How hot is printmaking right now?

How Hot is Printmaking Right Now?

REVIEW: Fremantle Arts Centre Printmaking Award

'A two-legged dingo stole Lindy's tears' All rights reserved Jazmina Cininas 2008

'A two-legged dingo stole Lindy's tears' All rights reserved Jazmina Cininas 2008

The daunting diversity of work at this year’s Fremantle Art Centre Print Award

This year’s Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award was largely overwhelming. The variation in artists’ praxis between works was so disparate they appear incomparable. Due to the nature of the award, a ‘print’ was always the final stage, however, the mode by which to get there and importance of printing techniques varied immensely.

How is one to evaluate and compare, for example, Noel McKenna’s printed etching Very Woofy (2009) with Ria Green’s work Extended Family (2007)? The former being a two dimensional work consciously aware of its print technique and in the later, the print itself appears secondary to its sculptural form. In this reviewer’s opinion, in order to fully appreciate the diverse range of works exhibited at the Fremantle Art Centre one should be in possession of two things; a Printmaking term sheet and subcategories by which to appreciate works that use similar methodology and technical skill. By not appreciating each work in such a manner, attempts to analyse would equate to trying to compare, for example, the realist perfection of a pre-Raphaelite painter to the abstract expressionist work of Jackson Pollock, without knowing the art historical back story.

The first category I have fashioned for this analysis is the Digital Data Printing or as the Printmaking term sheet describes it, a plateless printing system, whereby a machine does the physical print for you. The most successful of these I believe was Christopher Young’s lightjet print entitled Five # 08 (2008). He utilised the larger and more precise colour coding to his advantage when printing this work, which has a yellow hue present throughout the warm colour spectrum.

The Book Format for Print works were one of the most polished of those in the exhibition including the acquisitive prize winner Daminano Bertoli’s work Continuous Family (2009). In this category I found the most intriguing work to be one that was a little on the ‘frayed’ side. The tabloid newspaper format of Deborah Beaumont’s Fourfold(2009) took the bound category in a different direction with the digital prints exploding colour meshes and overexposed photographs. Though not necessarily considered a ‘bound book’ the work stood well on its own against its more pristine counterparts in utilizing the book form and digital print method harmoniously.

The Traditional Prints category arguably encompasses my favourite works from the exhibition and includes all your etchings, linocuts, woodcuts and all those technical ‘household’ printing names. In this category two works really stood out for me. The linocut by Jazmina Cininas called A Two-Legged Dingo Stole Lindy’s Tears complex in its technical skill and fantastical in subject matter it stood out as one of the more evocative works. The other work that took my interest was the etching on Hahnemuhle paper by Bettina Hill, Action (Burst Relief) (2009), which almost looked like an aerial photograph of a distant land and piqued my curiosity about how all its subtleties were created.

I found the Print-Come-Sculpture works in the exhibition to be some of the most confounding and innovative, challenging the traditional notion of ‘print art as 2D’. The most worthy of note was Raquel Ormella’s work Very Noisy (Rubber Stamps) which literally left the printing process up too you. This work, now also on exhibit at the MCA, consists of four rubber stamps created by the artist that you may use to print at your leisure. This work reveals the appealing simplicity of the print methodology.

The Many-Mediums Print proved a popular category this year with many artists choosing to layer, embellish and stylise works with a variety of materials. An exemplary work was that of non-acquisitive prize winner Peter Alwast, with his digital print and oil on canvas entitled Clouds. Remarkable in this section was a woodcut work that incorporated paint marker and mapping pins by Susanna Castleden, who’s Satellite Spotting (2009) provokes closer inspection with its hidden objects beyond that of usual aesthetic critique.

Though my categories are not set-in-stone they do provide a treasure map by which to navigate the exhibition. Without these sub-categories or at least knowledge of the process behind each print technique you may just miss the highly unique and complex technical work that has gone into some of the works exhibited at this year’s Print Award.

Joanna Gould