Denise Durkin is a Wellington based visual artist working across drawing, painting and printmaking. She graduated from Wellington Polytechnic School of Design in the late 1980s where she studied digital communication and design. During her time there, she had briefly encountered printmaking under the tutelage of Rosemary Mortimer and was immediately taken by the tactility of print, the dense blacks, fine lines and look and feel of the paper. Although she wanted to pursue illustration using printmaking techniques, many of her tutors discouraged the idea, convinced that handmade printing methods would not be able to meet the demands of the fast paced digital design world.
Several years later, her longing to reconnect with her arts practice led her to Inverlochy Art School where she took classes in watercolour, oil painting and figure drawing. Her regular attendance at the untutored life drawing classes resulted in being assigned as the course coordinator, booking models and running the sessions. Gradually, she took on more classes and currently teaches several drawing courses at Inverlochy Art School. Meanwhile, located in the same building was The Print Studio, a fully equipped printmaking facility open to the community and professional artists to hire for workshops and personal use. As she had always had a hankering to re-engage with printmaking, in particular lithography, she made a conscious decision to focus on her printmaking and use the print studio on a regular basis.
Envisioning her printmaking journey to start with monoprint, then progress to etching, relief and finally arrive at Lithography, she embarked on a series of black and white, figurative monoprints using a subtractive method of applying the ink to the surface of the plate and then removing it with expressive gestures. Soon, she started to incorporate extra layers of line and chine collé. Yet, she felt a need to bring more texture into her work and subsequently signed up for a collagraph workshop with Rosemary Mortimer at The Print Studio. Inspired by the mark making possibilities of this new technique, she began to develop a new visual vocabulary by applying a rigorous method to push the development and evolution of her work. Setting herself a 100-day challenge, she would come to the studio every Friday using 120mm x 120mm squares to apply a variety of different marks and techniques, following ideas as they arose. Producing up to twenty prints in a single session, she would then start the following Friday by looking at what she had done with fresh eyes, selecting which aspects she wanted to explore further and continue to push that technique into a new direction.
This approach, not only informs her printmaking practice but also underpins the teaching methodology used in her classes as she has noticed how quickly students advance and are able to see their own progress. For Durkin, this focused, experimental approach allowed her to develop more abstracted work and although pictorial elements still occasionally feature in her prints, she is happy with how her printmaking practice has progressed, and this has inspired her to devote the majority of her studio time to printmaking. She muses at her original notion of moving through all the printmaking techniques in a single year as she is still exploring the endless possibilities of black and white monoprints. About a year and a half ago she started working on a suite of images evoking watery landscapes, after noticing that many of her abstract work reminded her of water. Each work has a sense of depth through layers of varied, expressive mark making, bringing her subdued colour palette to life with a buzz of activity.
Submitting these prints to exhibitions where they have been well received has given her added assurance that her work is heading in the right direction, and she was delighted to have had one of her monoprints selected as a finalist in the Parkin Drawing Prize 2019. Durkin acknowledges that without regular access to The Print Studio it wouldn’t have been possible to develop her printmaking skills or follow her passion for the medium. She is pleased to see that the number of members at The Print Studio is slowly growing and with that has come more tutors and classes on a variety of techniques.
Inverlochy Art School: