ARTISTS IN CONVERSATION WITH THE EXHIBITION CURATOR, KATHERINE ROBERTS, MANLY ART GALLERY AND MUSEUM: ANGELA HAYSON.
Angela Hayson The Shelter of Ourselves
Relief, Monoprint, drawing, carborundum on Japanese paper
How does your work address the theme ‘to the edges’?
Conceptually I was thinking about how individuals preserve their core identity and at the same time make subtle shifts in how they present when in a group. How far to the edges of our authentic self are we willing to be seen and be known? The work is about dual identities, accepting our idiosyncrasies in order to remain authentic to self, and also constructing a public persona according to social norms and expectations when connecting and relating to others. The multiple identities are implied by the inversion and juxtaposition of figurative forms within the image.
On a physical level, multiple sheets of Japanese kozo paper are layered with mixed media and printed elements, with the image intentionally extending to the outer edges of the paper. The work has been developed from matrixes of wood, cardboard and rigid plastic sheet combining relief, drawing, monoprint and carborundum.
Can you describe the technical process you went through to achieve the finished work and what technical challenges you encountered along the way?
The Shelter of Ourselves is a multiple panel work developed from the 3-D forms of two small bronze figurative sculptures I had recently made. I was interested in the push and pull of the negative and positive shapes within the forms, which became key elements in the printed image.
Having the opportunity to work large, I sketched up a composition at small scale to reflect what might convey the subject of shifting identities and then gridded up to the intended full-size dimensions. The vast up-scaling required numerous stages of drawing and redrawing with continual modifications and additions to the image, working out the relationship of shapes and spaces, along with the aligning of the image at the edges of the matrix as it transitioned from one panel to the next.
Preparing eight large cardboard panels to receive the carborundum for the final printed element in the work required the transfer of the drawing to the boards. Gel medium was applied to the drawing and carborundum was dropped into the medium. Several coats of shellac were applied to protect areas not to be printed, allowing discretionary wiping back of the ink.
The non-uniform backgrounds encompassed relief printing from woodblocks, drawing with wax pencils and graphite, scrunching up the sheets of paper into balls and re-stretching out to flatten again, and then monoprinting again on top from rigid plastic sheet in readiness to take the carborundum print element. I used a printing press to release each of the inked layers onto the paper.
The backgrounds were experimental and enjoyable. The greatest technical challenge, which I had not anticipated, was the inking and wiping back of the large carborundum imagery. It was slow, arduous and physically exhausting due to the many narrow and inaccessible areas requiring wiping out. I consider the project a success in that it has been a departure from my previous work and capable of having a strong and sustaining influence on future work.
What do you see as the role of Sydney Printmakers for the next 60 years?
Having built up an impressive reputation for high quality artistic output and professionalism over six decades, the group is well positioned to further evolve with a focus on striving for increased recognition of print media in relation to other art forms. I believe this is an exciting time for the group to encourage new printmaking enthusiasts into the membership, encourage experimentation to extend the possibilities of print media and foster a culture of excellence.
How do you see the role of printmaking, in general, contributing to the conversation about contemporary art practice?
Many printmakers, along with artists of other disciplines, make work that is a reflection of their own world, as well as the changing world including environmental, social, political and cultural issues of the time. The diversity of methods and techniques available within print media provides extensive opportunities for raising awareness of contemporary issues, presented in unique and distinct ways.