Decaying, disintegrating surfaces, worn down and transformed by the elements over time has been the focus of both Celia Walker and Toni Mosley’s work for several months and naturally became the underlying theme that brought them together to create Weathered, an exhibition of both individual and collaborative pieces. Mosley’s recent artist residency at Howick Historic Village (read here) resulted in a large body of work inspired by the wallpaper, which in many places had partially peeled away exposing the different layers of material used to insulate and decorate the cottages, revealing the history and the stories of the people who inhabited them. Her new work in Weathered continues to draw inspiration from this body of research.
Both artists have a playful approach to their practice, embracing a spirit of spontaneity and experimentation in their process of adding layers and mixing techniques. Their method of collaboration further illustrates their conviction to avoid being too precious about their work and to have fun. From a selection of several pre-printed pieces, they mixed, cut and collaged them together to form squares. Displayed as a grid, each square has a letter spelling the word: weathered. Walker confesses she often finds it hard to cut up her own work but doing it collaboratively with Mosley made it much easier.
Collaboration is one of the founding principles of printmaking and a key part of Walker’s practice. She is currently working on a collaborate book project with Australian artists Bronwyn Rees and Kate Gorringe Smith who she had met up with at Melbourne’s Frestation Studio in 2021. Intended as a fun project to do during lockdown, each person made four folded artist books the same size and printed a single layer on each one before passing them on to the next person to add another layer so that each would end up with a unique set worked on by all three artists. Although Walker has a small press at home, for this project she chose to use experimental printing processes, including laying the paper on her driveway where she rolled an inked brayer over the surface to capture the texture underneath. She also placed old rusty nails from our house on dampened paper, keeping it moist for over a week, transferring abstract, reddish-orange patterns of rust to the paper.
Rust colours and textures appear frequently in Walker’s work, referencing the alive, organic nature of iron oxides as it interacts with the natural elements to corrode and transform metal surfaces. While doing research on coal mining at the Denniston Plateau, he discovered an abundance of rusty industrial debris with multiple layers of rust and paint, making these objects more visually engaging and appealing.
She has a similar enchantment with lichen which, like rust, represents nature reclaiming a foothold on inanimate objects, it is resilient in its ability to not only survive but thrive in hostile, extreme environments. Lichen is a pioneer in that it will be the first to establish itself, making way for other plant life to flourish. Lichen also comes in many wonderful colours and textures. Printing directly from lichen produces incredibly detailed, well-defined lines when embossed into the paper giving rise to endless abstract patterns and shapes.
Preferring to work in layers and to the edges of the paper, Walker intuitively builds up an image, using a range of traditional and experimental techniques including monotype, collagraph, stencil, photocopy transfer. This process usually takes place over time, with each layer becoming more and more interesting. Even when she thinks she may have gone too far, she finds that by pushing through what may seem to be a wall often takes the image to a whole new place.
Although most of her work are unique prints, or small variable editions, she often participates in print exchanges. Her most recent submission was for a themed Portfolio Exchange for the Southern Graphics Conference International (SGCI) in Madison, WI. The title; Solastalgia: Redefining Home in Precarioius Times, addresses the underlying anxiety experienced by a world that is changing and deteriorating so quickly that it is no longer recognisable to those who inhabit it. For Walker, environmental issues such as the climate crisis underlie much of her work, including her work on coal mining, shipping containers and restoring native ecosystems.
Weathered will feature artist books, assemblages, collages and prints by Walker and Mosley. Opening event Saturday 12 February 12 – 3pm.
Arthaus Contemporary Gallery http://arthaus.org/