ARTLOOK #15 | September 2005
Photo Mim Kelly, Is That Sweat (Shop) on my Label?, 2005, cotton (pre-loved jeans), cotton thread, devore screen print, hand ‘mending’, 89x 25cm (approx)
Get Printed, now showing at Megalo, brings together surface design work by outstanding graduates from the textile workshop of the Australian National University School of Art (SOA). The show is a unique survey that incorporates work by current students as well as recent and past undergraduates and post graduates, including: Linda Rice, Julie Ryder, Monique Van-Nieuwland, Leah Manwaring, Jael Muspratt, Deanne Prout, Tonya Jefferis and Libby Kennedy. The exhibition is being coordinated by Annie Trevillian, SOA's surface design lecturer, and undergraduate Mim Kelly, in consultation with Paul Peisley, Megalo's artistic director. The show also recalls the longstanding relationship between the textile workshop and Megalo Access Arts.
Many of the participants in Get Printed have been resident artists at Megalo, and Linda Rice was, for some years, the fabric print coordinator, a job recently filled by Emma Rees, another SOA graduate. It is interesting to see students' works together, and to reflect on subsequent career paths. For example, a repeat pattern fabric length by Rice shows the highly developed, energetic, and edgy aesthetic that characterises her oeuvre. Another exhibitor is Julie Ryder, who is a highly innovative surface designer with an interest in ecologically-sound practice. Her Masters research was concerned with biological dyestuffs including plants, bacteria and fungi. Work that Ryder produced during an ANAT Residency
is currently on show in Art and the Bryophyte at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
Since graduating at SOA each artist has continued to work in the field: Manwaring in textile production design in London and Hong Kong, Muspratt honing her skills in textile conservation at the National Gallery of Australia, while Prout has developed a practice in digital design and has been working at the National Museum of Australia. Van-Nieuwland is a well-known artist and has, for many years, been the Technical Officer in the Textile Workshop. Craft ACT recently hosted a solo show by Kennedy and ANCA will be the venue for a solo by Jefferis later in the year.
The SOA textile workshop has established a reputation for training designers, but studio work is also core business and graduates are increasingly multi-skilled practitioners who develop fluid or facetted practices.
When Trevillian began teaching at the SOA in1992, facilities to print fabric meterage were not available on campus, so her classes met at Megalo to work on their group print assignments, and repeat pattern lengths. Initially this was in the tin shed at Ainslie Village, where Paul Piesley first joined the staff and Paul Costigan was the director. The practice continued when Megalo moved to the old Hackett School, and Catrina Vignando managed the facility. Trevillian has been a board member of Megalo for much of its history and she has worked tirelessly to develop the facilities at the textile workshop, mostly by securing grant funding. The print room's facilities are a testament to her determination, not only to developing the strength and depth of the SOA program, but also to ensuring a safe working environment in which students learn to adhere to OH&S standards and practices.
Trevillian also taught digital technology when the textile workshop acquired computers-the first SOA workshop to do so. Computer-aided design continues to be a part of Trevillian's own arts practice, along with chemical treatments. On this topic, in 1997, she produced
and published a research package in collaboration with Jill Petifer, Bleach, Buckle, Burn, which continues to inform SOA students and has contributed in no small part to the experimental approaches that are demonstrated by the participants in Get Printed.
In 2003, Megalo relocated, on a three-year lease, to Canberra Technology Park at the old Watson High School. A new gallery space has been developed, which has enabled Megalo to run a strong exhibition program. The refurbishments at Watson also incorporated equipment that was acquired in 2000 from Studio One, and it will soon boast specialist facilities for processing dyes, discharge, and devoré when the detached steaming facility is completed. Megalo is the only facility in Australia providing public access for all print mediums. The artist residency programs and relationship with Studio One have secured Megalo's reputation nationally and internationally.
German printmaker Henning Eichinger launched his recent residency with the exhibition Suitcase from Pfullingen, which finished in mid-August. Many artists visiting SOA avail themselves of Megalo's excellent facilities, and the archive reflects this relationship. Megalo grew out of the 1970s grass roots arts movement, and in Paste Up, a recent exhibition of poster art drawn from the archive, Megalo showed the amazing range of local community projects, artists, and events that they have supported over the years. The exhibition was a fascinating collection of flashbacks, bringing together the people who made Megalo's history and providing an opportunity for them to put stories to unidentified items. Theatre productions, music, arts and community events, protest and satirical artwork, backyard and school projects-Canberra's character, its soul, and sense of humour were all very much in evidence in PasteUp, with work dating back to Megalo's founding in 1980.
This year Megalo celebrates its 25th birthday with the exhibition 25 x 25, which runs from 5–26 November. Made in a wide range of printmedia, each print will be 25 x 25 cm in size. Featured artists will be invited to participate on the basis of their association with Megalo and the former Studio One Printmaking Workshop. The exhibition will include work by senior artists such as Raymond Arnold, GW Bott, Robert Boynes and Alison Alder, along with a number of other mid-career and emerging artists, all of whom have maintained a long and influential involvement with Megalo.
Access to Megalo's industrial light-table provides opportunities for cross-disciplinary exploration by artists such as Robert Boynes, whose large screens are prepared at Megalo. As a North Canberra resident I am delighted to have Australia's premier public access printmaking facility in my backyard, but for some, including those travelling from the north, west and south a central location would be more accessible. A permanent site for Megalo closer to SOA would also build on the links between the two institutions.
ANN MCMAHON is a freelance writer, artist and critic.