|The landscape has been the prime subject matter for Australian artists, both indigenous and those who have come to Australia since 1788.
For many people in this country and overseas, paintings and prints by artists such as John Glover, Eugene von Guérard, Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Sidney Nolan, John Olsen and Fred Williams have formed the popular conception of the Australian landscape. It is only in recent years that the importance of Aboriginal depictions of the landscape has been acknowledged and their images have become part of the popular imagination.
This exhibition focuses on prints produced by Australian artists from 1960 to the present. As well as presenting prints of the Australian landscape it represents the work of two artists who have often found their subject matter in foreign landscapes. Janet Dawson produced poetic lithographs of the Italian landscape, where she worked in the late 1950s. For the 'new Australian' migrant Salvatore Zofrea, the Italian landscape is the source of formative memories.
In the 1960s Australian printmaking came to maturity. Tertiary institutions added printmaking to the curriculum, print workshops both private and publicly financed were established, and specialist 'master printers' and print publishers began to operate. During these years artists extended the possibilities of printmaking by producing sets and series of prints. In some instances, as in the work of Bea Maddock, Mike Parr and John Wolseley, images on individual sheets are hung so as to form one work. Maddock's Terra Spiritus, comprising 51 sheets that form a panorama of the complete Tasmanian coastline, could not have been produced as a single composition.
For other artists, producing sets allows them to examine a theme from different perspectives or times. John Olsen's prints in the Down Under suite explore a single theme, as do Fred Williams's lithographs of the Werribee Gorge. Frank Hodgkinson examines the effect of differing inkings of the same plate in his sensuous landscapes, while Zofrea records the landscape through the different seasons of the year.
The production of sets and series involves considerable cost, and these are often financed by publishers. In some cases publishers have initiated print portfolios to make artists' works more widely available to the public. Lloyd Rees's Australian Landscape portfolio, published by Port Jackson Press, was initiated by the publisher, while Sydney-based Utopia Art commissioned the artists of the Utopia community to produce 72 woodcut prints. However, for artists Mary Macqueen and Kim Westcott, their experiments and exploration of the landscape motif have been self-directed and self-funded.
Judy Watson, an urban Aboriginal, returns the exhibition to the beginning - the depiction of the landscape through Aboriginal eyes. Together, these works demonstrate the continued interest in representing the landscape and the contributions that different printmakers have made to our rethinking of it.