The Story of Australian Printmakting – A Great Exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Last week, we had the great pleasure to escort prominent cast paper artist Ruth Faerber to Canberra for the opening of “The Story of Australian Printmaking 1801 – 2005” which runs until 3 June at the National Gallery.

This gave us a very good opportunity to look around the National Gallery. We thought the layout of the Gallery has improved greatly since Ron Radford has taken over as director. It is wonderful to see the Australian collection given the space that it deserves and in an order that is easy to navigate. The only reservation would be with the Sidney Nolan Ned Kelly series which could do with a bigger space for display. What is amazing however is that the series is together at all. If you haven’t seen it, it is worth going to Canberra just to view it.

Also, the Grace Crowley exhibition is a real treat.

We had no idea of the sheer scale of The Story of Australian Printmaking Exhibition. It must have been difficult enough for Roger Butler, Senior Curator for Australian Prints and Drawings, and his team to pick just 760 works from over 36,000 in the NGA collection. However, the framing and hanging of all these works in the collection must have been a logistical nightmare. But what a fantastic result they have achieved.

If you want to know more about Australian Printmaking, go and see this exhibition for a crash course. But be advised, it is not possible to absorb all of these works in a short stint. As Ron Radford said in his opening address: “You will have to come back and back and back again.”

Some of our favourite works in the show were by Jessie Traill, Bruce Mather and Dorrit Black. There were also some brilliant and unfamiliar works by Murray Griffin, and Paul Haefliger’s Japanese print-related works were outstanding.

In the very early works, we were intrigued by the advertising lithographs – there is one of a barbershop which is particularly appealing… In the later works, there are the diminutive and wonderful Fred Williams etchings, and then for absolute impact a very large and impressive work by Dennis Nona.

Altogether a standout show; however, we did miss seeing any work by John Coburn, in our opinion a brilliant screenprinter and unrivalled in his use of colour.

And for the true fans of print works: Roger Butler has been putting together a comprehensive history of Australian printmaking in book form. It will be published in 3 volumes, the first is available now.

Other good news on a more local level: The entrance admission for the Manly Art Gallery and Museum has been scrapped. That means you can go and see for free the exhibitions at one of the most enjoyable regional art galleries in Australia. Manly Art Gallery open their new exhibition on 5 April, presenting their recent acquisitions, among them John Olsen’s series of etchings “Seaport of Desire”.

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Brigitte Banziger

Hello, my name is Brigitte Banziger and I am an art consultant and manager at Banziger Hulme Fine Art Consultants, Australia's art valuation and art advice experts. We offer comprehensive art valuation and art brokerage services (selling and buying art on behalf of clients). Our art services cover everything from valuations, art care and restoration, to general advice such as helping define the goals for your art purchase and work out the best strategy on how to achieve those goals, including where, how and and when to buy.

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