| review by Catherine Tempest |
The Pass it on project began during lockdown in early 2020 with the aim of keeping Newcastle Printmakers Workshop (NPW) members making art and remaining connected. The project has a three part theme of the city, woodlands, and urban meets nature. Currently on exhibition at NPW is the resulting work of fourteen members who participated in the project. Artists formed two groups of five, and one group of four. Each artist started an image, then passed it on to another artist for them to add their part. These were subsequently passed on to another artist until all artists in the group had contributed to each other’s work. Carol Archer, whose recent work focuses on artistic collaboration as well as its role in a tertiary education context, wrote in their artist statement for Pass it on, “Working with five people was challenging as it meant that each of us, at each stage but the last, needed to calculate what level of contribution would assist the development of the image while respecting others’ completed and potential contributions.”
There was an open choice of media to compensate for artists not having access to a printmaking workshop during lockdown. As the project progressed, a mashup of ideas formed into unique hybrid outcomes. Printmakers who are normally committed to a singular medium combined different print processes and non-print processes, while others were familiar with using print as an integral part of a broader mixed-media approach. The variety of technical processes reveal decisions that were guided by the project at hand. Media in the works include drawing, painting, watercolour, linocut, collage, screen print, wood block, sculpture, drypoint, collagraph, stencilling, chine-collé and etching.
In the four works based on the theme of the city, Sally Picker, Judy Henry, Vicki McNamara and Amanda Donohue depict scenes which may suggest the city is interrelated with, but also separate from nature. Their work includes city buildings reflecting the sun and other colourful planetary shapes; organic patterned panels decorating small house sculptures; and birds appearing as overseers of human habitation. (see below)
In the works by Ileana Clarke, Therese Wilkins, Carol Archer, Penny Wilson and Joh Waller, the subject of woodlands is rendered as shady foregrounds against light open backgrounds, which the viewer could imagine as quiet refuges from which they, in the woodland, can see all, but anyone in the field outside cannot see them. One work departs from the elements in the other four works to present an intriguing lone tree with a view of the tree’s subterranean root structure. (see below)
Michelle Hallinan, Gina McDonald, Melissa Murry, Chris Clifton and Robin Hundt have created distinct territories using composition, colour and narrative to convey the theme of ‘urban meets nature’. There is an embedded sense that urban dwellers have a lost connection with ‘nature’. Face masks and hand sanitiser are included as the almost unavoidable subject of Covid 19 is dealt with as nature surfacing in urban areas as an unseen viral presence. One imaginative artist has inserted quirky little spaceships reminding us that nature goes beyond planet earth! (see below)
These collaborations make for interesting conversations, especially as they are accompanied by photographs of the intermediate stages of development. Pass it on is an example of how collaboration can have a positive effect on creative risk-taking. In respect to the amount of risk involved in this particular project, it is noted that editions were not produced, which meant there was only one original of each image with which to work. Archer writes in their statement ‘Inevitably aspects of previous work are changed or lost in order to make an image that works, and this feels both exciting and risky.” In the photographs accompanying the exhibition there are details that do not appear in the final works, attesting to the inevitability Archer mentions. Penny Wilson addresses the point of risk in their artist statement, writing that the ‘process encouraged spontaneity and confidence in taking new directions on works that could not simply be discarded as with our personal practice but instead were to be passed on.’ NPW is open to the public from 10am – 2pm every Tuesday except in school holidays and is located at 27 Popran Road, Adamstown, NSW. Pass it on will remain on exhibition throughout September. www.newcastleprintmakersworkshop.org