ARTISTS IN CONVERSATION WITH THE EXHIBITION CURATOR, KATHERINE ROBERTS, MANLY ART GALLERY AND MUSEUM: GARY SHINFIELD
How does your work address the theme ‘to the edges’?
Dam 3: a surface of water is a mixed media work on multiple sheets of paper using painting, staining and print processes – it encompasses other media not usually associated with printmaking.
It was made on the edge of a dam, where water meets ground, and responds directly to the surrounding environment. It was also partially made from natural materials on hand.
Every stage of its making breaks with traditional printmaking approaches, with inking, rolling, printing and registration. Sheets of paper show creases and were shaped by working on the ground. The making of this work allows environmental elements to contribute.
Natural pigments were used – waratah sap and charcoal stains, and a slurry made from sandstone clay and water.
It is ephemeral and will change over time.
It was made through intuitive experimentation with process, responding to aspects of site – searching for an essence of the Australian bush in summer.
Can you describe the technical process you went through to achieve the finished work and what technical challenges you encountered along the way?
This work was made as a response to a site, a place in the Blue Mountains. I found a place to work intuitively beside a dam, a body of water. I worked on the ground by its edge. Water was available to mix with clay. A number of sheets of Korean paper were stained and painted with a solution of clay and water.
The second stage was to cut and carve into large sheets of lino and overlay these by hand printing with a baren. Working this way, I played with changes in pressure and by making rhythmic patterns with the baren.
Water based media and rubber based inks were both used to build a layered surface.
One night, a full moon came up over the dam and we watched tiny insects disturb its reflection on a surface of water. The reflected moon shimmered and dispersed like fireworks on a blue black surface. The two blue panels in the work evoke these sensations. The middle two panels suggest drought and bleached light. The first two panels contain blackened, burnt shapes, and the memory of fire.
One of the greatest challenges was to work in the environment itself with heat, insects, paper blowing away and creasing, and constantly changing natural phenomena teasing the eye with possibility.
What do you see as the role of Sydney Printmakers for the next 60 years?
To continue on as it has been doing. The current exhibition shows great diversity and a high level of excellence within the field of printmaking and I hope this continues.
How do you see the role of printmaking, in general, contributing to the conversation about contemporary art practice?
I see it as another medium with its own intrinsic qualities and graphic potential . It is also a visual language with historical roots and contemporary applications. The current show demonstrates engagement with contemporary issues – the environment, global warming, the pandemic, social and indigenous issues, immigration, and technological change. Printmaking is a relevant and stimulating medium for revealing and drawing attention to these and other subjects.