Woodcuts with Wolseley

The exceptional heat of the Melbourne summer has now departed and Australia’s city of the south breathes more easily (for now) in the Autumnal light. We are in St Kilda, suburb by the sea, more serious now in its gentrification.

"This body of work is part of a collaborative project between John and Mulkun"

Today we visit John Wolseley in his studio and print workshop.

Before we join John I will need to take you to the North of Australia to Dhuruputjpi, North Eastern Arnhem Land to introduce you to Mulkun Wirrpanda, an Aboriginal artist of distinction from the Dhudi-Djapu clan. As a senior woman Mulkun Wirrpanda is a leader who carries with her the knowledge of her people and her places.

Now back in John’s studio there is a lot going on. John is producing a series of woodcuts as an extension workshop to the Buku Larrngay Print Workshop in Yirrkala, Arnhem Land. This body of work is part of a collaborative project between John and Mulkun.

This series of works will include large woodcuts prints by both Mulkun Wirrpanda and John Wolseley of plants and of country in North East Arnhem Land. The plan is to hold an exhibition of the completed prints with the working title of Marrma dilakmala larruma gurra ngathawu (Two old people looking for food) at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney.

During the time we spent with John that day he talked about working with Mulkun Wirrpanda and the differences in the way that he and Mulkun interpret the environment and the plants they are drawing or painting. Looking at his print and comparing the plants he had reproduced there and comparing it with a bark painting by Mulkun John says:

“These are yams, this red root is a yam and this is a climbing vine, a wonderful plant that has roots that swell out and this is what Mulkun paints in the most wonderful way – this is her version of this plant and it is such a wonderful idea as the plant curls around a tree in a spiral, so she shows it how it curls around the tree and climbs all the way up and here is me being a bit obvious just showing it climbing the tree. She goes a step further and shows it in the most incredible way, it is almost as if you are looking down at the tree. The sense of the circular motion in her artwork and the energy of the plant as it climbs up, she has really captured the wonderful movement of the plant".

John is joined in his studio by printmakers Cassandra Gill and Kaitlyn Gibson from RMIT Print Imaging Practice as they assist John during the printing process. During the afternoon four of John’s Arnhem Land prints had colours added to them, in the clip we show you one of these prints and the processes involved.

Subject: Crossing culture / collaboration / Yolngu / printmaking / environment