Elmari Steyn: Tree House
Liz Morrison, President of the Printmakers Association of Western Australia, interviews Namibian-born print artist Elmari Steyn about her latest solo exhibition, Tree House. This exhibition has just wrapped up after a four week showing at the Tresillian Arts Centre in Nedlands, Perth, WA.
9 July, 2019
Tree House # 1, 2019, etching, Chine-collé, hand-colouring, 76 x 56 cm, unique state.
Childwoods #4, 2019, etching, Chine-collé, hand-colouring, 76 x 56 cm, unique state.
Eyrie: S28o 37.595’/E116o 25.327’, 2017, etching, 50 x 56 cm, edition of 50.
Pete’s Tree S 31˚ 2.372’/ E 116˚ 2.692’, 2018, spit-bite, stage-bite aquatint, 150 x 80 cm, edition of five.
Elmari Steyn was born in Namibia and has a background in fashion design and manufacture, product design, art, craft and jewellery. In 2012 she relocated to Australia, where she is continuing her love of the arts as an active printmaker and jeweller, with her main focus being intaglio printmaking. Her works reflect her love for wilderness and especially the relationship of individuals within nature and the experience of transition and place. She has participated in multiple exhibitions, national and International, and won a number of Art Awards. Steyn has worked from her Printing Studio at the Tresillian Arts Centre in Nedlands, Western Australia, for the past four years.
LM: What draws you to printmaking as a medium?
ES: I am a narrative artist. Printmaking, and especially copper-plate etching, is to me the perfect vehicle to communicate. A deeply etched line, delicate texture or aquatinted surface speak in a universal language and I feel confident to convey the essence of a memory or story that will resonate with art lovers, viewers and an audience. Also, printmaking allows for an exploration of multiple methods, styles and directions; it allows one to be playful and journey into the beauty and balance of images, ideas and design.
Q: How did this exhibition come about?
ES: Tree House is the result of life being interrupted, and the subsequent merging of two projects. While working on my Trees on Location project I had to spend some months packing up and moving my elderly father from his house among trees. This process un-earthed a treasure trove of memories and stories which all demanded being told and hence the melding of the concept of a home or a house with the nature of trees.
The exhibition was predominantly of copper-plate etchings and large format prints which examined the contact that we have with nature and home, through and within trees, particularly quirky and characterful trees and houses.
Q: Trees feature predominantly in your work, what is your relationship with trees?
ES: I love to explore the interaction that we have with nature, through trees, especially expressive and characterful trees. Each of my tree prints communicates the nature of a tree, its individual narrative, character and function. Whether in wild untouched places or in urban settings, often disfigured to fit in with manmade structures; trees retain their individuality, their true form and nature.
In this exhibition the idea of the Tree House, nesting in a tree, floating above the ground, day-dreaming and playing, being in nature, the environment: every tree house is completely unique to complement and balance its tree. I wanted to explore the balance of nature, tree houses, some deconstructed to their basic elements, nests, security, homes and all within life among trees. Key ideas and images were freedom from care, floating above the ground, day dreaming and playing, with and within the concept of safety and sanctuary.
Q: What do you see as your next step?
ES: My next project is about Dress, it’s a connection with ceremony and story-telling and already well under way. It will involve larger works and my new studio is a timely heaven-sent blessing. As I have just moved into a new, larger and better functioning studio space at the Tresillian Arts Centre.