Sydney Printmakers: Borderless. Megalo Print Gallery, 21 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston. Until November 2. megalo.org.
Printmaking is probably the most collaborative of all of the major art mediums. Shared facilities and shared expertise have characterised printmaking since its earliest days and many printmakers see themselves as part of an extended network of professional artists.
In the almost 60 years of its existence, Sydney Printmakers has included most of the major printmakers of the time and the situation has not changed.
Today, there are about 60 members in Sydney Printmakers, 33 of whom are included in this exhibition. It is an exceptionally rich and diverse show with some brilliant work.
As a sweeping generalisation, Sydney printmaking, as epitomised here, is becoming far less new-media driven and more artists focus on analogue techniques. Woodcuts, linocuts, etchings plus the occasional screenprint hold sway, while digital and inkjet prints are the exception. It may be foolhardy to leap to conclusions on the basis of this exhibition, but it appears that digital technologies are being increasingly absorbed into the toolbox of Australian printmakers rather than being seen as an end product. Many may employ computers to formulate an image but employ traditional technologies to realise the final print.
The exhibition is dominated by some brilliant and ambitious woodcuts worked on a large scale by established masters, including Roslyn Kean, Susan Rushforth, Anthea Bosenberg, Angela Hayson and Helen Mueller. Rew Hanks is represented by one of his unbelievably detailed narrative linocuts, Josephine’s Ark (2019), while Graham Marchant’s linocut, The Cranford Rose Garden (2015-18), has an intriguing complexity produced through a deceptive simplicity of means.
It is exciting how some of the “elders” of the printmaking tribe are branching out in new directions. Seraphina Martin’s Finding solace in the land (2019) is a light and highly evocative etching with watercolour, while Susan Baran’s huge tour de force Allure (2019) is a complex piece where she has collaged etchings and relief prints into a rippling, intricate composition.
One beauty of printmaking is its sense of intimacy through which it can convey an artist’s personality. Examples include the refined lyrical sensibility of Tanya Crothers’ collagraph Black Springs re-visited (2019), Wendy Stokes’ delicate Blended geographies (2019) combining relief, monoprint and stencil, Salvatore Gerardi’s striking Pervading memories: shadow lines (2019) or Andrew Totman’s spatially ambiguous floating monoprint, Touch (2018).
There are also some of the classics of Sydney printmaking, such as Barbara Davidson’s etching collagraph Voters and parliamentarians (2019) with its humour and brilliance of observation, and Bernhardine Mueller’s All the rivers run? (2018) with its dry humour and a created personal narrative.
There is a strong, punchy inkjet print by Marta Romer, Borderless (2019) and a bold, inventive screenprint by Nina Juniper, Self supporting #1 (2019), that depicts a crumbling industrial site she has screenprinted on a block of concrete. Her print conveys a range of possible readings with effective humour.
This is an exciting, adventurous exhibition that demonstrates that printmaking in Sydney is in ascendancy.