A Survey of Prints & Drawings – Kim McDonald

Aug 17 – Sept 20

Artist Statement – August 2008

I majored in printmaking as an undergraduate at Chisholm Institute (now Monash). Then applied and got into the Victorian College of the Arts to continue studying printmaking. The subject of my work was primarily landscape and portraiture with an emphasis on self portraiture. Early influences were Fred Williams, Lloyd Rees, Turner, Rembrandt, Egon Schiele, and the German Expressionists. A passion for lithography was initiated at Chisholm and continued to be developed over the following years. At Chisholm we had access to a large offset lithographic press which made it easy to create lithographs with multiple layers of colour. At the VCA facilities were more basic with post-graduate printmaking students being left predominately to their own devices. The printmaking workshop contained an extensive array of lithography stones and presses. I hadn’t done a lot of stone lithography but developed a love for it and the process over a period of trial and error. My subject was still landscape and portraits. I was interested in the theories that were circulating at the time about there being no natural landscape left to portray and that landscape art was created out of a response to other art artworks rather than the natural landscape. The landscapes I was making at that time had become more and more minimal and light, as if they were made of light. This has probably influenced by my living away from the country and being in the city.

As the landscapes were disappearing (1985 prints) the self portraits were developing strength. I found myself on a subject more satisfying to work from as I was always present, accessible and non judgmental. I had some inspirational drawing teachers in Peter Booth, Ian Perry and John Walker and printmakers in Alan Mitelman and Grahame Franscella. During the middle of 1986 I travelled to Vancouver in Canada to complete my art study at the Emily Carr School of Art and Design. This travel was assisted by a scholarship from the Queen Elizabeth Trust Fund for Young Australians and the Mande Glover Fleay Award as well as working at four jobs to raise the rest of the required money. The residency in Vancouver was a pilot exchange program that first formulated as an idea between the VCA postgraduate co-ordinator John Davis and his friend, the Dean of the Emily Carr School of Art and Design. John Davis put a notice up in Post Graduate House asking for expressions of interest for the exchange. I said I would like to do it and so was given the schools contact details and it developed from there. I spent five months in Vancouver . It was pretty amazing. I lived and worked at a youth hostel to save money and met a lot of young international people, some of whom I am still friends with now.

I was given a printing studio and had free access to the school’s amazing printmaking facilities. They possessed the largest lithographic press and litho stones in the Northern Hemisphere (or so they believed). I worked on the biggest stone they had and was able to print some prints from it. Unfortunately, the prints along with a lot of other work made at the school was lost in transit on its way back to Australia. My time spent at Emily Carr was connected to my course back home so when I finished I refunded my return home ticket and bought a ticket to Germany where I travelled and lived with friends I had made at the hostel in Vancouver. The rest of the year was spent travelling, partying and looking a lot of art. Back home I got a job as an art technician after I had been working as a child care co-ordinator and a 7 Eleven shop assistant. As soon as I returned from overseas I knew I wanted to go back but this time I wanted to travel to Scotland. I wrote away to an organisation called WASPS which stands for Art Workshops Across Scotland and discovered they had accommodation and studios for local and international artists. I applied for a studio and saved up the money to go and work in it in Glasgow. Leading up to travelling to Scotland in 1991 I also began another course studying Movement and Dance at the School of Early Childhood Studies, Melbourne University. This had been initiated by a gradual dissatisfaction with traditional methods of making art and a growing interest in developing work that extended beyond the picture frame and out into three dimensional space. It was an interesting overlap to visual art making sensibilities with the new language of movement but as with all art forms there was lots of crossing over and the experience enriched my usual practice. My work got bigger and became about the body and its physicality. The works produced in Glasgow were essentially self-portraits. I created an installation which formed part of an open studio exhibition at the end of my time there and then Bones (my partner) and I went travelling. Once back in Australia we discovered I was expecting our first child. Two more followed plus a move to the country in 1994.

During my first pregnancy the experience was so overwhelming that it became the focus of my art work. I had returned to finish my movement and dance studies so I was dancing and making art. When Joel was 6 weeks old I had an exhibition of work I had made in Glasgow the year before and drawings which I had made during my pregnancy. The exhibition was titled “Body Force” and was held in the Ministry of Finance building windows that run along Collins Street in Melbourne. One was a full frontal nude in a cross legged position but surprisingly people didn’t seem to mind or care or even notice or at least I wondered if they did.

On returning to the country and settling into Sandy Point with two young children I became involved in a research project titled “The Self as Therapist” at LaTrobe University. The project formed part of an ongoing project titled “The Forms of Enquiry” series which was guided by Dr Warren Lett. This engagement with the series initiated a research project of my own which was titled “The Experience of Artists as Mothers”. The research was experiential or heuristic and involved me recording my experiences of being a mother and an artist both of which seemed to negate each other at times. The experience continues but the artistic evaluation of it culminated in an installation presented at the “Forms of Enquiry” conference at LaTrobe University in 1995.

During the late 1990s I was compelled to make a return to printmaking and the landscape. I started making monotypes using old recycled copper plates that were left over from my student years. I didn’t have a press so I printed by hand using a spoon and then hand coloured with watercolours. During the early 2000s I met and formed a wonderful friendship with a fellow printmaker, Peter Lorkin, and for two years I travelled to his studio twice a week to printmake. The baby faces and the oval landscape prints were made during this time. The baby prints evolved out of a personal project that involved spending time once a week at the South Gippsland hospital drawing newborn babies. The experience of having my own babies had made me aware of the inherent potential existing in a newborn where they can appear to possess extreme wisdom, personalities of ancestors and other members of the family, traces of lives that have gone before them. I thought that they were a fantastic subject for drawings and prints. The project evolved over several years and was resolved in an exhibition with Peter Lorkin titled “Vision Blue” at Meeniyan Art Gallery in 2003.

In 2005 I started the Master of Visual Arts at Monash University as a part time off campus student. This experience has extended my thinking about the work that I make and has prompted a new direction for that work. I have been continuing to explore the self as a subject with a shift in emphasis away from representation towards a more questioning approach about where the self exists. I’m interested in the idea of the self existing in multiple locations inside and outside of the body. Skin as a subject has become important to me as it is a sensing semi-permeable membrane that receives and transfers information between the interior and the exterior. I suppose I am arguing with my work that an image of skin or a mouth positioned on a pink background without any other organised human features around it would be interpretations of the self. My current work is experimental and about testing out ideas. It is still very formulated and is still developing. This is a process I strongly feel I need to go through to create new work. It involves forging ahead without knowing exactly what will eventuate.

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