New Exhibition at the Shepparton Art Gallery

The exhibition ‘Five Central Victorian Printmakers’ has opened at the Shepparton Art Gallery.

The exhibition features work by Liz Caffin, Jan Palethorpe, Linda Perry, Rhyll Plant and Vicky Taylor, who are all local to the Bendigo and Castlemaine area. The artists share a love for printmaking in the various forms of etching, aquatint, woodblock and mezzotint, and explore the relationship of the forms to the natural environment.

Liz Caffin’s work includes a selection of very small, detailed artists’ books, in both concertina and pop out formats, as well as framed works. These prints depict lone figures moving through twilight landscapes, calling to mind the work of Italian Surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico, as well as Australian painter Peter Booth and print-maker Geoffrey Ricardo. The images are mysterious and dreamlike, reminiscent of a romantic inclination toward the sublime. Here the lone figure is isolated and dwarfed by large Italian columns or poplar trees at dusk.

Linda Perry’s work explores the spiritual and psychological separation that exists between western man and nature. Her imagery is derived from Mount Alexander, a granite mountain in Harcourt that exudes a sense of the monumental and numinous. Her aquatints include ‘chinne colle’ – rubbings from tombstones in Bendigo believed to be made from stone quarried from the mountain. Her use of the tombstone reminds us that in death, our separation from nature is dissolved as the body and the earth are united again. The quarrying and carving of the natural monument into a commemorative one can be seen as an articulation of the separation from nature that is sought by those left behind.

Other work in the exhibition includes a series of coloured aquatints by artist Vicky Taylor. These works are concerned with people and the expression of their individual characters. They call to mind the work of pop artist Andy Warhol and his brightly coloured screen-prints of the 1960s. While his works were concerned with the portrayal of famous identities in the tabloid media, Vicky is approaching individual subjects with whom she has a personal relationship. The works are further layered in their meaning as we note contemporary recreations of famous modernist and renaissance paintings. The work ‘The Wedding’ is a contemporary take on Jan Van Eyck’s famous work ‘The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini and Giovanna Cenami’, 1434 held in the National Gallery, London. The pose of the rock n roll couple in Taylor’s version mimics that of van Eyck’s, as do the shoes lower right side of the painting. In Taylor’s version, Van Eyck’s dog has been substituted with a cat and the window to the left with a computer. The mirror in van Eyck’s painting is executed with great skill. Its carved frame is inset with ten miniature medallions depicting the life of Christ. Yet more remarkable is the mirror’s reflection, which includes van Eyck’s own tiny self-portrait, accompanied by another man who may have been the official witness to the ceremony while Taylor’s version includes the artist obscured by a camera as she photographs the couple in their bedroom. This may tell us something about how the artist works, using snap shots of friends from which to work up her prints. Another work of Taylor’s includes a recreation of the celebrated Edouard Manet painting ‘The Bar at the Folies-Bergère’, 1881-1882.

The exhibition continues until 4 June.