In My Garden is the latest offering of prints by Trudy Rice, bringing together rich, vibrant imagery and colour in a celebration of the natural world. Capturing the flora and fauna at her Melbourne doorstep, and from her travels to Lorne, In My Garden is an exquisite development of the intricate and environmentally sympathetic solarplate etchings for which the artist is famed.
Coinciding with the launch of this new body of work, we asked Trudy Rice a few questions about her printmaking practice.
Your work has always had a deep affinity with nature, but where previous bodies of work have made more broad gestures towards the environment, this series looks a little closer to home – to your garden. What is it about your immediate surroundings that have inspired this work specifically?
I am lucky to live in Port Melbourne across the road from a park which is rich with flora and fauna. The tawny frog mouth, who you’ll see a lot throughout this series, was actually found in my front yard making that peculiar hum. We love our gardens in Melbourne and the City of Port Phillip is particularly attentive to our local parks, giving wildlife a great place to come and nest. I am also fortunate to have a place to stay along the Great Ocean Road in Lorne, which is full of vibrant native birds and wildlife. My mother-in-law’s garden is also particularly gorgeous and provides endless inspiration for my work.
In my garden includes a few prints of a larger scale, how (or perhaps why) has your work developed with this scale?
Earlier this year I saw a 20-year-old electric printing press for sale at Queenscliff Gallery & Workshop. They needed a smaller press for their beautiful space and I just happened to need a bigger one, so a swap was coordinated. The logistics of moving a 1.5 tonne machine was quite a challenge! Thankfully my husband is very handy and arranged a crane truck to collect and deliver this beautiful old piece of machinery to my new studio. And I’m in love! the bigger press size and the ability to print my works on a larger scale is something I’ve yearned to have for about two years. The larger press bed size means I can create with more freedom and extend my ideas. I have just found even larger sheets of Printmaking paper and am looking forward to utilising the press to its full capacity. This larger size does prove challenging, however I’m looking forward to pushing my creative boundaries.
One of the questions we are often asked about your work is ‘what is solarplate etching?‘. Can you explain the process for those not so familiar with printmaking jargon?
The traditional etching process uses a metal plate and acid to create the image. Solarplate etching is a completely non-toxic form of printmaking, using the sun and water to etch a plate.
I first hand-draw my images, as each element in my prints derives from a seperate drawing. Each image is then exposed with a solar plate to the sun – a super quick process – and the image is etched into the surface of the plate. Each plate is then inked and run through the printing press on dampened paper.
In this body of work I am incorporating monoprint with solarplate etching.
How does the printmaking process extend or enrich your conceptual approach to art?
This is an interesting question. If I try to create a painting on canvas, it doesn’t quite have the same feel as an original work on paper. The process of drawing an object is quite different from painting an object. There is something about a ‘process’ that really makes me feel comfortable, however I do enjoy finding new ways of making and pushing my skills. Each step in the print process continues to enrich my work.
I go out and forage for plant life, take photos of wildlife and birds and collect information, then draw each object and make each plate. Once I come to the printing process, the colour often dictates how and what I will print on any given day. This part of the process is very intuitive and I love that I can create a unique piece of work that cannot be repeated exactly.
How would you describe your work to people who haven’t seen it before?
I want to bring the viewer closer to nature. One of the nice things about my work is that the process of creating it is as natural as possible; I don’t use any toxic fumes and the actual printing process is based on the sun and water.
Each series of work is inspired by my surroundings, whether that’s from my home in Melbourne, or down the coast in Lorne, you can always expect to see mostly Australian flora and fauna. The colours from nature are layered to bring an awareness, appreciation, and a familiarity with the beautiful place in which we live.
I hope the works bring a sense of relaxation and connectivity with the environment we live in.
In My Garden runs until November 7th, 2018.