Anne Starling is an artist whose intricate linocuts and woodblocks of the “post-industrial landscape” have provided her a close following and critical acclaim as a contemporary printmaker. Most recently, Starling has accumulated and long and well-deserved list of accolades: she has been shortlisted for the The Swan Hill Print and Drawing Award (Vic), The Fleurieu Biennale (WA), The Stanthorpe Art Prize Qld), Inkmasters (Qld) and Fremantle Print Award (WA). Starling has has also been awarded a three week residency at the Australian Print Workshop.
It’s with great pleasure that our Winter Salon exhibition launches a brand new print by Anne Starling – Shangri-La. In conjunction with it’s debut, we sat down with the artist to gain a some insight to her practice; we hope you enjoy this glimpse into the artist’s creative mind as much as we do.
The term “post-industrial landscape” comes up often in evaluation of your work; your imagery introduces icons and symbols of the industrial into suburban settings. Can you expand on this idea?
The recurrent theme of the ‘post industrial landscape’ refers to the changing environments that are a direct result of industry. This often unmonitored industrial progress results in the transformation of suburban settings. The encroachment of heavy industry and its effects on everyday life is examined in many of my works. The images provide a personal insight into the uneasy, symbiotic relationship that exists between industry and society and our ability to manage and, in some ways, thrive in a post-industrial world. I have also created a series of images that feature recurring symbolic motifs, such as the post-WW2 Australian home. These images signify the changing face of a post-industrial landscape. The works are often satirical and present an ironic view of the comfortable suburban home, albeit, surrounded by smelters and pollution. My print-derived artworkds are intended to pose questions relating to the cost of progress on people and place, while acknowledging the capacity for adaptation in an every-changing environment.
Suburban Australian has a recognisable narrative and particular iconography – it’s distinctly Antipodean. However, the industrial – and the post-industrial – seems like a more global condition; it’s imagery and conditions of ‘existence’ are more universal. Is this something you consider in your work?
In many of my works there are underlying environmental concerns that are universal. These images reference the industrialisation of contemporary Australian and European cities and the problem of ruined utilitarian buildings that once generated energy for a new, expanding society. In the development of my source material I explore dominant, industrial foreshore structures in areas such as Fremantle (WA) and the exploitation of the foreshores and estuaries surrounding the Rhodes Peninsula in Sydney (NSW). My art practice is informed by scientific documentation of this landscape and environs by organisations such as Greenpeace, The Environmental Protection Agency, Rhodes Remediation and The National Toxic Network. Although comparisons can be dawn with international sites such as Pripyat, a Ukrainian city in Eastern Europe, there are of course distinct differences between Eastern Europe and Australia. My subject matter is drawn from my own experiences and the iconography is locally sourced. The prints focus on the cohabitation of nature, people and industry and the reclamation of a post-industrial wasteland. As a result, my works provide a representation of Australian landscapes that are interfered with and/or altered through the necessity of progress – a silent presence that we coexist with and rarely question.
Can you tell us more about your Winter Salon submission, Shangri-La, the title is especially intriguing here given the narratives of your prints.
The notion of suburbia and identity is explored in my relief print Shangri-La. The title is less prescriptive than my earlier works, however, the subject matter continues to address the concerns of individuals living on the periphery of impending change and development. the title Shangri-La makes reference to common house names of the 1950s, where homeowners created their own visions of tranquility and paradise. The pictorial image of the Post-war house with its menagerie of kitsch creates a narrative of a vanishing urban environment. In Shangri-La the suburbs meet Utopia. the perception of identity is highlighted through the description of the figure in the urban landscape. He stands in his own ‘garden of Eden’ and there is a certain comfort and familiarity in this image of the ‘Great Australian Dream’, but all is not perfect in this vision of suburbia. The diminutive crane references impending development. The home and its owner represent the last bastion of Post-war suburbia before eventual demolition. There is a sense of authentic human attachment to the constructed environment as both the house and the figure represent vanishing suburbia and a homage to the quarter acre block.
What inspires you to create?
I am continually observing, collating and making. My work is inspired by my surrounds, industrial remnants, people and suburbia. Along with this collection of data, I also draw on my own memories of growing up in the outer Southern suburbs of Sydney. Many of my constructed narratives are scenes familiar to my childhood: the Post-war detached house, hills hoist, lawn mower and picket fence. I am interested in creative visual narratives where each image tells a story and examines the impact that human interaction has on places and the environment.
Do you feel your chosen medium has any relationship to your concepts/imagery beyond being a mere vehicle of creative expression?
The process of carving and/or etching an image and my slightly obsessive nature draws me to printmaking. I enjoy constructing the images, problem-solving and the challenge of carving/etching. As the creation of my prints requires time and the collection of a considerable amount of source material, this process extends to photographing, researching and sketching specific landmarks, people and objects. I am drawn to the graphic nature of the print, the ability to create multiples (in my case limited editions) and the layering of techniques. The graphic, narrative images produced in my studio make reference to the strong historical pst of ‘the print’ where it was used to disseminate political messages.
How would you explain your work to somebody who had never seen it
My prints are historical documents that record aspects of Australian life that are changing or disappearing. The works are social narratives of people, places and the mundane amidst the backdrop of industry against Australian suburban setting. My prints do not hide the truth, but they are not overtly confronting either. They are visual narratives – carefully thought-out combinations of the deliberately satirical, subtly ironic and comfortably suburban. They impart a message to the viewer which is not immediately apparent. It may take some minutes, or hours, to comprehend.
You can view and purchase prints by Anne Starling on the artist’s page by clicking HERE.
You can view the rest of the incredible prints exhibiting as a part of our Winter Salon exhibition by clicking HERE.