The Southern Highlands Printmakers formed in 1993 as a loosely based group of printmaking enthusiasts based in the Southern Highlands of NSW. A number of the artists have a national and international standing, others are emerging or simply coasting along. They are all technically accomplished in their dedicated printmaking mediums and have been actively exhibiting as a group and participating in various exchange exhibitions.
An Australian Alphabet is a curious project where the members of the group were randomly allotted one of the 26 letters of the alphabet in 2020 and were invited to meditate on this letter and on their experiences during this difficult year.
The prints were made in 2020 and 2021 and cover a broad gambit of printmaking technologies from linocuts, screenprints, woodcuts, intaglio, stamps, stencils, monoprints, collagraphs, lithographs, letterpress through to archival pigment prints.
Technically the work is of a consistently high quality with the artists happy to mix and match techniques - linocuts with collage, waterless lithography, woodcut and collagraph.
There are also some curious manifestations such as a poker woodblock intaglio print in the case of Fran Ifould and stencil, eucalypt dye, inks and stamps in the engaging work of Sandra Shrubb.
As far as the imagery is concerned there is a range from profound meditation to a simple verbal/visual pun to a tongue-in-cheek attitude to the whole exercise.
The well-known artist Slavica Zivcovic was allotted the letter "B" and produced a hand-coloured screenprint, Inside the Blue. In much of her art ,blue is her favourite colour and it is a spiritual colour of seductive enchantment. She works in a highly ornamental style drawing on the heritage of folk arts, where there is always a hidden dimension within her imagery. The nesting bower bird concealed behind layers of foliage forms the core of her composition and as we peer into the image there is something said about innocence and child-like purity. In the catalogue Zivcovic comments with the voice of her bird: "I like to collect, I like to hide. There's always something by my side."
Another very fine print is by the internationally recognised weaver and printmaker Liz Jeneid, who was allocated the letter "W".
Employing a collagraph and drypoint, Jeneid's Waste Not Want Not is a clever print with a matriarchal figure seated at the head of the table and six children with their food bowls sitting along the edges and an inscription like a slogan superimposed over the composition. The artist notes: '"Waste not, want not, for many a little one would think it quite a treat..." This was something my mother would say when I was a child growing up during the war!!'
The show is full of surprising fine prints including Michelle Cole's Adelaide Park Lands, Sheila Lyne's The Dry of 2020, Linda Bottari's I is for Iceberg, Tony Deigan's K, Phoebe Middleton's L is for lyrebird & logging & lost (weringerong, woorail, bulln - bulln), Dorothy Freeman's Nullarbor caves, Lucia Parrella's 36 ways to be an outsider, and Alan Purdom's X.
An Australian Alphabet is a delightful and engaging exhibition where 22 of the 26 participating artists are women and are working with committed professionalism.
Printmaking is alive and well in the bush - just ask an artist from the Southern Highlands Printmakers.
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