From sepia dreams to a vibrant tribute to life, the 46th iteration of Australia’s longest running print prize has generated innovation aplenty, discovers Jaimi Wright.
The FAC Print Award, various artists
Fremantle Arts Centre
The diversity within the Fremantle Arts Centre (FAC) Print Award shows that an exhibition featuring just one technique has the potential to create infinite experiences.
The result is a case study in creativity, and a fascinating immersion in fluctuations of time, ephemerality and replication.
Australia’s most prestigious and longest running print prize, the FAC Print Award was founded in 1976. In celebration of Fremantle Arts Centre’s 50th birthday, the 2023 Print Award exhibition features 50 artists, whose works were selected by a panel including curator Annika Kristensen, Ballardong Noongar artist, writer and curator Timmah Ball, and visual artist and director Tom Mùller.
The collective works within this exhibition represent a diverse selection of prints and artist books from emerging, established and cross-disciplinary artists, offering a true picture of the state of contemporary Australian printmaking.
In the exhibition’s arrangement, curator Glenn Iseger-Pilkington has ensured that each piece has room to breathe aesthetically and intellectually, allowing the eye to move with ease from one to the next.
Western Australian artist Jacky Cheng took out the top prize with her expansive installation Yue Lao – God of Matchmaking and Marriage (2021), knotted and folded from the printed pages she tears out of her Chinese calendar each morning.
Cheng has painstakingly folded and woven the orange, green and white pages into a geometric face, over two metres square, edged in tassels to create the impression of hair and teeth. Innovative and detailed, this unusual homage to heritage and the duration of a life lived deserves its accolades.
The second prize was awarded to a Western Australian duo, and Stephen Brameld and Jay Staples for their work Forest (2023).
Forest was created by laying a drop cloth over unsealed Merbau wood and leaving this out in the rain. The leaching of the wood’s tannins into the drop sheet has created a distinct natural print of the shapes of the tree in dark brown tones and a 1:1 ratio.
This unconventional printmaking practice creates eerie almost-shapes as if from the sepia of a dream. Lines from the drop cloth appear as long fronds of a palm tree of you look hard enough. This expansive print draws you in, both with its process and enchanting effect.
Kieren Karritpul, an artist of the Ngen’gi wumirri Peoples from the Northern Territory received the First Nations prize for his collagraph print Traditional Fish Basket (2022).
The focal point of the artwork is one of the titular baskets, the textured lines of the print creating the texture and folds of these vessels using segments of white and yellow vertical lines. The print is reminiscent of the baskets woven and used by the women used in his community in the Nauiyu Nambiyu (Daly River).
A personal and considered work, Traditional Fish Basket creates depth of field and offers insight into Ngen’gi wumirri traditional practices.
Highly commended by the judges is the striking and eerie print Yokai (2023), created by Tasmanian artist Yvonne Rees-Pagh.
A large, two panelled woodblock and screen print, Yokai is named after the shadowy phenomena found in ancient Japanese folklore. Rees-Pagh has used this style to depict her deceased cats, and the rats she looked after, but which mysteriously disappeared. The two figures of the rat and the cat, one on each side of the work, have an ephemeral cheekiness, rendered in dark tones with pieces of bright colour to enhance character.
The prints have a profoundly strange combination of both sadness and hope, as if they could still be prancing around in Rees-Pagh’s garden somewhere.
The sheer variety of technique and insight created by this collection of visionary works from one medium is impressive. Take a deep dive while you can.
Pictured top: Jacky Cheng, ‘Yue Lao- God of Matchmaking and Marriage’, 2021
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