New Australian Printmaking

An upcoming exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria showcases the work of four established artists – Megan Cope, Shaun Gladwell, Tim Maguire, and Patricia Piccinini – exploring printmaking with the assistance of the Australian Print Workshop.

Comprising sixty-eight works by four artists in the heights of their careers, New Australian Printmaking encapsulates senses of both resolution and revolution. Revolving, the show explores a turn in each artist’s practice, as they experiment with a medium for which they’re not most known, or in which they’re not (or, now, in which they weren’t) most practiced. The feeling of resolution lies, on the other hand, as much in the exhibition as an entity unto itself as it does in the the accomplished works individually. This show is very much complete: it’s the first time that all works produced by each artist over their respective fellowships with the Australian Print Workshop (APW) will be collected into one place. It is set, then, to be much like Patricia Piccinini’s “Skywhales,” which populate some of the exhibited pieces: behemoth and beguiling, enlivening and difficult (perhaps even unwise) to ignore. 

Each of the four exhibited artists undertook a Fellowship with the APW between 2017 and 2021. Awarded annually, the Fellowship is the major award program of its kind, allowing its participants to expand their practice through research, learning, and experimentation guided by the expertise of the APW’s master printers – who are acknowledged in the captions for each work, as they well should be. Supplementary material including printing plates, proofs, and documentary footage of the artists and printers in the studio accompanies the exhibition, illustrating and inviting audiences into the pedagogical and creative stories behind the works. 

Piccinini created two suites of work on her fellowship: one with computer-generated and hand-drawn imagery of her well-known Skywhale family, and the other exploring a more loosely clustered, yet longstanding, set of interests in nature, the body, and the uncanny. Gladwell’s work uses typically hybridic modes of production, involving both the body and various image technologies, to play with the limits of our corporeal forms and the vocabulary of street culture. Megan Cope extends her research interests in cartographical forms and place-naming, especially in reference to her own Quandamooka Country, while Tim Maguire elaborates visually and technically on his recent suite, Dice Works, using charcoal drawings as the basis for a set of colour prints – whose exact colourific properties were determined by the roll of dice.

Tony Ellwood, Director at the NGV, comments that “this initiative has revealed the surprising and unexpected ways that printmaking can expand the practice of contemporary artists working today, as well as the consummate skill of APW’s team of master printers.” Far from a practice which is simply iterative, characterised by repetition and constancy, printmaking here becomes a field for play, for development, and for slant invention.

New Australian Printmaking 
13 May – 11 September 2022
Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

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