expand, contract, expand again

expand, contract, expand again

Ally McKay responds to the new exhibition expand, contract, expand again by artist-run initiative More Than Reproduction.

20 May, 2024
In Exhibitions,
Printmaking, Q&A


Bella La Spina, untitled, 2023, overhead projector, acetate, scavenged screen, dimensions variable. Photography: Jennifer Brady


Installation view, PCA Gallery, of expand, contract, expand again.

Bridget Baskerville, Tailings (process shot), 2023. Photography: Bridget Baskerville

Bridget Baskerville, Tailings, 2023, corroded mild steel, 30 x 20 cm (each). Photography: Jennifer Brady

Elizabeth Knuckey, PUSH PAST, 2024, site-specific screenprint installation, print paste and cardboard moving boxes, 13.5 x 100 cm, install dimensions variable. Photography: Jennifer Brady

Bella La Spina, Panning Sand: Unearthing Coffs, 2021-2023, bound book, etchings on Hahnemuhle, 75 x 100 x 5 cm. Photography: Jennifer Brady

(Water + Rust) + (Dust + Site) + (Light + Silk) > Printmaking

Artists Bridget Baskerville, Elizabeth Knuckey and Bella La Spina are rewriting the formula of traditional printmaking. Their innovative approaches to materiality, site and space, explore printmaking as a living and breathing medium. The exhibition, ‘expand, contract, expand again’, curated by the artist-run initiative More Than Reproduction, reveals the trace and minimal aesthetic of committed printmakers through a contemporary lens. Using unexpected materials like water, rust, dust, site, light and silk, these artists push the limits of their materials to rigorously explore new possibilities. 

Water & Rust

A landscape weeps in metal parts.

Buried beneath a layer of earth,
streams rush over.

Generations were once sustained here,
through soil, sand and silt.

Eroded rectangular sheets,
textured in rusted browns,
repeat like worn soldiers.

There was once strength and shine,
now neglect projects with stubborn endurance.

Earth evolves through interventions,
impact measured by rust.

Actions turn to acid,
what will remain here?

Between water and rust,
we dig until holes permeate,
dig until endurance wanes,
dig to the depths of destruction.

Does gain outweigh the loss here?
Does loss outweigh the gain here?

Measures of time will tell,
when will it be told too late?

Water and Rust:  Bridget Baskerville

Artist Bridget Baskerville engages in an unconventional making process. Her works are formed by immersing traditional printmaking plates in contaminated waters. This method results in striking visceral and textural surfaces imprinted directly onto the plate’s surface. Collaborating with both nature and inherent chemicals, Baskerville allows these elements to corrode and mark the metal plates over time. These site-altered objects offer tangible evidence of the impact extractive industries cause on the environment. 

Growing up in a regional mining town of Kandos in New South Wales, Baskerville directs her exploration to specific sites scarred by mining and ecological harm. By taking etching methodologies out of the studio, Baskerville relinquishes control to the environmental forces of water and rust. This approach embraces uncertainty, and directly confronts the real consequences of contamination by utilising the chemical corrosive effects of decay.

The work quietly exposes socio-environmental issues faced by mining affected communities. Displaying the plates in their raw and weathered state, Baskerville invites viewers to reflect on their own relationship to place and community.


Dust & Site:

Small mounds snowball into piles,
running a finger over a surface,
a familiar softness in edges.

We spent time here.
Between these walls, we grew.
It takes time to know when the time is right –
time to move.

To pack,
to shift,
to shed old skin.

Dust sweeps memories,
between floorboards,
underneath cracks.

Collect hairpins behind bed frames,
wipe fingerprints from lightswitches.
In mounds of cardboard boxes,
we start again. 

Dust and Site: Elizabeth Knuckey

Disrupting the permanence of printmaking, artist Elizabeth Knuckey intervenes within the space to screenprint directly onto gallery surfaces. In this installation, Knuckey experiments with the phrase ‘PUSH PAST’ printed onto the wall in a paste flecked with dust made from cardboard moving boxes.

Utilising text within her practice, Knuckey manipulates phrases and musings that draw from her own poetic writing practice and lived experience. The material poetics of the dust subtly hints at the concept, gently illuminating the phrase. This fragile engagement with materials and the gallery walls echo the sentiments of transition and experience of being in-between.

Knuckey’s commitment to site-specificity prompts viewers to actively engage in discovering her work. The artist strategically situates her work in spaces that are inherently marked by ephemerality. This approach blurs the distinction between the traditional permanence of print and its ephemeral experience within a site specific context. 

The motivational phrase paradoxically embodies movement while representing a sense of strength in overcoming transitionary periods. As viewers engage with her work, they are invited to contemplate the transitory nature of growth and adaptation to new environments. 

Light & Silk:

The lighthouse keeps quiet mysteries,
guarding the solitude of days gone by.

Ghostly lit spaces build narratives,
upon familiar hometown shores.

swept and collected,
in search of an identity pieced together.

An unease in the gut wakes past lives,
archived and remembered in fragments.

Smoke screens of silk sift truth from fiction.

Wooden bones,
hold strong,
around the edges of a dementia fuelled dream.

A structure,
a desolate mind from wandering into the sea.

Both lost and found,
both remembered and forgotten,
a light left on inside.

 Light and Silk: Bella La Spina

Exhibiting the tools of her trade, Bella La Spina’s interdisciplinary approach to printmaking, photo media and sculpture transforms process into product. 

The faint image of a lighthouse is visible on the surface of a silk screen frame hung on the wall, illuminated by an antiquated overhead projector. The viewing experience of La Spina’s work is ephemeral, contingent upon the interplay of light from the overhead projector and the silk’s translucency. 

La Spina reorders materials hierarchies to create a haunting installation that explores the concept of the archive. On the gallery floor, a large book of etchings serves as a tactile reminder of the physicality of memory, each page unveiling fragments of a larger narrative. As viewers navigate the works, they are confronted with the presence of history, and the complexities of memory, its preservation, and erasure.

La Spina draws upon the material poetics of erasure processes within printmaking and photography to strip back layers akin to the process of forgetting. Observing the photographic imagery, viewers encounter a mysterious blend of fact and fiction. The traces of photographic imagery ask audiences to piece together narratives, deciphering connections between elusive sites, places, and objects.

Expand Again:

The fluid hybridity of printmaking is palpable. Blending traditional techniques with contemporary approaches, Bridget Baskerville, Elizabeth Knuckey and Bella La Spina  carve out space for expanded practice through bold experimentation.

By incorporating materials such as water, rust, dust, site, light, and silk, they challenge viewers to reconsider the very essence of printmaking itself. This exhibition serves not only as a catalyst for dialogue and exploration, but as an invitation to contemplate the future of print.

More Than Reproduction’s expand, contract, expand again is at the Print Council of Australia Gallery, printcouncil.org.au, 21 May-7 June, opening reception Tuesday 21 May 5-7pm.

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