Review: The print editions of master printers Basil Hall, Monique Auricchio and Jo Diggens are impressive | Canberra weather

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Rare collector’s editions by master printers Basil Hall, Monique Auricchio and Jo Diggens. Nancy Sever Gallery. Until January 23. nancysevergallery.com.au. Basil Hall is one of Australia’s most respected master printers. In other words, it is a technician who plays the role of midwife and works with artists who are perhaps not mainly engravers but who wish to make original prints. The Master Printer guides the artist through the alchemy of printmaking techniques until they reach the desired resolution of the artwork, then prints an edition of unique original prints for the artist to sign. Normally, beyond the edition, there can be one imprint for the archives of the workshop and one for the archives of the printer. Hall spent approximately 16 years working in Darwin where he collaborated with two other printers, Monique Auricchio and Jo Diggens. He has worked with hundreds of artists from over 55 isolated indigenous communities, primarily in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia. Back in Canberra, the three printers decided to sell the artists’ prints from their private collections and therefore this exhibition. Frequently, the original editions of these prints have been sold out as some of the artists, including Arone Meeks, Paddy Sims, Judy Watson, Dennis Nona, Freddy Timms, Dorothy Napangardi and Banduk Marika, have been deified by the art market and their prints have become quite rare. In the era of COVID, the taste for original prints is on the rise. The reasons are pretty obvious, and as people spend more time working from home, there has been an increase in demand for high quality original art at a modest price for home walls. The original print is not a substitute for more expensive paintings, but a stand-alone art form in its own right. Original prints very rarely reproduce an image originally conceived as a painting or in some other medium, and artists generally design a work to be done as a print – an etching, a lithograph, a relief print, a silkscreen, etc. This is the case with most of the prints presented during this exhibition. Although Hall was born in Melton, Victoria to a famous artistic lineage, he is a boy from Canberra who trained at the Canberra School of Art in his heyday and cut his teeth as a as a publishing printer at Studio One between 1987 and 1994. He created a reputation for integrity and for his persuasive ability to convince artists that they really want to make prints. This quality of empathy for the needs of the artist shines in this exhibition without “studio style, but a realization of the artist’s vision.” There is a wealth and diversity of distinct artistic personalities. Take, for example, Judy Watson’s dark and mysterious print Big Dark World with 3 Stupas (2004) printed by Hall and Auricchio with its melting shapes and pale markings. Dennis Nona’s Sugu or Wapil (Octopus) (2005) is one of the artist’s earliest classic prints printed by Hall and Diggens and is a rare, original and beautifully expressive image that is very different from his signature style a bit more later produced in the form of relief prints. One of the many highlights of this exhibition is the print by Freddy Timms Picaninny Gorge (2003) printed by Hall and Auricchio with its classic demarcation of color planes and striking color contrasts. This is a refreshing exhibit that demonstrates some of the richness and brilliance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander printmaking in the 21st century.

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