Cover image of the review

Cressida Campbell, The path with rocks, 1989. Woodblock, painted in watercolour. Private collection. © Cressida Campbell. Image courtesy of Cressida Campbell and Warren Macris.

Cutting Through Time—Cressida Campbell, Margaret Preston, and the Japanese Print

25 May 2024
Geelong Gallery 18 May - 28 Jul 2024

A branch of wattle is nothing in itself…
— M. Barnard Eldershaw, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, 1947

All the Portuguese merchants coming from Japan tell me that if I go there I shall do great service for God our Lord… for they are a very reasonable people.
— Francis Xavier, To His Companions Residing in Rome, 20 January 1548

Cressida Campbell and Margaret Preston’s relationship to the ukiyo-e tradition of Japanese print-making inhabit different artistic registers. Campbell’s complacent adoption of woodblocks and wholesale depiction of ukiyo-e prints affects the quality and significance of her work only indirectly. By contrast, Preston’s voracious cannibalisation of disparate materials serves, through force of will and artistic ingenuity, the coherence of her project. Cutting Through Time at Geelong Gallery suggests an attempt to locate Campbell in both a national and an international context, yet Campbell has persistently expressed ambivalence about the traditions imputed to her. The intention to use Japanese prints to connect Campbell and Preston disguises basic differences. Campbell retreats to interior spaces and art-market values, reflected by her retrograde uptake of woodblock techniques. Preston’s irrepressible aesthetic and technical liveliness internalise extraneous matter, like the ukiyo-e tradition as part of a historically vital public declaration.

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