Cover image of the review
John Nixon (printer, Trent Walter), *Untitled*, 2018, woodblock, printed in black ink, from one chipboard block, 76.0 x 56.0 cm, edition of 5 plus one artist’s proof. Published by Negative Press. Photo: Andrew Curtis

Papermade / John Nixon: Screenprints, Woodblocks & Unique Relief Prints

9 Mar 2019
Papermade, 26 Feb - 17 Mar 2017 John Nixon: Screenprints, Woodblocks & Unique Relief Prints, 16 Feb - 9 Mar 2017

Exhibitions are usually talkative. They start off with the artist's or curator's statements and then usually just chat away with their personalised terminology and their free-associations. I intended to review the Australian Galleries group-show Papermade, as the curator Kathleen Coelho has it billed as a significant survey capturing “the history of Australian printmaking today” (even though it also includes drawings and a couple of photographs). I knew that it was a 'stockroom exhibition', and that these are typically cynical affairs in which the drawers are cleared for the purpose of selling old work. Still, few gallery stockrooms are as multifaceted and as pedigreed as Australian Galleries', established as it was in 1956 and existing now across three locations. Australian Galleries is one of Australia's largest commercial galleries and has been for decades. Change.

Davida Allen, Dog is not a dog, 1991, lithograph, printed in yellow, blue, pink and black inks, from four stones/plates, edition 40, 16.0 cm x 22.0 cm. Australian Galleries.

Far from being a history of printmaking—today or at any other time—Papermade is mute. It doesn't speak for itself nor does it speak for any of the 90-plus artists on its massive bill. There are no terms presented, except perhaps technical skill and uniqueness (in that each of the artists have a “unique” practice), which is the kind of a dull platitude that suggests there is nothing that Coelho could present as a unifying justification for the show. Truthfully, the theme of this exhibition is 'stock' except I'm quite sure this isn't even the best representation of prints the AG has access to. I know there are better prints around by some of the established artists, such as Hertha Kluge-Pott, Jock Clutterbuck, Alun Leach-Jones, Rosalind Atkins, amongst others.

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