I began attending print making classes at the WSA two years ago, just after the first Covid lockdown. The environment there has been very encouraging, and despite minimal previous artistic experience I’ve already had two works accepted for the New Zealand Painting and Printmaking Awards.
This series of prints was started in August last year, exploring different ways of printing an image of two wooden ornaments, which I think were a wedding gift to my parents in the 60’s.
In the first print the elephants (in black) are printed on top of the background colour (yellow ochre); in the second the background is printed on top of the elephant colour. The third uses line and light to enable a single colour print; then, moving towards an engraving style, large lines were used in the background – which looked a bit like warning tape, so a little yellow was added! The fifth print was a poor attempt to imitate a technique used by Escher in one of his early wood block portraits, with parallel lines of varying thickness used to indicate depth and shade, rather than object outline. The sixth returned to the style of an engraved postage stamp background, using close, narrower lines, which unfortunately are a bit fragile on MDF board. The seventh added depth to the cutting of the elephant and its surround, in an unsuccessful attempt to introduce tone, as can be done in a wood engraving. The eigth print again imitates a postage stamp style, this time applied to a whole scene.
The “no bull” text, common to the title of each of these prints, refers to the absence of an impressive male elephant. But it is also a reflection on the separation of family members – particularly immigrant family members – caused by New Zealand’s closed borders, which were shut while these prints were being made.
Geoff McGowan, 26th May 2022