Screen prints and woodcuts 1977 -1982

The origins of these screen prints came about partly as an alternative to the values I had been taught in art school. My lecturers were firm believers in the modernist project which proposed that the type of art favoured by critics and art galleries was the logical culmination of visual art in the twentieth century, representational or figurative art was viewed as belonging to the past and abstractionism was presented as the only valid form of art for the serious artist. This thinking worked for those established artists but I was nagged by the thought that it had little relevance outside of a small group who grasped the highly intellectual theories which framed late modernism.

Hence, I decided to study a type of art that had been regarded as marginal by the modernists which valued a funky figurative approach to style and subject matter, the Hairy Who or more formally, the Chicago Imagists. I also developed an enthusiam for a couple of non-Western art forms, Indian Tantric art and Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints. There was no intention of explicitly following any of these art forms, their value lay in providing pointers to some of the possibilities available beyond traditional realism.

The choice of screen printing as the prefered medium was important and it was decided by a number of factors. Living in rented accommodation meant that I wasn't encumbered by bulky art works, and if I kept the work on a small scale, a spare room could serve as a studio. I also liked the democratic aspect of screen prints which could easily be printed in larger editions and I could give away prints to my friends and acquaintances.

However, the core reason I liked the medium was the aesthetic potential it offered. The work that printmaking students at art school produced relied on hand drawn stencils which resulted in anaemic facsimilies of painting fashions, and as an alternative, I felt the use of photographic stencils would offer a greater range of subject matter that came with a subtler printed surface. I had previously started considering these possibilities when I worked as a technician for commercial printers who demanded clean and accurate work and it was obvious these photographic processes could be manipulated for artistic purposes.

The images which I came to use were from a variety of sources. Whenever I came across something interesting in a library book I would either make a photocopy or snap a photo. Another source was television; I mounted a camera on a tripod placed in front of my TV and I would watch late night movies ready to press the shutter release when an interesting scene appeared. All these sources were inherently poor quality, the black and white TV inevitably suffered from poor reception, the photocopy machine failed to capture detail and tonal nuances and this was exactly what I was looking for.

Once these images were transferred to graphic arts film I got to work with scissors and scalpel knife in order to isolate the figures from their backgrounds. These components were glued, collage style, to a sheet of clear acetate from which a photo-stencil could be made. In order to build up the colour layers for the finished print, this process needed to be repeated several times.

The themes I explored in this series were a response to my circumstances. Several of the earlier prints dealt with relationships while the later works stem from a period when I worked in a shared studio in the Melbourne central business district. Watching the indentically dressed office workers emerge from anonymous glass towers became the trigger for looking at the lifestyle of workers engaged in managing information.

Stylistically the series evolved over time to reflect the changing artistic environment with the rough-edged do-it-yourself attitude of punk culture influencing the look of the later prints, the colour palettes became even less harmonious and the surfaces showing even more printing 'defects.'

When it came to exhibiting these works I didn't bother with the mainstream galleries and opted to show them in more alternative spaces where, despite the challenges the unfamiliar aesthetic posed for some audiences, they were reasonably well received. Most importantly the public I wanted to speak to, the new generation creative class of artists, writers, musicians and film makers instinctively grasped my intentions.