An internationally celebrated Dutch master printer has relocated half way around the globe specially to tap into the Northern Territory’s inspiring natural and social environment.
Printmaker Gertjan Forrer has just joined Charles Darwin University’s Northern Editions printmaking studio and gallery as printmaker and workshop manager and is already passionate about his new surroundings.
Gertjan brims with enthusiasm for the Territory, calling it “a tropical paradise”. He observed, not without a touch of irony, that although he came from the land of tulips, he could “smell the flowers here – but not in Holland”.
Before relocating to CDU with his wife and two children, aged 8 and 10, Gertjan worked for six years at the prestigious Rijksakademie as a technical advisor on the artist-in-residence program.
The Rijksakademie program is a world-renowned mentoring program that accepts only 50 artists every two years.
According to Gertjan, the students’ creative whims are totally indulged during their term of residence, and they are given all possible technical support in their artistic development.
While working at the Rijksakademie, Gertjan continued to run his own print workshop, in the tradition established by his father, the late Jan Forrer.
His father, a master printer and lithographer, taught Gertjan his craft. As a young man Jan Forrer worked with notable artists including Russian-born French painter Marc Chagall, surrealist painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti and Austrian painter and engraver Oscar Kokoschka.
For Gertjan, however, job satisfaction is not about working with famous names. Rather, he is excited by the new and unfamiliar, and the opportunity to work with Indigenous artists was the driving force behind his move to the Territory.
The challenge of working with artists whose first language is not his mother tongue – or English either - provided exactly the kind of creative inspiration he was seeking.
Gertjan’s work at Northern Editions is highly collaborative. He examines the artists’ unique style and suggests ways of translating their art to print format.
“Being a good technician not only requires technical skill and knowledge – it is also important to have good interpersonal skills,” he said.
“I also need to share their vision.” He recommends the medium that might best complement the artist’s style and their individual technique. He said his job was to “guide without interfering”.
His first major project with Northern Editions begins on 18 February, working with five artists from the Keep River and Kununurra region who will participate in a week of printmaking workshops.
These workshops are the third stage of a collaborative project with the Waringarri Aboriginal Artists Company.
At the end of the project, a boxed suite of limited edition prints will be launched by Northern Editions.
More information can be found at www.northerneditions.com.au.