Rare collectible editions from master printers Basil Hall, Monique Auricchio and Jo Diggens. Nancy Sever Gallery. Until January 23. nancysevergallery.com.au.
Basil Hall is one of Australia's most respected master printers.
In other words, he is a technician who plays the role of a midwife and works with artists who may not be primarily printmakers but who wish to make original prints.
The master printer guides the artist through the alchemy of printmaking techniques until they achieve the desired resolution of the work and then will print an edition of unique original impressions that the artist will sign.
Normally, beyond the edition, there may be an impression taken for the archive of the workshop and one for the archive of the printer.
Hall spent about 16 years working out of Darwin where he collaborated with two other printers, Monique Auricchio and Jo Diggens.
He worked with hundreds of artists from more than 55 remote Indigenous communities mainly in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.
On returning to Canberra, all three printers have decided to sell the artists' prints from their private collections and hence this exhibition.
Frequently the original editions of these prints have been exhausted as some of the artists, including Arone Meeks, Paddy Sims, Judy Watson, Dennis Nona, Freddy Timms, Dorothy Napangardi and Banduk Marika, have been deified by the art market and their prints have become quite rare.
In the age of COVID, the taste for original prints has been on the rise.
Reasons for this are fairly obvious and, as people are spending more time working from home, there has been a growth in demand for high quality original art at a modest price for domestic walls.
Original printmaking is not a surrogate for the more expensive paintings, but an autonomous art form in its own right.
Original prints very rarely duplicate an image originally conceived as a painting or in some other medium and generally artists design a work to be realised as a print - an etching, lithograph, relief print, screenprint and so on.
This is the case with most of the prints on display at this exhibition.
Although Hall was born in Melton in Victoria from a famous artistic lineage, he is a Canberra lad who trained at the Canberra School of Art in its glory days and cut his teeth as an editioning printer at Studio One between 1987 and 1994.
He established a reputation for integrity and for his persuasive ability to convince artists that they really want to make prints.
This quality of empathy for the artist's needs shines forth in this exhibition without a "studio style, but a realisation of the artist's vision.
There is a richness and diversity of distinct artistic personalities.
Take, for example, Judy Watson's dark and mysterious etching Big dark world with 3 stupas (2004) printed by Hall and Auricchio with its melting forms and faint markings.
Dennis Nona's Sugu or Wapil (octopus) (2005) is one of the artist's classic early etchings printed by Hall and Diggens and is a rare, quirky and beautifully expressive image that is very different from his slightly later signature style achieved as relief prints.
One of the many highlights in this exhibition is Freddy Timms' etching Picaninny Gorge (2003) printed by Hall and Auricchio with its classic demarcation of colour planes and striking colour contrasts.
This is a refreshing exhibition that demonstrates some of the richness and brilliance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander printmaking in the 21st century.