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The Turning


Linocut Print, Multi-plate and Reduction · Limited Edition of 95

Size: 57.5 x 57.5 cm / 22.6 x 22.6 in

Handcrafted linocut print, printed on 100% cotton archival paper, using a hand powered etching press in the artist's studio in southern Tasmania.

This print has been created by carefully handcarving 4 linoleum blocks in order to be inked up and subsequently used to print a number of colours. Limited edition of 95, signed and numbered by the artist. The handmade nature of this printing technique means that every copy will be so ever slightly different from one another, each having their own uniqueness.

A poetic ode to changes, seasons and all cycles of life, this colourful print depicts two Grey Fantails playfully flitting in Tasmanian Fagus. 

The only true deciduous tree in Australia, and a rare remnant to the Gondwanan era, Nothofagus Gunnii grows in isolated clusters in Alpine regions of Tasmania. The leaves are small, hardy with subtle facets. Every year, when the first chills hit the highlands, some entire mountain flanks come alive with firey colours as the leaves prepare to drop to the ground to feed the soil. Going from green to deep reds, bright orange and zesty yellows, this spectacle has been nicknamed "The Turning" and isn't without its hardcore fans. Going on an annual fagus visit is a commonplace tradition amongst locals and visitors.

Meanwhile, the inconspicuous Grey Fantails, with their small frame and muted grey plumage, blend in amongst the forests' shaddows. Understated swift and agile birds, they are easily recognisable by their unique hunting style, zigzagging their way to their prey by rapidly fanning their tails and wings to catch tiny insects in full flight.

The nitty gritty


This print is by far the most challenging I have ventured in so far. I had a few boxes to tick: I wanted to showcase the whole range of colours that the Fagus displays. I wanted the colours to be bright without being flat. I also wanted the leaves to have some depth, and to create a sense of dense forest with the typical mottled light effect often found under the canopy. The reality of this self imposed brief meant one thing: A LOT of layers. Up until then, all my prints had been made using the multi-block method, which simply consists in carving a linoleum block for each colour/layer. The most I had done was 5 layers for my 'Finches in Waratah' print, for which I carved 5 blocks. I knew this new print would likely take 10-12 layers, and the thought of carving this many blocks sent me to a slight panic. So I shelved the idea for a while. The seemingly best option was to use a method I'd never used before: the dreaded, finicky, kamikaze-style Reduction Method. Reduction method is an approach to relief printmaking where an artist would typically use a single block of linoleum to print a series of various colours. The artists starts by carving off only the highlights, ink the block up with the lightest shade of their design, and print the first layer of their print. Then they clean the block, carve a little more off, and print a slightly darker shade as a second layer. Clean again, carve again, print again, and repeat this process until only a few slithers are left on the block for the very last and darkest layer. The linoleum block is essentially being detroyed as the print takes its shape. This means two things: 1/ There is no such thing as a proof print. No testing of colours or fixing mistakes. Fumbling in the dark and hoping for the best is the only way forward. 2/ There is also no reprinting. The whole edition (for me, usually a hundred copies) needs to be created in one go. And that is a LOT of paper to put on the line.

The rise and fall

Once warmed up to the idea, I felt confident. I have made a habit of throwing myself into the deep enough end that failure simply isn't allowed. How hard could it be? (The short answer is: 'very')I set to work in November 2022 using a combination of the two techniques available to me. I had two linoleum blocks, each one destined to lay 5-6 layers. My initial bit of carving done, I layed the first colour, then the second and the third. "I've got this". That's when it started going downhill. I had registration issues (the blocks were no longer lining up) but I also realised I had been applying too thick a layer of ink and by the 7th layer, things were looking really, really blotchy. And I was only half way through the process. It was time to accept the obvious: I just had to take myself back to square one. The 120 sheets of beautifully crafted cotton paper got shredded and are now being used as compost filler. I wrote down some notes, pinned them to the wall and walked away to mend by broken heart. 

In March 2023, refreshed and with a better plan in mind, I set off to work again. This time I had 3 blocks of linoleum. One for the oranges, one for the greens, and one for the greys. I layed my colours thinly and played with gradients to build depth (a gradient is when several colours are blended onto the inking roller, creating a smooth transition between the tones - See video below. On this print, the leaves go from a deep hue at the top, to a light yellow in the middle, and intensifies again towards the bottom) 

Then a surpise fourth block appeared out of the blue. Some extra layers made some guest appearances, adding up to a whopping total of 15 layers. Of the 120 sheets of paper I set off with, I ended up with an edition of 95 available prints, plus 5 artists proofs of various quality for my archive. The remaining 20 didn't make the cut.

The Takeaway

One reason why I was tempted to experiment with the reduction method was for a decisive creative push. Up until this time, even though my editions were already at 100 copies, I would typically do a print run of 20-30 at a time, and wait until I was low in stock to print some more, until I eventually reached my last number. It worked for a while but over time, I found myself trudging along trying to keep up with stock, having my current projects interrupted by having to reprint various old prints. I also found myself a little stuck. I felt that having to constantly go back to old work was holding me back. The idea of printing the entire edition had been tempting me for a while and this new print was the perfect occasion to switch gear and step up. I have to admit it was intimitading to say the least. But once finished, the exhilarating joy made the emotional rollercoaster worth it.

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