Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 19

Some Contemporary New Zealand Printmakers and their Processes of Work

Truth to materials has. . . been one of the most important concepts in establishing the autonomy of print during the 20th century. For it is in stressing the nature of their means that artists have broken away from the immemorial conception of prints as imitations of works in the unique media. PAT GILMORE The structure of the paper, the management of chemical processes in etching, and the variable printing process itself represent to the graphic artist what the canvas, the palette, and the application of paint represent for the painter. ERWIN GRADMANN

ANDREW BOGLE In this article I hope both to clarify the important distinctions between original prints and photo-mechanical reproductions, and to introduce the reader to the work of some New Zealand printmakers and the processes they use. While most people can distinguish an oil painting from a reproduction, not so many can tell a reproduction from an original print. Some people assume, erroneously, that anything printed is necessarily a reproduction. The problem is that the term 'print' has been devalued. Original prints and reproductions alike are called prints. Recently there has been discussion o~ this subject, on television, in some of the daily newspapers, and in letters to the editor of this periodical. The present article has been prompted by that discussion. However, it is necessary to say that the important distinctions can only be explained up to a point. Beyond that, one has to view original prints, either in the dealer galleries or the museums.

RODNEY FUMPSTON Sky-Marble Arch 1976 etching with surface-rolled colour

It is important it be understood that nothing to the detriment of reproductions is being suggested in this article. Reproductions serve valuable educational, promotional, and decorative functions. In magazines and art-books, and as posters and facsimiles, they give us an idea of what original works of art look like - works that we otherwise might not see. All major public art galleries make and sell reproductions of works from their collections. Yet no-one purchasing them thinks that he is acquiring an original work. In the case of a painting, the differences between the original and the reproduction are obvious. The dense opacity of thick oil-paint on canvas cannot be convincingly simulated by means of thin films of translucent ink on smooth paper - let alone its sometimes rough texture.

ROBIN WHITE A Buzzy Bee for Siulolovao 1977 screenprint

In the case of watercolours, the distinctions are not so pronounced; but they are still important. Watercolours are executed on specially textured handmade paper. The minute particles of pigment suspended in watercolour washes settle in the recesses of the textured paper, while the exposed ridges impart a. luminosity to the colours. This effect, which gives life to the watercolour, cannot be simulated with the oil-based inks that are used in the reproduction process. Just as oil-paint and watercolour are distinctive media, so too are the different types of print - woodcut, linocut, engraving, etching, aquatint, lithography, screenprint, etcetera. A printmaker's choice of one medium instead of another for a particular image should not be an arbitrary one. To some extent, the success of a print is dependent on the degree to which the artist's idea is sympathetic to the unique qualities of the medium he uses. To separate an image from the medium in which it is executed (which is the principle behind reproduction) is to disembody it. Although an image reproduced is given a new body, so to speak, it loses its life. For example, an etching, photographed and reprinted as lithography, loses the velvety, embossed quality it originally possessed. And a direct colour lithograph, each colour of which has been printed from a different plate or stone with a different ink, when photographed and reproduced in half-tone becomes radically altered. The colour

images in Art New Zealand have been printed in half-tone. On close inspection, they can be seen to be composed of minute dots of colour red, blue, yellow and black. These can never more than approximately represent the true colours of the original images, which are mixed and printed separately. Comparing different colour plates of the same. painting from different art books reveals how variations in colour can occur between reproductions. Printmakers sign and number editions of original prints to endorse the quality of their prints, which reproductions invariably undermine.

GENEVA TRELLE Where the Water Bends to Accommodate the Stems of Grass 1975 colour woodcut

Traditionally, an original print is thought of as an image executed directly on a matrix (stone, plate, woodblock etc.) by an artist; then inked, and transferred to paper by impression. An edition of prints is generally a set of multiples, or identical impressions, cloned from the master image executed on the matrix. Lately, however, more and more artists are sidestepping the concern with exact replication, preferring instead to modify successive impressions of an image to create series of related but unique images, which, in the tight sequence, chart a dynamic development. Picasso believed that if a print begged to be made it would not matter if only one impression was taken. The main print media can be grouped in four categories - relief, intaglio, stencil, and planographic. I will deal with each of these categories separately: first summarily defining them, explaining some of the processes, then briefly discussing the work of a few New Zealand printmakers who employ them. As some of the processes - for example

mezzotint and engraving - are not practised at all in this country (or very rarely), I will attend only to the more common ones.

MARK THOMAS Greed 1979 linocut

RELIEF A finger-print is the most basic of relief prints. Only the raised whorls of skin receive the ink and make a print. More sophisticated, but based on exactly the same principle, are woodcuts, wood-engravings and linocuts. With each of these techniques, areas of the block which are to print blank are cut away with knives or chisels to leave upstanding ridges and plateaus which, when inked and printed, produce the positive elements of the print. Inking is done with a roller, and printing with a press that resembles a washing mangle. Although popular with New Zealand printmakers around the nineteentwenties and 'thirties, the practice of relief painting has declined in popularity in recent years. In the case of the woodcut, it is perhaps the intractability of wood which discourages more widespread use, although this does not apply to lino, which is a reasonably soft material. The main reason is probably a shift in the modern movement away from styles sympathetic to organic media towards more technically sophisticated effects - photo-mechanical and hard-edge effects. Many of the senior contemporary artists working today, have produced relief prints at some time - for example William Sutton, May Smith, Colin McCahon and Robert

Ellis, although none regularly makes relief prints today. Of the younger artists, Bryan James, Philip Clairmont, Geneva Trelle and Mark Thomas have been the most consistent practitioners in recent years.

PHILIP CLAIRMONT Sink 1978 linocut

Geneva Trelle, an American artist who arrived in New Zealand in 1970 and lived in Nelson, produced a significant body of outsized polychrome woodcuts before returning to the United States in 1977. Combining traditional European and Japanese methods, she executed her images on large totara slabs, with handmade knives. Typical of her work is the large nature-study of a frog at the water's edge entitled Where the water bends to accommodate the stems of grass, which evokes a sense of solitude reminiscent of Japanese Ukiyo-e woodcuts of carp and goldfish. Many of Bryan James's woodcuts (especially those depicting rocks) have a similar mood. His prints also owe much to Japanese printing methods and materials.

STANLEY PALMER Brickworks 1979 bamboo drypoint and lithograph

In contrast to Trelle and James whose woodcuts are predominantly coloured, Philip Clairmont and Mark Thomas both work in a bold linear style, enhanced by the contrast of black ink and white paper. Thomas's witty and endearing linocuts made their first public appearance several years ago, on the walls of buildings around the centre of Auckland, pasted up like posters just out of reach of iconoclasts. More recently he has begun to exhibit his prints in dealer galleries. Thomas's subjects are invariably based on classical themes - such as The Fall of Icarus and Prometheus Bound - or familiar Auckland landmarks modified: for example, the Auckland Harbour Bridge collapsed, or Rangitoto Island erupting. Philip Clairmont's powerful woodcuts and linocuts reveal a debt to the German Expressionists working at the turn of the last century. His subjects are personal and often domestic - a sink with bathroom mirror and reflected self-portrait; a backyard scene with washing hanging on a clothes-line. Unlike Thomas, who cuts away lino to leave ridges which print black, Clairmont uses a reverse, 'whiteline', technique by cutting into the surface of his block grooves, which print as white lines.

GARY TRICKER The Train of Serendipity 1979 etching and aquatint

INTAGLIO In an opposite process to that of relief prints, the positive elements of an intaglio print are produced from the inked recesses of an image executed on a copper or zinc plate by engraving, etching, scratching or indenting its smooth surface. Ink is forced into these furrows and indentations with a leather pad called a 'dabber': the ink being especially stiff so as to remain in the recesses of the plate while the surface is first wiped, then buffed by prolonged cuffing with the palm of the hand. To print, damp paper is laid on the inked plate and cranked between the steel rollers of a press, the etching plate resting on a solid flat steel bed and the paper covered with a soft felt blanket to cushion it and press the paper fibres into the recesses of the plate. Consequently, intaglio prints are embossed, and can, in a sense, be read like braille. Of all the intaglio processes, etching and aquatint are the most widely used by New Zealand printmakers. Engraving and mezzotint are obsolete; and drypoint is practised only a little. However, one of New Zealand's best known printmakers, Stanley Palmer, has employed the technique in a novel way by using the dried sheaths which grow at the base of the bamboo, in place of a metal plate. After cutting these sheaths and glueing them to a baseboard, he can scratch an image in the shiny surface, enabling ink to penetrate and hold in the fibrous tissues of the organic plate when it is inked. The surface patterns of the sheaths impart to his prints their characteristic veined appearance. Often adding lithography for colour effects, Palmer's bamboo-drypoints commonly depict scenes from New Zealand landscape, both urban and rural.

BARRY CLEAVIN A Question of Balance 1977 etching

Perhaps the best known of contemporary New Zealand etchers are Gary Tricker and Barry Cleavin. Tricker's meticulous etchings and aquatints depict a fantasy world in which the railway (a focus of his childhood) is a recurring theme. Cleavin's tight linear etchings (predominantly visual puns with anatomical studies) have an almost Teutonic quality about them. Cleavin, who has exhibited his etchings since 1966 in this country, has participated in a number of international print biennials, and had a profound influence on New Zealand etching as a whole. Much of this country's etching is figurative and narrative: none perhaps more so than the intricately-wrought etchings of Jeffrey Harris. Intense, brittle and highly linear, these small prints weave with fine black lines a tale of personal tragedy. The small scale and tight linear style of the etchings of Tricker, Cleavin and Harris extends to Grahame Sydney's prints: etchings of neglected domestic paraphernalia - dolls, old shoes etcetera - which date from 1975.

BARRY CLEAVIN For the Executive Suite, Number 2 1974 etching

Aside from Gary Tricker, Kate Coolahan and John Drawbridge are Wellington printmakers who are known almost exclusively for etchings. Kate Coolahan was one of the first New Zealand printmakers to use photo-etching, and has crusaded since 1976 (when she visited Japan on a Cultural Exchange Programme) to stimulate a greater interest amongst printmakers in paper - especially the handmade varieties. Of the Auckland etchers, three names in particular stand out: Victoria Edwards, Rodney Fumpston and Denys Watkins. Fumpston's gaily-coloured etchings of sea- sky- and landscapes are characterised by expansive tonal-areas, casually set off by well-placed bravura, aquatinted dashes and splashes of acid. A technical perfectionist, Fumpston matches vigour with restraint in a way which is uncharacteristic of New Zealand etching as a whole, with the exception perhaps of Victoria Edwards's prints. Edwards's large gestural, etched monoprints produced in 1977 are reminiscent of calligraphic ideograms: but with a velvety / embossed quality which is unique to etching.

DENYS WATKINS Whispering Hope 1975 photogrpahic screenprint

Denys Watkins is perhaps the most versatile and witty of all New Zealand printmakers. Through his studies at the Central School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London in the late 'sixties, Watkins became conversant with a number of print media and techniques especially screen-print, etching and lithography - which he moves easily between as his ideas require. A common theme of his prints is the social position of the artist and the conflict of styles within the Modern Movement. One such etching with aquatint, Life Class 1977, depicts an artist at work on a formal abstract painting of grids and crosses, through which the painted figure of a nude reclining woman can be vaguely discerned. The tonal parts of this image have been produced by the aquatint process which involves dusting parts of the etching plate with a powdered resin that, when warmed, fuses to the surface of the plate. Upon immersion in acid, the exposed parts of the plate become textured with masses of fine pits, where the acid has bitten into the plate in the interstices between the acid-resistant particles of resin. When printed, a light coating of resin dust results in a dark aquatint, and vice versa.

PATRICK HANLY Rainbow over Mount Eden 1972 screenprint with drypoint

STENCIL Screenprinting is the only common stencil method of printing of any significance. By forcing fluid ink by means of a rubber blade, known as a squeegee, through open areas of a tightly stretched gauze screen to the underside of which is attached a stencil image, a dense layer of ink with the configuration of the stencil can be laid on almost any flat surface. As a fine art medium screen printing, also known as serigraphy, has gained late recognition owing to a certain stigma associated with its commercial applications. Yet screen printing is rapidly growing popular with printmakers in this country on account of its versatility and the comparative inexpensiveness of the basic equipment. Of all New Zealand artists working in the medium, Mervyn Williams and Robin White have been the most consistent, although numerous other artists have produced excellent prints in the medium, including Pat Hanly, Denys Watkins, Gordon Walters, Paul Hartigan, Wong Sing Tai, Vivian Lynne and Paul Johns, to name a few. Forms and tones are reduced in Robin White's prints to a vocabulary of clean flat shapes like jig-saw puzzle pieces which fit neatly together. Patrick Hanly's Figures in Light series, arguably the most significant series of prints he has produced, are composed similarly of simplified flat areas of colour, in the idiom of Matisse's paper cut-outs, but less formally arranged than in Robin White's prints. Hanly did without a screen to make these prints: using instead a pure stencil process (pochoir) which he jokingly refers to as the 'wet sock' technique. Instead of attaching his stencil to a screen, he simply laid it down on paper and dabbed it with an ink-soaked cloth. After a while the stencil

disintegrated - which accounts for the small size of the editions. Hanly later made a number of screenprints which he printed himself, although of late he has worked with a printer.

MERVYN WILLIAMS Chromatic Variation II 1969 photographic screenprint

Mervyn Williams was one of the first New Zealand artists to intelligently exploit the new photo-mechanical screen printing technology, designed for commercial purposes but enthusiastically adopted by British and American graphic artists in the early 'sixties. Williams dazzlingly optical Chromatic Variations series, executed in 1969, proclaimed the arrival of the new technological print in New Zealand art. Denys Watkins and Paul Hartigan, too, have produced some excellent screen prints using the photo-stencil process, by adapting ready-made photographic images and transforming them in various ways. One of Hartigan's latest screen prints, Little Lies 1979, is based on a photographic image of 'falsies', lifted from a mail-order advertisement on the back of a comic. Hartigan has blown-up the image and laid-in saturated colours to appropriately emphasise the subject. Watkins's screenprint Whispering Hope, which employs the same photo-screen technique, uses contrived colour also, to reinforce his visual statement about the aesthetics of New Zealand suburban housing.

JEFFREY HARRIS Death and Love 1977 etching

The majority of screen prints being made today, however, are based on hand-cut stencils. In recent years, Gordon Walters has produced a number of impressive screen prints which intelligently exploit the hardedge potential of the hand-cut stencil. Other artists who have recognised its suitability for hardedge imagery and who have made screenprints in the formal abstract idiom recently are Ian Scott, Richard Killeen, Paul Johns and the New Zealand expatriate artist from New York, Max Gimblett, who produced a set of screen prints during his short visit here last August in collaboration with the master printer Mervyn Williams. Williams has also printed editions for a number of other artists, some of these commissioned by The Print Club, run in association with Art New Zealand, and one of the few print publishing ventures in the country. Screenprinting can be adapted to a variety of materials, for which there is available a wide range of specialised inks and colours. Wong Sing Tai's Badlands 1974 is printed on plexiglass. Paul Hartigan has made screen prints on glass, in combination with mirroring, allowing the latter to show through the unprinted parts of the image. And Terry Stringer has made three-dimensional screen prints on flat card which he later folded into constructions whose shapes relate closely to the images. In his Madonna in a Box 1974 he cleverly distorted the picture so that the baby on its mother's lap and the mother's face and arms all projected out from the dominant picture plane in a highly realistic way.

GORDON WALTERS Tama 1977 screenprint

PLANOGRAPHIC Lithography is the only planographic medium - so called because the image on the matrix is planar, or flat, unlike relief and intaglio. Lithography is based on a chemical principle: the natural antipathy of oil and water. To make his image, the artist paints or draws with a greasy substance (known as tusche) on the surface of either a limestone slab, or its modern equivalent, a grained aluminium or zinc plate. The stone or plate is then chemically treated with a weak solution of gum arabic to make it absorb water and remain damp during printing. When rolled up with greasy ink, the damp parts of the stone or plate repel the ink, while the greasy parts (where the image has been drawn) attract it. When paper is laid on the inked stone or plate and passed through a lithographic press under great pressure a reverse impression of the original image is produced. Where more than one colour is required, additional stones or plates are employed, each bearing a different colour.

PAUL HARTIGAN Silly Shapes 1979 lithograph

Compared with screenprinting and etching, lithography has not been much practised by New Zealand artists in recent years. Colin McCahon made a number of lithograph's in the late 1950s, some of which were published by Peter Webb. Roy Cowan and Juliet Peters, two Wellington printmakers who share a lithographic press, gained their knowledge of the medium during their studies at art schools in London throughout the 1950s. Stanley Palmer, as mentioned earlier, uses the process regularly, mainly in conjunction with drypoint. Many printmakers in this country have never made a lithograph. Part of the problem is the unavailability of workshops and experienced printers. Lithography is without question the most difficult of all print media. Yet it offers a degree of subtlety and a range of textures unequalled by any other medium. Since the establishment of a well equipped lithographic workshop at the Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland in 1974, a number of students have become acquainted with the medium. Two graduate students, Cathryn Shire and Grahame Cornwall have recently set up a workshop to enable artists who have never made lithographs to make images on stones or plates at no expense to themselves. In the last six months more than twenty artists have made prints under this scheme; and an exhibition of the results is being planned. In the near future we can expect to see a great growth of interest in lithography.

Andrew Bogle is Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Auckland City Art Gallery. He is at present writing a further article, on the subject of the collecting of prints, which is to be published in a forthcoming issue of Art New Zealand. ROBIN WHITE was born in Te Puke in 1946 and attended Elam from 1965 to 1967. She has been a full-time artist since 1972. As well as exhibiting in many group shows here and overseas, she has, since her first one-woman shows in 1970 at Moller's Gallery, Auckland and at Victoria and Canterbury Universities, had shows at the Barry Lett Galleries in 1971, 1973 and 1976. RODNEY FUMPSTON was born in Fiji in 1947. He gained an MFA (First Class Honours) from Elam in 1972, before going to London, where he studied at the Central School of Art and Design until 1977. He received a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council Award in 1978. He has shown etchings, prints and collages. His first one-man show was at the Graphiti Gallery in London in 1976. In 1977 he exhibited at the Oxford Gallery, Oxford; the Barry Lett Galleries, Auckland; and Galerie Legard, Wellington. In 1978 he had shows at the Sydney Gallery, Sydney, the Serjeant Gallery, Wanganui and Galerie Legard, Wellington. This year, he has exhibited at the Brooke/Gifford Gallery. GENEVA TREllE was born in the United States in 1937. She was a Highest Honours Graduate of Washington State University's School of Fine Arts. Apart from her stay in New Zealand she has also lived in Canada, Europe and the Middle East. She returned to the United States in 1977. MARK THOMAS was born in Auckland in 1952. His only training in art was received at primary school. His first one-man show was held at the Denis Cohn Gallery in March, 1979. He lives in Auckland and works full-time as a doctor. PHILIP CLAIRMONT was born at Nelson in 1949. In 1970 he graduated with a Diploma of Fine Arts (Honours, Painting) from Ilam, and was the recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council Grant in 1978. He has participated in many group shows in New Zealand and elsewhere and has had many one-man shows since his first at Several Arts Gallery

in Christchurch in 1970. His most recent exhibition was at the Elva Bett Gallery in Wellington, earlier this year. Philip Clairmont lives in Auckland. STANLEY PALMER was born at Thames in 1936. After doing third year art and crafts at Dunedin Technical College, he taught art in schools for several years: but is now a fulltime painter and printmaker. The same year that he discovered his bamboo drypoint process (1964) he won first prize in the Devonport Arts Festival. He received from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council their Printmakers' Award in 1970 and a Travel Grant in 1974. His prints have been shown extensively overseas as well as in this country. His most recent one-man show was at the Peter Webb Gallery in September, 1979. GARY TRICKER was born in Wellington in 1938. He is mainly self-taught, in association with other artists. He has participated in many group shows overseas and, among his one-man shows are those at the Bett-Duncan Gallery, Wellington in 1975 and the Victoria University library in 1978. In 1965 he won a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council scholarship to study print-making. BARRY CLEAVIN was born in Dunedin in 1939. He obtained a Diploma of Fine Arts from Ilam in 1965, and Honours in 1966. He received the Canterbury University Overton Scholarship in 1966 and in 1967 was a foundation committee member of the New Zealand Print Council. He was the recipient of Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council awards in 1967 and 1972. In the latter year he also received print awards in Hawaii and Manawatu. In 1975 Barry Cleavin was artist-in-residence at the Gippsland Institute in Victoria. His first one-man show was at the Canterbury Society of Arts in 1965. At present, he is a tutor at the Christchurch Technical Institute. DENYS WATKINS was born in Wellington in 1945. He has studied at the Wellington School of Design, and in London at the Central School of Art and the Royal College of Art. He gained a British Council Scholarship (1968-69) and has won the ANZ Bank Drawing Award of the Te Awamutu Festival (1975), the National Bank Art Award for water colours (1978), and the inaugural South Pacific Television Travelling Arts Scholarship (1978). Prior to receiving the last award he had been lecturing part-time in printmaking and graphic design at Elam. At the Barry lett Galleries he has shown prints (1971), watercolours (1973), constructions and swamp dwellings (1975) and etchings, drawings and constructions (1976). He showed prints and drawings at the Peter Webb Galleries in 1978. MERVYN WILLIAMS was born in Whakatane in 1940 and studied Fine Arts at Elam. In 1966 he won First Prize in the Graphic Section of the Hay's Art Award; and won the New Zealand Print Council Samarkand Award in 1969. He has participated in many group shows, both in New Zealand and overseas. In 1975 he had a one-man show at the Barry Lett Galleries. He lives in Helensville PATRICK HANLY was born in Palmerston North in 1932. He studied at the Canterbury School of Art 1952-1956. In 1957 he went to London for further study. He received a British Arts Council Award to Yugoslavia in 1960, an Italian Government Scholarship in 1960, and a Dutch Government Scholarship in 1961. In 1962 he returned to New Zealand and his first one-man show was held in Christchurch in 1963. Since then he has exhibited widely, here and overseas. Hanly, a full-time artist, is a member of the New Zealand Society of Sculptors and Painters. He has executed several major mural commissions. JEFFREY HARRIS was born in 1949 at Akaroa and is largely self-taught. He was Frances Hodgkins Fellow at Otago University in 1977. His first one-man show was in the

Dunedin Museum in 1969, and he moved to that city in the following year. Since then he has exhibited regularly throughout the country. In 1978 the Manawatu Art Gallery organised a touring retrospective exhibition of his work from 1969-1978. He is currently living in Wellington. GORDON WALTERS was born in Wellington in 1919. He trained at the School of Design, Wellington Polytechnic, 1936-1944. From 1948-1953 he studied in Europe and Australia. His first exhibition was at the Wellington Public Library in 1949. He did not exhibit again until the late nineteen-sixties. Since that time he has had many one-man shows in Auckland and Wellington. In 1968 he received the Benson and Hedges Award and, in 1971, a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council Fellowship. PAUL HARTIGAN was born in New Plymouth in 1953. He attended Elam from 19711973, and in 1976 won the Wanganui Lions-AA Travel Art Award. His first one-man show was held at the Barry Lett Galleries in Auckland in October 1979. He has participated in many group shows, here and overseas.