Charles Darwin University’s printmaking studio Northern Editions recently hosted a week-long printmaking workshop for five Indigenous artists from the Keep River and Kunnunara region of northern Australia.
The artists Ronnie Yundun, Maryann Sturt, Daisy Bitting, Gloria Mengil and Jerita Mengil are all represented by the Waringarri Aboriginal Arts centre in the heart of Miriwoong Country at Kununurra in east Kimberley, Western Australia.
Under the expert guidance of Northern Editions printmakers Gertjan Forrer and Jacinta Numina-Waugh, and visiting printmaker Dian Darmansjah, the artists experimented with various printmaking techniques including linocut printing and etching.
It was the first time that any of the artists had tried their hand at printmaking and they enjoyed the chance to experiment with new techniques which would complement their individual styles.
The printmaking process can be long and time-consuming; sometimes taking several weeks of proofing before the artist is happy with the final image from which a limited edition is printed.
Artist Maryanne Sturt, who has painted since a young age, said that participating in the workshops had helped developed her patience.
“I would say I’m a fairly patient person,” she said, “but making these plates has meant I have had to control my urge to finish off a piece so that I can start on something else.”
Printmaking holds unique challenges for artists, the greatest being that the artists need to be able to visualise their subjects in reverse.
Daisy Bitting, who paints her mother’s country, from Bullo River across to Jamunjung in the Northern Territory, was surprised that she had to imagine her country in reverse. “It’s all backwards,” she said.
The other challenge facing Northern Editions printmakers is language. Given that sometimes the artists’ first language is not English, some printmaking techniques can be difficult to grasp, according to Northern Editions Manager Emma Fowler-Thomason.
“Printmakers have found that visual communication is often more reliable than verbal and we have developed many flexible ways to solve these communication challenges over the years.” Ms Fowler-Thomason said.