I'm passionate about art, poetry, the English language and all things maritime, and I also love drawing: https://touchpaperdrawingtips.wordpress.com/ Join the Fight for the Reef! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Postcards-for-the-Reef/997018917032291
Meet the matrix behind the print, meet the printmakers too
An assemblage of type, ready for printing (or embossing in this case), created by Jacob Habner
Mrs. Harris' shop is a small gallery that's always full of big surprises. Jo Harris, the third Mrs. Harris and the gallery owner, likes to exhibit small works to match the small space, but they are always top quality and bursting with originality.
The latest exhibition, Matrix, is as intriguing as its title. Its curator, Simone Tippett of Union St Printmakers, says "I want people to discover that prints are original works of art - beautiful physical objects that look and feel different to anything that can be generated by a digital printer".
On the gallery walls you will see not artworks, but the plates or blocks from which the artwork was produced. The artworks themselves are laid in two piles on a table, with a pair of white gloves beside them, inviting you to pick up and handle each print and compare it with its 'matrix' on the wall.
Lithographic stone, with an image, 'Windswept', by Liz Butler
Yes, now you know this is an exhibition about printmaking. If you've never actually been in a printmaker's studio or made a print yourself, you will be fascinated by this exhibition. Some of the plates are beautiful objects themselves, but they are often quite unlike the prints that are produced from them. There are etched copper plates, wood blocks, silk screens and lino blocks – most of those processes would be vaguely familiar – but there are also drypoints (a sharp point makes the line) scratched into acrylic, collagraphs made from matboard, found objects and glue, a lithographic stone (too heavy to suspend on the wall), PCB plates (actually the material used for making circuit boards) and an assemblage of type from an old letterpress machine.
The first thing you'll notice is that the matrix is 'back to front' – if it has text in it, the writing is backwards. Even experienced printmakers sometimes forget that the resulting print will be reversed, and that can be a nightmare if you're halfway through carving the block!
Nick Falkner's print of 'then Now Soon' with rainbow roll
Another revelation is that the block or plate can produce so many different results. For instance, a simple but beautifully drawn etching appears totally different when printed onto a number of different colours, as well as in white ink on a red background – my favourite version. When you look at the plate you can see how the lines have been etched into the metal by ferric chloride, producing a fine, concise line that holds the ink when it is rubbed across the surface. The polished surface of the plate is wiped clean before the print is made, so only the fine black lines are pulled out of the etched hollows by the pressure of an etching press.
Plates don't even have to be either inked or etched to produce both a beautiful matrix and a magical print. Some of the copper and steel plates on the wall are merely rusted, rather than etched, and look like sculptures. The resultant print, made from the rust, with no ink, has a character all of its own.
So far I've only talked about the plates and the prints, and made no mention of the artists. The printmakers in this exhibition are all Adelaide based, and many of them trained at AC Arts or at O'Halloran Hill. Some of them are established, while others are just starting out. When you come to this exhibition you will want to engage in a real life dialogue with each artist, to find out more about how they print – and how they think. You will have this opportunity – the gallery is attended every day by one or more printmakers, who will be pleased to tell you more about the plates and how they were created.
'Tree', PCB board designed and etched by Guadalupe Cincunegui
Although neither the plates and blocks, nor the prints on display are for sale, other unframed prints made from each matrix can be bought during the exhibition. They are all very reasonably priced, and will be collectors' items in the future! And if you want to try your hand at printmaking, go and visit Union St Printmakers, where you can enrol in classes to suit your ambitions.
Anna Austin, 'Shelf with Jug', mezzotint on copper