2021 Print Commission: Laura Castell

In a new series of articles, we interview the PCA’s 2021 Print Commission artists about their working spaces.

16 September 2021
In Exhibitions,
Printmaking, Q&A

Main image:

Laura Castell
Born 1961, Venezuela. Lives Qld.
The Pleasure of Making
Multiple-block woodcut
Edition size: 30
Image size: 55 x 39 cm
Paper size: 76 x 56 cm
This time of uncertainty and change
in the world and in our everyday lives
has highlighted for me the infinite
and intimate pleasure of making. As
one example, I chose the figure of the
ceramicist working in the studio.

Laura Castell:

Up until 2011, in addition to my time at TAFE, I made my artwork around the house, finding spaces that could be left somewhat messy for a while as I worked. In 2011 I had the fortune of winning our local art awards which provides a significant financial boost, so I immediately spent all the award on buying an etching press. It was a big decision at the time but I have never looked back since. Having to place the press in a definitive space was the leading push to designating one of the rooms in our house as my studio. It is a relatively small space where I have to walk with care not to hit my head on the edges of tables or printing press if I lean to pick up something from the floor. It can get chaotic at times as I complete work and can also extend to various other parts of the house, especially for laying prints on the floor to dry. But even then, it is a space I love, where I am in my own world, with the company of the birds that I can see through the windows. After 10 years in this space, I do feel the need for a larger studio (a larger press would be nice too!). The convenience of working from home with all my materials at hand is too good to let go, but I do miss the camaraderie one feels in a large space, working with other artists, each focused on their own things but also getting together to help each other grow.

Using the figure to suggest social issues important to me is a big part of my practice. As someone who left their country of birth and migrated to a different culture and language, I empathise with the feeling of being a foreigner. In my case it was voluntary but for many others it is not. I am contemplating the meaning of home, of belonging, of identity, when you are somewhere else to what you used to know. With this in mind I have a few woodcuts in the making, progressing in the drawing stage, usually the most time-consuming part for me, where I work out some basic ideas of size and composition.  I work with some degree of unplanning when it comes to carving and inking, scary but exciting at the same time.

I am also working on an artist book that illustrates a poem I wrote thinking of the brave people who desperately take the dangerous boat trip in search of hope. These themes often leave me in need of something light, so I am continuously working on images that reflect the animal nature I am surrounded by, often including birds.

I am becoming more and more interested in the artist book as a story-telling tool, with some short text and images that complement the words. I love illustrated books, not necessarily as the picture books more directed to children (which I love too), but simply not considering the age of the audience.  I want to explore this genre in more depth.

A continuous interest to develop is the mixing of printmaking techniques in a way that may result in a very painterly print where the process is somewhat hidden. Many artists are already doing this, so I am keen to experiment with this.

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