what’s new, music-theater-arts, art criticism, An Australian Alphabet

The Southern Highlands Printmakers formed in 1993 as a group of printmaking enthusiasts based in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. Many artists have a national and international influence, others are emerging or simply on the run. They are all technically accomplished in their dedicated printmaking mediums and have actively exhibited in groups and participated in various exchange exhibitions. An Australian Alphabet is a curious project where group members were randomly assigned one of the 26 letters of the alphabet in 2020 and invited to meditate on that letter and their experiences during this difficult year. The prints were produced in 2020 and 2021 and cover a wide range of engraving technologies ranging from linocuts, serigraphs, woodcuts, intaglio, stamps, stencils, monoprints, collagraphs, lithographs, letterpress all the way to pigment prints of archives. Technically, the work is of a consistent quality and the artists are happy to mix and match the techniques – linocuts with collage, waterless lithography, woodblock print and collagen. There are also some curious manifestations such as an intaglio woodblock print of poker in the case of Fran Ifould and a stencil, eucalyptus stain, inks and stamps in the engaging work of Sandra Shrubb. When it comes to imagery, there is a range from deep meditation to a simple verbal / visual pun to a wry demeanor to the whole exercise. Well-known artist Slavica Zivcovic received the letter “B” and produced a hand-colored screenprint, Inside the Blue. In much of her art, blue is her favorite color and it is a spiritual color of alluring enchantment. She works in a very ornamental style drawing on the heritage of popular arts, where there is always a hidden dimension in her imagery. The nesting bird hidden behind layers of foliage forms the heart of its composition and when we examine the image, there is something to be said about innocence and childlike purity. In the catalog, Zivcovic comments with the voice of his bird: “I like to collect, I like to hide. There is always something by my side.” Another very beautiful character is that of the internationally renowned weaver and printmaker Liz Jeneid, to whom the letter “W” has been assigned. Using a collagraph and drypoint, Jeneid’s Waste Not Want Not is a clever print with a matriarchal figure sitting at the head of the table and six children with their food bowls sitting along the edges and an inscription like a slogan superimposed on the composition. The artist notes: ‘”Do not waste, do not want, for many a little one would find it a real treat …” It was something my mother used to say when I was a child during the war !!’ The show is full of surprising small print including Adelaide Park Lands by Michelle Cole, The Dry of 2020 by Sheila Lyne, I is for Iceberg by Linda Bottari, K by Tony Deigan, L by Phoebe Middleton is for lyrebird & journaling & amp; lost (weringerong, woorail, bulln – bulln), Dorothy Freeman’s Nullarbor Caves, Lucia Parrella’s 36 Ways to Be an Stranger, and Alan Purdom’s X. An Australian Alphabet is a charming and engaging exhibition where 22 of the 26 participating artists are women and work with committed professionalism. Printmaking is alive and well in the bush – just ask a Southern Highlands Printmakers artist.