A group show: Prue MacDougall, Kyla Cresswell, Nan Mulder, Kathryn Madill and Catherine Macdonald.
Occasionally circumstances seem to produce a perfect breeding ground for eccentrics. At these rare moments strangeness leaks out, providing the impetus for a creative frenzy. Towards Strangeness brings together a group of talented printmakers and with it, varying degrees of the inexplicable, the unfamiliar, and the mysterious.
To the uninitiated, printmaking seems a disciplined type of artmaking – not one ordinarily correlated with innovation or experimentation or to be associated with aesthetic strangeness, yet artists from Edvard Munch to Edgar Degas kept finding ways of taking the medium to radical ends. This exhibition is no exception - expanding the possibilities of drawing, creating surfaces with a heightened sense of tactility, and inventing new means for new subjects. The monotype can spark a host of experiments, a starting point from which an image could be reworked and revised. Mezzotints and intaglio reveal new kinds of artwork that are less about completion but endless innovation.
The nature of strangeness in artistic expression for each artist varies, yet an underlying thread within these artworks is the natural world - what can be found, seen or imagined there. From the subtropical gardens of Wharepuke to the rugged coastline at Breaker Bay, here is what each artist discloses:
“I have always been aware of a kernel inside me, which is completely private. Something I cannot name: a place of strangeness. In my work I often hinted at that inner mystery, which became visible as a fading dream. Then in February 2019 I stayed in one of the cottages at Wharapuke Subtropical Gardens in New Zealand. I walked for hours through the thick foliage and felt as if I was slinking towards a metaphorical interior. Thus, a new series of mezzotints began, exploring a way towards that place of strangeness. Covid added another dimension: the journey to the light.” Nan Mulder
Kyla Cresswell proffers, “I’ve often aimed to create a sense of disquiet in my works and no doubt the works in this show will all have this feeling - perhaps it comes from a tension between the tamed and untamed landscape.”
Anyone looking at MacDougall’s anthropomorphic trees for the first time may feel surprise and bewilderment. These prints are meant to amuse, but they symbolise nature’s cleverness and fragility through the lens of a fertile imagination. MacDougall is a connoisseur of strangeness and disquietude.
Catherine Macdonald current series focuses on how people spend time in a quest for peace and relaxation in what has been turbulent times. Taking time to escape via walking and being closer to nature, or with animal companions – just being in this world can solicit feelings of strangeness.
In the Lagoon series by Kathryn Madill, her monoprints explore layers of colour, and more notably, layers of human emotion. There’s something uncanny about the perspective in Wayside, with the figures positioned in the foreground, making a provocative and audacious composition.
This show explores in fascinating detail the nature of ‘strangeness’ in artistic expression that results from being present in unprecedented times.
View a lively discussion via zoom with the artists :
Listen to Prue MacDougall talk with Stanley Palmer about printmaking and the exhibition.