Small holes in the silence

Small holes in the silence

Catherine Macdonald, Kyla Cresswell, Prue MacDougall and Nan Mulder discuss their new exhibition Small Holes in the Silence.

4 February, 2024
In Exhibitions,
Printmaking, Q&A


Kyla Cresswell, Once Lay a Wetland – Kōreti I, 2023, drypoint, 15 x 52 cm. Produced on residency as the Southland Art Foundation William Hodges Fellow, Invercargill, New Zealand, 2023.


Nan Mulder, In the silence: rain, 2023, mezzotint, 35 x 24 cm

Prue MacDougall, Rain, 2023, intaglio photopolymer, 12 x 18 cm

Catherine Macdonald, As the rain eases, 2024, monoprint, letterpress and digitally reproduced ink drawings in hand-bound artist book. 21 x 14 cm

We have been given the use of kōwhao iti ana i te marino – small holes in the silence, a line from Hone Tuwhare’s poem Ua – Rain. It is a poem that resonates with us all; in the poem Tuwhare speaks to rain as an equal, a friend, a lover and acknowledges that if he was gone the rain would continue. A commonality with our work is our strong connection to place, be it Murihiku, Tāmaki Makaurau, Piopiotahi or Whanganui. With these works we are telling the natural world that it is seen – that it has been heard. – Catherine Macdonald


Q: What were some of the foundation ideas for this exhibition project?

A: The exhibition title Small Holes in the Silence is drawn from the line in Hone Tuwhare’s poem Rain/ Ua. We all enjoyed the evocative nature of ‘small holes in the silence’ and felt this title encompassed our connection to nature in our art making themes. The poem is widely known and loved in Aotearoa New Zealand—Hone Tuwhare being one of the country’s best recognised poets who was a long time resident of the south—where the exhibition is first to be held. While the show includes recent works, this title has anchored one or more new pieces from each artist.

We have all exhibited together before, both in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and in international group shows. This exhibition encompasses a variety of intaglio printmaking processes including etching, drypoint, mezzotint, and photopolymer intaglio, alongside artist books, drawing and silverpoint. Elements of the natural world feature in many of the works.

Q: How did the artwork selection take place?

A: The artists were largely responsible for selecting recent work that resonates with the theme, and producing new work, including that which directly relates to the poem. There were selection inputs from the gallery curators and exhibition co-ordinator and artist Kyla Cresswell.

Q: How does the exhibition manifest—what do visitors experience?

A: Te Atamira is a relatively new (2022) custom-built arts hub with two large airy exhibition spaces. A vibrant multi-arts space, it is the platform for creativity in the Queenstown Lakes area.

The exhibition, Small Holes in the Silence in the Manaaki Nui gallery, features a range of new and recent intaglio works, drawings and artist books by four contemporary printmakers. Huge moody mezzotints alongside atmospheric charcoal drawings by Nan Mulder. Energetic drypoints and artist books by Catherine Macdonald. Large hanging silks from Prue MacDougall evoking myth and fable plus her signature intaglio photopolymer works. Fine silverpoint drawings and wetland-related drypoints by Kyla Cresswell alongside text embossings.

There is an events programme that accompanies the exhibition. An opening floor talk will see the four artists exploring their technical processes, recent innovations in their art making and discussion on the themes in their work. The artists will examine creating in response to the written word and the different outcomes each achieved. The floor talk will provide a platform to inspect elements of the visual arts landscape, in particular printmaking and the opportunities around this discipline.

Travelling from the Netherlands, International Mezzotint Ambassador[i] Nan Mulder will demonstrate the process of mezzotint and give a talk on her practice and the history of mezzotint. A frequent visitor to New Zealand, Mulder has been heavily involved in the New Zealand printmaking community.

Locals Catherine Macdonald, Prue MacDougall and Kyla Cresswell will run workshops in the education space at Te Atamira. Macdonald will offer a bookbinding workshop, teaching a variety of binding styles where participants will come away with self bound books. She will also facilitate an event with local writers where they will discuss artist/ writer collaborations. MacDougall will deliver a workshop for rangatahi youth on adding print to locally sourced stones, providing the opportunity for participants to make printed keepsakes. Cresswell will give a workshop on intaglio etching on recycled resources, where participants create their own hand-pulled prints on a portable etching press.

Q: What are some of the key works and what subject matter do they deal with?

A: Kyla Cresswell:

Artwork: Once Lay a Wetland – Kōreti I (Produced on residency as the Southland Art Foundation William Hodges Fellow,  New Zealand, 2023.)

My work explores the connectedness of ecosystems, recently in particular the kidneys of the planet—the wetlands. Text works reflect on the ability of language to evoke imagery and progress thought.

A: Nan Mulder:

Artwork: In the silence: rain (In this and other exhibition works Nan explores nature, rain, contemplation/poetry.)

We live in two worlds; an external and internal one. In my work these intermingle. Here the rain falls on the floor inside. Outside a green world waits.

A: Prue MacDougall:

Artwork: Rain

The common experience of rainfall is more than just quenching the natural world, but providing a full sensory sensation for the whole ecosystem that surrounds us. My imagination works with everyday natural scenes and turns them into a magical narrative.

A: Catherine Macdonald:

Artwork: As the rain eases

My work is often about what is around me, both socially and environmentally. I work figuratively, with reoccurring symbols in my work that have been drawn from my daily life.

Q: What is it about the printmaking experience that you most appreciate?

A: Nan Mulder: The mezzotint is an elaborate, slow technique in which the light of an image is scraped into the roughened surface of a copper plate. When printed, this renders a beautiful, velvety black and subtle grey tones. It is also a contemplative and precise technique, which has to suit the individual artist.

A: Kyla Cresswell: I enjoy the way in which each printmaking process lends a particular character to the imagery, a visual language. Mezzotint gives atmosphere, drypoint a direct link to drawing, embossing a stark subtlety.

A: Catherine Macdonald: Drypoint is an immediate process, a type of drawing/scratching of the image into the plates surface. I have a variety of tools I use and I enjoy experimenting with mark making. When it comes to the printing process there is the surprise of the reveal that comes with pulling the first print off a plate.

Small Holes in the Silence is at Te Atamira, Queenstown, New Zealand until 14 April .

 See ‘What’s On’ for the events program.

[i] Mulder was awarded the title of at the International Mezzotint Festival in Russia in 2017.

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