Interview with Port Jackson Press Print Gallery
Trudy Rice specialises in solar plate etching and currently works and lives in Melbourne. Her colourful, layered works celebrate the beauty of the natural world and seek to embody the intricate variations and vibrancy of the Australian environment. Rice’s poetic interpretation of her surroundings is saturated in her work and her artistic approach. I spoke to Trudy this week about an exciting new body of work delivered and being featured in the gallery this week.
YOUR NEW SERIES OF WORK SEES A RETURNED FOCUS ON THE AUSTRALIAN BUSH, WHAT CAPTURES YOUR INTEREST ABOUT CERTAIN ENVIRONMENTS?
After my last series OCEANUS, which was about the sea and its wonderful myriad of creatures, I decided to return to the bush. I visit the Victorian Otway Ranges often and most of my inspiration derives from there. The sea and bush meet and I often move from one subject matter to the other.
NATURE IS THE RECURRING MOTIF OF YOUR WORK, IS THERE AN UNDERPINNING IDEOLOGY TO THIS?
A love of nature and the environment are my main focus; I feel passionate about preserving its beauty and capturing it in my work.
DOES THIS IDEOLOGY MATERIALIZE IN YOUR PRINT MAKING METHODS?
I use solar plate etching for the very purpose of helping to protect and preserve the environment. This uses the sun and water to etch a plate rather than acid, which can damage our very sensitive and fragile planet. I am always working towards minimum wastage, re-using my etched plates over and over again; this also gives me the opportunity to experiment and push my imagery to its bounds.
WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH WHEN CREATING NEW WORK?
TR: When I start drawing my images, much of what is drawn depends on the time of year. For instance, the dragonfly’s eggs often lie dormant for up to four years. It just so happened that the weather was right for the eggs to hatch when my son found a perfectly preserved dragonfly. As I started drawing, the dragonfly moved and I realised it must have hatched. Similarly, the flowers of the banksia are only in season at certain times of the year then they are a dried seedpod ready to cast out and create a new tree.
Once I have a series of drawings, each is made into a solar plate. I use colour to guide a lot regarding how and where on the paper they will be placed; twenty sheets of paper are often being worked on at the same time, giving a sense of the series as a whole.
I am looking forward to pushing this subject matter even further.
HOW HAS YOUR PRINTING TECHNIQUE DEVELOPED WITHIN YOUR UPCOMING SERIES?
I’ve started to work in a larger format, however I find this very challenging indeed. Working with larger solar plates, handling them, inking and printing them can become unwieldy. I do, however, like the fact that it is stretching my creative bounds and this is a test for my abilities and knowledge of how to put the works together.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK TO SOMEBODY WHO HAD NEVER SEEN IT?
My work encapsulates our natural world, full of colour, vibrancy and magical layers. I’m attempting to enfold the viewer in a garden of beautiful colour, light and joy.
OCEANUS Solo Exhibition with Curator Kate Ellis
In this aptly named exhibition, Oceanus, Rice shares her adventures of sailing and snorkeling, and takes us on a journey underwater introducing new creatures amongst the sea grass and algae. Rice’s approach to printmaking became clear in her four solo shows. Her personal style of overlapped natural elements, and sparkling effervescing color has continued as her dominant aesthetic quality. Yet it’s through this new body of work, at Port Jackson Press Gallery, that her method of solar plate collaged printing has now been transformed into a trademark within Melbourne’s printmaking community.
It was a perfectly preserved seahorse that Rice found when walking along the rocky beach at Lorne many years ago that inspired the study of the innate marine. Yet it is fair to say that Oceanus was inevitably bound to surface as her new studio in one of Australia’s most scenic seaside towns, places her in daily communion with her subject matter.
Collection and observation is at the core of Rice’s practice. From gathering elements that have been washed ashore, they are then examined through a pensive drawing process. Each drawing is produced by applying black ink onto clear film and is then exposed on a plate. Whilst solar plate etching has provided Rice with the ability to capture quite in-depth, detail, she has also adopted a natural printmaking process with the use of natural pigment inks and plates exposed by sunlight, which has added an additional dimension to her organically driven practice.
Rice’s printing process is quite different to the distilled and tranquil imagery that is formulated within each print. Fast, pasted and rapid, experimentation drives progression. The printing procedure holds similarities to a production line as paper is cut in accordance to ease and convenience and kept wet whilst inks are applied to plates as trialing begins; testing various layout combinations before works have hit a level of undistinguished satisfaction in the artist’s eyes.
The result of this printing process sees elements intertwined which draws inspiration from John Wolseley’s layered landscape. The viewers eye is constantly flickering, discovering new detail, peering passed the shrub and seaweed to the careless creatures within the background. As this particular quality was also apparent in previous works, it is these ambitiously charged chosen pigments that have differentiated Oceanus from any previous series. Even though as a student, authorative influences persuaded her restraint on her bright and bold pallet, this natural attraction has since broken free from the rip and discovered its own way back. This fascination has employed a new area of experimentation. The entire Oceanus pallet has been mixed from their original base color which Rice takes pleasure in knowing, that along with her own drawings, her inks are her own as well. Overall, color has provided the lifeless creatures a revival as their atmospheric apparitions float and weave their way through their new home amongst the inert shrub.
Trudy Rice has again delivered an inspirational body of work. Oceanus and her recent shift towards the open water has introduced a new sedative and comforting sensation. The empathy and passion she holds for her surroundings is not difficult to witness. This continuous component within her practice is reflected through her intense study of gathered elements, which has provided a significant level of detail leading the viewer to discovery. Without her unique method of experimental printing, it would not be possible to produce the same outcome. It is through her unique printing practice that her empathy for composition and color is apparent and it is these aesthetic elements which Port Jackson Press Gallery are inclined to declare Trudy Rice as an irreplaceable contribution to their printmaking collective.
INTERVIEW WITH FEDERATION SQUARE
Having worked as a fashion model for over 20 years I quite easily take certain elements of the fashion industry, such as texture and colour, into my artwork.
MY LIFE TO DATE HAS WITHOUT A DOUBT, INFORMED MY ARTISTIC ENDEAVOURS.
I had my first solo exhibition of paintings, after which I decided to return to arts school part-time. When you take into consideration that I had 4 young children, this decision was a difficult one, however, I loved every moment of my time at the CAE where I was introduced to Printmaking, and so began my love affair with this beautifully expressive medium.
My introduction to the Firestation Print Studio (FPS) came when I noticed a flyer at the College for a workshop at the facility with Sarah Amos; an Australian born Printmaker working in Canada doing collograph printing.
The Firestation is a 24-hour, open access printmaking facility that caters for a large assortment of community projects, so with my natural passion for anything community based I fast became a fixture at the facility.
I CURATED MANY EXHIBITIONS AT FPS AS WELL AS MY OWN EXHIBITIONS AND IN THE PROCESS LEARNED A GREAT DEAL ABOUT PRINTMAKING, ART, ARTISTS AND THE COMMUNITY.
I soon had a studio space I could work from at the Firestation and took on the voluntary role of Secretary on the Committee of Management.
After two years as Secretary, I was voted in as President. For the last few years Edith May, the Committee and myself have worked tirelessly to create a definite brand for the Firestation Print Studio. We have to date designed its current logo, fostered relationships with local businesses at the Stonnington Council as well as attracting country, inter-state and International members.
I have created various videos for artists to promote their solo exhibitions as well as a promotional video for the facility. I also designed an artist’s book showcasing a selection of artists working at FPS which now resides in a number of very prestigious places such as the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne University Ballieu Library, Latrobe University Library and the State Library of Queensland, all of which purchased our limited edition; it was a most satisfying project.
We have enlightened the public to the exquisite art of Printmaking by holding an exhibition and live printmaking demonstrations at Federation Square for the past two years; all artists involved were very happy with the outcome.
This year I step down as President to make way for a new era at the Firestation Print Studio. I will however, continue to work with the Firestation assisting with their marketing and graphic design.
MY FIRST SOLO EXHIBITION AT THE FIRESTATION WAS TITLED FRAGILITY WHICH WAS AN IMPRESSION OF A MOMENT SPENT ON SITE OBSERVING THE OTWAY RANGES.
I make no proofs, no prior versions or preparatory sketches; only the immediate artwork drawn directly onto the plate.The artworks in this exhibition were the result of my connection to the Lorne location in which my family and I regularly spend time.
My next exhibition in 2014 titled Dragons and Banksias was an attempt to hone into the flora, fauna & small critters of the same area. This exhibition came about when I found a huntsman spider after he was squashed flat in my car door on a very hot day. Next I see my young son running towards me, hands outstretched, “Mum, Mum… I found something for you.” It was the most perfectly preserved dragonfly. I drew him in ink immediately – they are such inspiring creatures. I had almost finished drawing and noticed its wings starting to move. I thought I was hallucinating and picked it up, took it to the window to see it in a better light, and it flew gently out of my hands…it must have only just hatched and was still in shock!
After this I had friends collecting bugs for me – all died of natural causes of course!
This year I have taken a studio in Bayside and am working towards a solo exhibition at Port Jackson Press in Smith Street. I must say that I could not contain my excitement when I heard I would be showing at this most reputable gallery.
This current body of work is titled Oceanus and is honing in on sea life. Not just in the Otway area but from all parts of Australia particularly the Great Barrier Reef, which is close to my heart and I feel needs to be recorded as it is diminishing at such an intense pace.
I AM NOT ATTEMPTING TO INTERRUPT THE ORDER OF NATURE, PURELY RECORDING IT AND ENCAPSULATING IT AS IT UNFOLDS WITH EVERY BRIEF MOMENT IN TIME.
DRAGONS & BANKSIAS Solo Exhibition with Curator Kylie Blackley
Dragons & Banksias is Trudy Rice’s third solo show. It launches a body of work developed over the past year, which demonstrates Rice’s progression into a delicate and personalised aesthetic. There is a progression from Rice’s early work which featured bold colours and strong designs into fragile detail, where the colour gains its brightness through glowing transparency and richness through deep ambient layering. Dragons & Banksias is an extremely cohesive series at the pinnacle of the rapid upward trajectory of Rice’s healthily varied practice; there is no single identifier within this practise, it spans work made from a formula of experience to experimentation and is expansive and ambitious. The Dragons & Banksias series is made with a fresh delicacy of line and softness of detail throughout, which demonstrates a technical repertoire combining ink drawing and solar plate etching into a unique signature medium.
DRAGONS & BANKSIAS SERIES
Banksias, Dragon & Tree
Unique state solarplate etching
50cm w x 50cm h
There is a symbiosis between Rice’s practice of mindful observation leading to meditative drawing and the organic printmaking process that has been adopted. Rice’s great connection and appreciation of nature shines through the natural pigment inks, printed on bright cotton rag and cleaned with vegetable oils. The plate is exposed in the same sun that the specimens are found and drawn in, and then developed in the water associated with the fluidity so prominent in Rice’s work. For me this creates a conceptual comfort that fits with and adds to the beauty and ease of the work.
The subject matter at the heart of the Dragons & Banksias series is reminiscent of an ocean side wunderkammer, however one which has been deconstructed and set free. Atypical of this genre, when habitat is recreated, the surrounds are given as much fluidity and life as the subject. By keeping a simple modern gallery finish to the work Rice has distilled this influence to reveal a pure “collection” representation of specimens without the excessive cut glass trimmings and usual nostalgia.
DRAGONS & BANKSIAS SERIES
Dragonfly & Dark Green Leaves
Unique State solarplate etching
15cm w x 50cm h
The knowledgeable and patiently accurate drawing from observation that is apparent in the forms, details and silhouettes is contrasted against and offset by the loose fluidity and intuitive areas of ink wash. Any trace of pinned down illustration is negated by impulsive and contradictory layers of imagery that create an infinite space and juxtapose subjects in a filing system of pure balance driven aesthetics. The shapes and borders of individual etching plates add geometric elements that bring organisation and modernity to the organic imagery and juxtaposed subjects.
Atmospheric planes of stratified images float in an elegant and carefully selected pallet of natural, bright yet earthy tones that are pared back to colours ranging from clear yellow ochres through to deep rich sepias. A comprehensive range of tones and depths are registered in the varyingly transparent ghostly images, floating and combining the solidity of the foreground images.
There are unrepeatable patterns of images from a perfected repertoire of etching plates, creating a Utopia in the haze of undefined space that these floating images inhabit.
The busyness of the contrasting layers of subjects and objects correlates to the unhurried purposefulness and productive calm required to record the fleeting vitality each of the subjects had in their moment of discovery. Pockets of time spent looking for specimens in a busy world of people presenting things to be recorded. A meditative calm shows through in the pensive, yet rapidly fluid work.
The viewer is able to form a personal relationship with each of the images, borne from Rice’s personal relationship with them, their discovery and their location. The subjects and their histories are all based in Lorne, where the artist has a familiarity and affinity with the surrounding nature and environment. This personal appreciation of such specific items and location is conveyed with such uniquely personal perspective as to become universally appealing.
Dragons & Banksias is a very significant body of work, one which solidifies many great leaps in solar plate etching and Rice’s progression as an artist. The fragility of the subjects matched to the detail of the medium meander and solidify into a strong and cohesive beauty. By transferring her enjoyment of delicate watercolour and ink Rice has created a unique printmaking practice. She has an instinctive understanding of composition, colour and layering. She uses delicate textures to create atmospheric depth that plays with surface, detail and fades. Rice’s love and empathy for the natural environment speaks directly to the viewer through these delicate and beautiful prints.
Dragons & Banksias
Kylie Blackley 2014
DRAGONS & BANKSIAS SERIES
Banksia & Small Dragonfly
Unique state solarplate etching
15.5cm w x 27cm h