Marian Crawford

In Artist Profile 54, Marian Crawford wrote about her practice, through which she searches for 'links and relationships between a printed image and the printed page; poetry and the book.' Her upcoming show with Andrew Totman at Queenscliff Gallery works through the multiplicity of these relationships.

Although now based in Melbourne, I spent my childhood on the Central Pacific Ocean island Banaba, part of the nation of Kiribati. In between bouts of study – including Melbourne University, Victorian College of the Arts and RMIT University – I lived for almost two years in Northern Italy.

I’ve been trying to identify why I am so interested in printed artworks that rely on the translation of an image from matrix to paper. Perhaps it was the experience of learning other languages – Kiribati as a child and Italian as an adult – that prompted this intrigue with the gap between one language and another. Printed images raise questions about fidelity to an original, a question that translators and interpreters also grapple with.

I have been making books lately, linking the printed page of a book with the fine art print. I’ve worked with poets and the play of text as a visual field, learning to set and print metal type (aka letterpress printing) for these projects. In GINTARAS (2019), made with writer Francesca Jurate Sasnaitis, each word of her poem was composed letter by lead letter. The words accumulated into phrases, the spaces around them were also constructed in lead. Once gathered, the type was printed. And once printed, each letter and piece of spacing was distributed back into its drawer to wait for the next excursion.

‘Gintaras’ is Lithuanian for ‘amber’ and Sasnaitis’ family originates from Lithuania, one of the Baltic states where amber has been gathered and treasured since antiquity. In GINTARAS, amber represents the turbulent relationship between earth and air, stasis and movement, father and daughter. The text weaves between images of traditional Baltic textile patterns and pages of brilliantly coloured cellophane reflecting on the infinite variegations of amber.

Newspapers were once constructed with this letterpress technology. If the type could speak it might disclose the many histories it has constructed, and comment on the shifting sands of news cycles. The historical connection between prints and the news (now less trusted, it seems) pairs well with the idea of the migration of images, from one origin to another. When news items are refashioned as artworks, there’s an opportunity for an imaginative recreation of the world, and this is something I’ve explored as part of an artist-run group ‘The News Network Project’ (thenewsnetworkproject.org). I’m working towards an exhibition ‘NEWSROOM’ with Alison Alder and Richard Harding in late May.

During the 2020 Covid lockdown, I have been working on an artist book hantise / haunts / haunting with Angela Brennan. Alongside this, I’ve made a series of works that are related but different. These works are printmaking experiments made in my small home studio. Unable to rely on the usual resources, I used furnishing fabrics. Mounted on board and printed as relief prints, these fabrics were translated into another language. I folded the paper substrate to fit my small press, circles were incised into the printed sheets and backed with cellophane, and the excised circular forms were stitched into new places on further pages. The boundaries and borders of the layered surfaces and shapes of the images propose the repetition of segregated and shared patterns; proximity and difference.

The form of these works was developed from a series of earlier works titled Diffraction for the Picturing the Island at c3 Gallery, Abbotsford, in 2018. Starting with historical images of life on Pacific Ocean islands found in State Library of Queensland’s collection, I recontextualised the images as relief and intaglio prints, re-presenting them in a more contemporary visual language. Diffraction was made using the strategies of repetition, separation and connection; and acknowledges my history with
Banaba as a child-of-colony.

The language of Kiribati was my second language as a child, perhaps this was the initial spark of my ongoing interest in translation and gaps, and the distance between things that is intrinsic to the methods and history of printed artworks.

Marian Crawford/Andrew Totman
22 April – 10 May 2021
Queenscliff Gallery, Victoria

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