Friday, September 30, 2011

Guess who?

Yay! Lovely Helen Cole took this photo at lunchtime today... From the left: Ronnie, Amanda, me and Caren. AND... Helen, who is the librarian at the State Library of Queensland, is thinking about buying the Art & Lies edition! We will be emailing each other once we've got back to base.

Today was the last day of the conference and I must say I am knackered. I actually made it to the keynote address this morning, which was a provoking discussion on collaboration between artists and printmakers by artist Brook Andrew and printer Trent Walter (who together created the grey-on-black Indigenous portraits I posted about earlier this week). I say "provoking" because of the dynamic between the two of them and the conventions of printmaking and authorship... Trent Walter continually referred to his own actions in relation to the final pieces as being "in the service of the print", and of course that falls neatly into the master/servant relationship traditionally ascribed to the (superior) artist - the one with the creativity - and the (inferior) printmaker - the one with the techniques and processes. In the end, of course, the printmaker (who might be the only person with a 'hand' in the finished piece, depending on the artist's intentions) usually isn't recognised in the final attribution of intent/authorship/agency... unless that press has a chop mark that the artist is happy to have somewhere on the finished prints.

Brook Andrew, by contrast, was absolutely happy to refer to the relationship as a "true collaboration" and yes, given the amount of input they talked about Trent Walter contributing (far more than just 'process' or 'technique'), it was a true collaboration. But I was left with the feeling that it's very easy for him to say since he, as the 'originating artist' has his name all over whatever he produces in the course of his art practice, regardless of whether he's using a commercial printing company, a master printer like Trent Walter, or a laser printer... they can all be viewed as tools regardless of what skill or experience is invested in their contribution to the ideas, the use of materials or the final output. Ah well. Such is the lot of the truly humble printmaker.

To be continued.... when I've had some dinner!

{p.s. apologies, by the way, for previously writing Trent Walter's surname as "Williams" - I don't know why I did that, but thank you to Anonymous for your comment! Sara (doing the editing a week or so later...) }

That's better. I've just been to the cheap but delicious Chinese restaurant round the corner from the hotel and the hole in my stomach has been filled, although I am still strangely dizzy (it's been happening a lot recently).

My day at the conference was much more related to printmaking and book making, which was fun. I went to a session by Clare Humphries who - sadly I have no pictures - is currently making large reduction linocuts that look almost photographic and very atmospheric. Her practice is currently investigating 'post mortem objects' i.e. mementos from people loved and lost, including items such as her grandfather's collapsible wooden metre rule, or a grandmother's teapot. She draws them on large lino pieces, layering the reducing images up to seven times to create amazingly detailed images, and then the last layer is a thick black through which Clare burnishes back to reveal the smaller image underneath. I was interested in the technique and the process through which she arrived at this methodology in her making, particularly her comment that she now works back through the ink while it's wet because leaving it until it was dry seemed to make the underlying image look passive and inert. She an artist who clearly investigates her own practice in detail - I'm not sure if she's studying - and she relates it to a web of meanings that includes Buddhist systems of substitutions in which relics of the body (bones, hair) are "first order" relics, objects that have touched the body are "second order" relics and objects that have touched second order relics are themselves "third order" relics... well, I was interested at any rate!

After absorbing Clare Humphries' work I slipped into a paper given by Marian Macken in the pedagogy stream, to do with her introduction of a book project into an undergraduate course in Landscape Architecture at RMIT. It was both illuminating and inspiring: she commented that landscape architecture students seem to get caught up in the conception and presentation of final drawings of projects that are, for the most part, never realised 'in the flesh' so the drawings and plans that they produce become the 'ends' rather than the 'means to an end'. This thinking was part of the impetus behind introducing a book arts module into their course that requires students to make a (re-enactable) journey that is then documented in or transformed into a concertina book, and there was a lovely video of the students handling and showing their books running behind Marian as she talked. Clearly the students are taught basic techniques including embossing/debossing and then covering the front and back covers for the concertina books, and I think I detected that there is a restriction in the overall size and general format of the concertina books. But after that it's up to the students, and they come up with interesting and beautiful work. We saw star books and straight accordian books, some with various layers of paper and translucence, some with pop-up elements or cut-paper elements, some in colour, some with two accordian structures held within the two covers. I loved the idea that the students were able to create something from start to finish, and Marian commented that it seems to change their perceptions of what they're studying.

At lunchtime there was a plenary session at which the venue for the next Impact conference in 2011 was announced, which is Dundee in Scotland, and after the last paper was given Roger Butler gave some closing remarks and... that was that! Ronnie slaved away, packing up our books from their display cases in the main concourse, and we all said goodbye and went our separate ways.

I really have got a lot out of being here in Melbourne this week (including a head cold). Not only have I been able to meet up with Ronnie, Amanda and Caren, but I've connected and reconnected with a whole load of other people as well. I've been dazzled, confused and inspired and I'll take a lot home with me to think about. I will also have much to mull over about BookArtObject, but my overall conclusion is that we're "up there" in terms of what we're doing! We're recognised, we're being watched and our work is being acquired... all of which bodes well for the continuation of the project (well, it was going to continue anyway but the encouragement is very nice!), and the continuing interest and involvement of great artists in the project.

I'm sorry I didn't manage to post interviews with other artists, as I'd hoped to do... but I wonder if we can do it by email as a regular post to the blog? Meanwhile I'm going to try and post my one and only sound recording! Thanks very much for reading my meandering thoughts about the people and papers I've seen this week, and I hope you've got something out of me (us) being at the conference.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to be pedantic but if you going to write about printers receiving recognition, it's better to get the name correct - Trent Walter, not Williams!

ronnie said...

sorry sara I'd meant to drop you a line about this - as mate pointed out the mistype to me (I'm not sure if they've dropped my anonymously or not....) but I should have corrected the name when I had the opportunity... oops

ronnie said...

and another sorry for all the missed computer keys in the previous comment!!!!!