge and joy of printmaking with others moving forward.”

Ashley Limes Castellana – Second State Press, Pennsylvania USA
“We were honoured to be invited to participate in this exhibition. This exchange is perfect for a studio like Second State Press, as our members work in a variety of mediums and subject matter and the exchange highlights our range, skill, and love of print. Our mission is to foster the development of ideas and innovation in printmaking by providing artists with a professional, affordable and supportive workspace. Opportunities like this are critical for us to be able to share our work on a global scale.”

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