PUBLISHER Gallery Services, Townsville City Council PO Box 1268 Townsville, Queensland 4810 Australia firstname.lastname@example.org +61 7 4727 9011
Published on the occasion of the exhibition
Hypercathexis: Carolyn Dodds Perc Tucker Regional Gallery 21 June - 11 August 2013
Â©Gallery Services, Townsville City Council and the authors 2013
EXHIBITION CURATOR Sue Forster
Exhibition organised by GALLERY SERVICES
REGISTRATION TEAM Jak Henson / Leah McManus / Holly Grech-Fitzgerald
Shane Fitzgerald Manager Gallery Services Eric Nash Curator Gallery Services Jak Henson Exhibitions and Collections Coordinator Jo Stacey Administration Coordinator Gallery Services Danielle Berry Arts Administration Trainee Leah McManus Exhibitions Officer Holly Grech-Fitzgerald Collections Management Officer Nic Horton Education and Programs Officer (acting) Carly Sheil Digital Media and Exhibition Design Officer Gillian Ribbins Administration Officer Wendy Bainbridge Administration Officer Breanna Capell Gallery Assistant Michelle Littman Gallery Assistant
PUBLICATION DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT Carly Sheil / Shane Fitzgerald / Eric Nash Typeset in 14pt Minion Pro (text) IM FELL DW Pica PRO (title and cover) Photography: All photography by Shane Fitzgerald and Jak Henson unless otherwise noted.
Perc Tucker Regional Gallery Cnr. Denham & Flinders St, 4810 07 4727 9011 email@example.com www.bit.ly/ptrgtcc @TCC_PercTucker /PercTuckerTCC @PercTuckerTCC Opening Hours Monday - Friday: 10am - 5pm Saturday - Sunday: 10am - 2pm Closed Public Holidays
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Gallery Services would like to acknowledge the generous support and assistance of Townsville City Council in realising this exhibition. The time, dedication and assistance of the artist Carolyn Dodds and curator Sue Forster in the organising of Hypercathexis: Carolyn Dodds, and the support of the Townsville community is also warmly acknowledged. Front cover image: Birds of paradise [detail], 2008, woodcut on Chinese paper, edition: 2/15, 94 x 71.5 cm. Back cover image: Bird man [detail], 2007/11, soft ground etching, spit bite aquatint, edition: 1/10, 22 x 30 cm.
hypercathexis: excessive concentration of desire upon a particular object. In psychoanalysis, an individual’s excessive investment of libido or interest in an object, person, or idea.
eaturing relief and intaglio prints and artist books spanning some forty years, Carolyn Dodds’ survey exhibition, Hypercathexis, pays tribute to her inventiveness, masterly drawing and compositional skills, and dedication to the art and craft of printmaking. If art is the product of personal obsession, as Dodds’ tongue-in-cheek exhibition title implies, this show also demonstrates a more complex reality. Building on her love of literature, strong technical skills and knowledge of art history, Dodds has a gift for revitalising European art genres.
Image: A bloke with a black dog [detail], linocut, AP, 30 x 45 cm.
Unusually, she works mostly in black and white, eschewing colour as ‘an unnecessary luxury’. A keen observer of all things peculiarly local and humbly domestic, Dodds combines humour and empathy for her fellow humans and animals, conservation ethics and a sense of the sacred in her work. Although located for the past twenty years on Macleay Island near Brisbane, she has always been a traveller; the result is a richly nuanced body of artwork developed through a lifetime of adventures, experiences and study in Europe, Asia, Australia and the USA.
odds was born in Australia in 1953 to Irish and Scottish migrant parents; they moved to southern England two years later. At the age of sixteen she was accepted into Colchester School of Art’s prestigious foundation course, where she was taught by Richard Bawden and enjoyed the influence of Ken Gillham and Phillip Ardizzone. During her degree course at Brighton University,
Dodds arrived in Australia in 1976 after travelling throughout Europe and across the USSR to Japan and Hong Kong. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s she moved between Australia, England, India and Nepal, where she studied art, philosophy and traditional painting methods.
Faculty of Art & Design she specialised in printmaking and book making, graduating in 1974. Her earliest independent etchings, on scavenged zinc offcuts, were produced as experiments in tone and texture. Nearby Ashdown Forest, recognisable in E.H. Shepherd’s drawings of Winnie the Pooh’s forest, was one source of inspiration, triggering etched portraits of well-loved childhood toys: ‘a kind of elegy and farewell to childhood.’
Back in Brisbane in 1983, she taught printmaking and drawing at Queensland College of Art (Griffith University), TAFE extension courses, the Queensland Arts Council and Brisbane Institute of Art. She was also a lecturer at QCA and the first employed Curator of Works of Art at Griffith University. The inaugural William Buttner Scholarship enabled her to conduct printmaking workshops in regional centres using a portable printing press, often coinciding with the location of her solo travelling exhibition Intimate Images.
Other early landscapes derive from drawings made in Ireland. Dodds’ considerable skills in wood engraving, taught at Brighton by John Lawrence and Luther Roberts, can be seen in two lively student works of a crab and tree that build on the British naturalist tradition. The lessons learnt at Brighton remain in the formal strength and inventive figureframe relationships of her later artworks.
From 1986 she made regular trips to Townsville as a teacher at Home Hill TAFE, as the winner of two Townsville Pacific Festival Exhibition prizes (1986 & 87), and as a cataloguer and solo exhibitor at Perc Tucker Regional Gallery (1987 & 88).
Image: Untitled (tree), c. 1974, wood engraving, proof, 20 x 12 cm. Image: Ashdown Forest, 1973, etching on zinc plate.
odds’ award-winning Pigs and Pig Dogs, 1986, drawn directly from life onto three etching plates, exemplifies the spontaneous linear style common to many of her later intaglio prints, where multiple overlapping images map and animate their subjects’ movements over time. Taken to its logical conclusion, this technique starts to resemble the effects of Cubism, for example in the series Dance North (1987/2012), where disembodied dancers’ legs pivot wildly around a central point.
If these prints collapse linear time into a single work, others are concerned with cyclical time or provide a lament for time’s passing. Following a personal tragedy in 1976, two small colour etchings of bitten apples are precursors for later momento mori intaglios such as All that these useless hands have done, 1988, various ram skulls produced at Lowick House Print Workshop in the Lake District, and an untitled human skull, 1992. Dodds’ appreciation of human mortality was honed during childhood holidays spent in a nursing home for the aged, run by her grandmother.
Image: Pigs and pig dogs, 1986, etching (3 plates), 26 x 26 cm (comp). City of Townsville Art Collection.
Her later discovery of Rembrandt’s portraits of the aged brought an immediate sense of recognition and a lasting interest in them as a subject for her own art. In Disparate women, 1990, her favourite elderly model takes on the appearance of a gnarled tree, her arm firmly rooted to the foreground, while a young woman sprouts sapling-like from behind. In a metamorphic parallel, Dodds’ Matrix, c. 1989, employs a womb-shaped pear-wood block as the matrix for an engraving of a foetus. Dodds’ small-scale prints are simultaneously edited autobiographical ‘sketches’ and artful configurations of scenes that might be developed into more complex prints. Her more unusual asymmetric compositions and cropped figures show the influence of oriental aesthetics.
She has remained a keen observer of animals, both domestic and wild; whilst dogs and geese feature regularly in her prints alongside their human companions, early Australian relief prints such as Toads, 1984, and Feeding the Sacred Bird, 1986, exemplify her progressive engagement with her new environment. A linocut, My Life, allows us to see the artist’s menagerie—her geese and dog—from precisely her own viewpoint. The art of life, 2011, demonstrates that Dodds possesses all of Morandi’s skills in her arrangements of domestic objects, reminding us that art and daily life can and should be complementary. Dodds is an artist who loves figure drawing. Among her dramatis personae—friends cast as actors/ characters—her most intimate portraits are often those depicting male relationships and men at rest.
Image: My life, relief print, AP, 10 x 10 cm.
When awake, her men read poetry or carry out domestic chores. They are caught in traditionally submissive female situations: her overwrought …bloke with a black dog, for example, reverses the gender roles in Manet’s infamous Olympia, replacing the Parisian courtesan’s cat with a very Australian black dog. Several prints from the mid 1980s experiment with different ways of representing female flesh. Dodds’ Three graces, 1986, offer a reprise of Rubens’ eroticised model of female beauty.But if Rubens painted pretty faces and wholly naked female figures for the gratification of the male gaze, Dodds presents us with torsos and thighs, clothing their bulging flesh with
both the etched printmakers’ mark and white bikini pants. Dodds’ own truncated body prints offer another form of pneumatic fleshiness. Their fragmentation, she speculates, may be linked to her studies of classical sculpture at that time. Whether derived from Eastern, Persian, Classical or Christian philosophical traditions, Dodds’ subsequent prints often deal literally (through their process), or figuratively and symbolically with ideas relating to metamorphosis and elemental transmutation. The subtle alchemist (Stanthorpe), 1991, a print commission for the Queensland Wine and Grape Association, addresses the Catholic concept of
Image: The subtle alchemist (Stanthorpe), 1991, linocut, edition: 39/50, 43 x 53.5 cm.
transubstantiation but derives its title from a line in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Acknowledging wine’s symbolic role as the blood of Christ in the Eucharist, Dodds stages her male vintner behind the splayed limbs of a denuded vine to create a cross-like form. subtly combining the decorative qualities of linocut with allusions to Christian symbology, bare twigs entwine a corolla of thorns around his body while puffy white clouds create a halo around his head. At a secular level, the print provides an imaginative tribute to the labour supporting the wine industry. In the 1992 series ‘eterne in mutibilitie’, Dodds works with the etching process’s alchemical mutability. Variously combining hard ground, aquatint, soft ground and maniere noir techniques, each iconic figure in the series is printed from the same copper plate. Her initial image, a relaxed classical male nude leaning on an Hellenic bust, remains visible but veiled behind a naked, headless female body with outstretched arms in Metamorphosis II. The new figure derives from different art traditions: part Christian (a female Christ figure on the cross), part German expressionist in the taut angularity of its form.
In the third iteration, the female figure has lost its arms, taking on a trunk-like form that is patterned by leaves. In the last two, the original male image is completely obscured leaving our full focus on both versions of the female form. Dodds has produced few landscape prints; instead she treats the human body as a ‘landscape of bodily experience’, particularly in large-scale multi-panelled relief prints such as The lie of the land, c. 2002, and Haecceitas. The medieval philosopher Duns Scotus used the term haecceitas (Latin for ‘thisness’) to describe expressions of individual purpose or uniqueness, which he understood to be marks of God’s creation. From it, 20th-century poet Gerard Manly Hopkins developed his concept of ‘inscape’: affirmation of the divine through sensory experience. In Dodds’ Haecceitas twin foreshortened male/female figures are represented from a ‘god’s eye’ viewpoint; their body language suggests that one opens up to the external world whilst the other retreats inwards. In both these works Dodds draws parallels between the human body and the land as sacred sites.
Image: Haecceitas [detail], multiblock linocut, AP, 88 x 63 cm. Image opposite: Metamorphosis II (second state),‘eterne in mutabilitie’ series, 1992, intaglio, plate 59.5 x 43.5 cm.
nother superb double image with dual viewpoints, It slips through your fingers, 1995, focuses on that essential life-giving element which surrounds us but cannot be easily contained—water. It reminds us of worldwide religious purification rituals involving water, particularly bathing and baptism. During 1989-90 Dodds moved briefly to Sydney, where she taught at East Sydney Technical College, before returning to Brisbane to lecture first year Printmaking at Queensland College of the Arts. She was then invited to serve on the Course Assessment Committee for the Queensland Department of Education. Her move in 1993 to Macleay Island near Brisbane substantially altered the course of her life and art. She now had her own home and garden, but lacked easy access to mainland employment and a sophisticated press. As a result, her Island prints are typically lino or woodcuts laboriously hand-printed using a burnishing technique. They range from small domestic and figurative studies to complex large-scale compositions featuring flora and fauna. While Dodds’ extraordinary floral arrangements hark back to seventeenth-century Dutch flower paintings, they are highly original in their scale, media and specifically Australian iconography. Whereas the Dutch paintings enclose domestic space, Dodds’ prints offer a window onto the outside world but retain the genre’s visual references to the seasonal cycles of birth, bloom, decay and death: for example, the flower, its fruit and seed; the caterpillar that turns into a butterfly; the empty shell, beautiful but devoid of its former living organism.
Time and Place, 1995/96, brings together two distinct regions—the former Redlands flower-growing region in southeastern Queensland and Mt Warning in northeastern NSW—to represent ‘the bigger story of colonization’. Its 20th-century icons—a bunch of ‘gladys’ (originally imports from South Africa) in an Ellis Rowan-decorated kookaburra motif coffee pot—lead the eye directly onto Australian suburbia. In Full circle, 2003, native flowers, insects and small animals bring all the seasons together in one replete image; its title also alludes to a total lunar eclipse, incidentally represented by two blanketed girls staring up at the night sky beyond.
odds has also created beautiful still lifes on fine rice papers such as the ironically titled Still life with movement, 1996, a simple but perfectly balanced composition directly printed from a grainy wooden plank and feathers, and Dutch treat, 1996, a homage to Van Gogh’s sunflowers and Rembrandt’s only still life. Located around the Macleay Island ferry jetty, They were never wrong…, 2006, is also something of a homage—to the natural abundance and ecological diversity of the Queensland sea and coastal fringe that forms a leisure playground for so many. But, like Dodds’ flower prints, it discretely signals vulnerability, exemplified by a faraway plume of smoke that is unseen or ignored by locals, or a plastic bag floating in close proximity to marine life.
Over the same period she managed to develop new skills in photogravure and resume etching at Crown Point Press in San Francisco. Her first trip to the US press was a direct consequence of winning the prestigious Brisbane Rotary Art Prize in 2006. Subsequent biennial visits to ‘printmaker’s heaven’ have allowed her to build a strong portfolio of intaglio prints. Dodds has always taken photographs as a way of studying light and tone. Photogravure and photopolymer processes have allowed her to transform these studies into prints that she values as art. With its connotations of transcendence into a spiritual realm, a light-filled window in a darkened room is a long-established European symbol of the divine. Flanked by an empty chair or faintly illuminated male figure absorbed in transient domestic duties, it poignantly recurs in several of Dodds’ elegiac prints. Similarly, in Cleanliness is next to godliness, 2013, another mundane act of daily maintenance, involving a powerful spiritual icon— the Japanese Diabutsu Buddha—is rendered sacred by its context.
Birds of Paradise, 2008, and A slice of life, 2011, adeptly demonstrate another aspect of Dodds’ increasing mastery of relief printing—her use of black and white line reversals to create dramatic shifts in tone, compositional depth and trompe l’oeil features.
Image: Dutch treat, 1996, linocut on Korean paper, edition: 1/10, 85 x 56.5cm. Image opposite: It slips through your fingers [detail], 1995, linocut, AP, 60.5 x 30 cm.
rypoint allows Dodds to draw directly from life, and its softly burred line perfectly complements the mounded flesh of aging male friends and charming somnolent koalas. During a 2011 artist residency at Redlands Dodds also experimented with making drypoints on discarded CDs. Sufficiently compact to be printed in situ on her own small press, Hanging around the library records in sixteen parts the minutiae of visitor usage of the Capalaba Library. For a painterly wash effect, Dodds has exploited soft ground and spit bite aquatint in combination with economical but expressive line drawing. These prints include a tender portrait of a man with his geese (Bird man 2007-10), a lively drawing of two redtailed black cockatoos, 2012, and a colour aquatint of a tree frog, flying foxes and new moon that hints strongly of magic. In addition to single prints, Dodds has always explored visual ideas serially and sequentially in codex and various foldout book formats. They may lack text or a direct storyline, but dialogue occurs in the interplay between cover and pages, in the subtle differences between images and the effects of their placement, and the reverberations of their titles.
Five fragmented figures, 1986, pushes economical expression of the human form to its limit. Heart of the City, 1991, and A gesture print, 1991, play with texture and gesture. A map of twelve months, 1996, simultaneously displays twelve barely differentiated self-portraits drawn at monthly intervals over a year. Most recently, Dodds has assembled Riding on the BART, 2012, from hard ground etchings of commuters sketched directly onto the plate. Carolyn Dodds’ printmaking offers us intimate observations combined with wide-ranging philosophical ideas. As a well-read artist, her titles—often double entendres, puns, or references to film, music and literature—are carefully chosen distillations of these ideas. Is this obsession? Maybe, but just look at the result… imaginative artworks that deal successfully with heart and soul while reinvigorating a whole graphic tradition. Sue Forster Sue Forster is the Editor of IMPRINT, the Print Council of Australia’s quarterly magazine. She interviewed Carolyn Dodds in March 2013.
Image: Untitled (reclining man) [detail], 2011, drypoint, edition: 2/2, 17.5 x 32.0 cm. Image opposite: Time and place [detail], 1995-6, linocut, edition: 6/10, 84.0 x 57.5 cm.