The title of Danielle Creenaune’s current exhibition, ‘Fragile States,’ describes a parallel notion of fragility with respect to the state of our current natural environment and her own personal experience during a period of relocation back to Australia.
‘In this exhibition, I work in the techniques of stone lithography and Mokulito, because there is a flow between the process, materials and image making. Lithography offers me a very direct way of making painterly marks within printmaking and carries with it a rich gamut of tones and textures such as reticulated washes and wood textures which mirror forms also present in nature. I walk and observe places while making quick sketches that later serve to situate myself back there with the movement, sounds and sensibilities. Back in the studio, I work on the matrix of stone or wood in a visceral manner creating a new landscape which taps into the feeling of being in that place.’
‘Fragile States’ opens in Melbourne on Saturday 14 November, from 11am – 5pm. The exhibition is current until Sunday 6 December. To view the full exhibition online, click here. To view the exhibition catalogue, click here.
In Conversation with Danielle Creenaune
In the following Q&A we chat to Danielle about her recent relocation back to Australia after almost two decades abroad in the UK and Spain, her use of the printmaking techniques stone lithography and Mokulito and her artistic inspirations.
All studio photographs courtesy of Tobias Rowles.
‘Fragile States’ describes a parallel notion of fragility with respect to the state of our current natural environment and my own personal experience during a period of relocating to Australia after almost two decades abroad. In this time of displacement and dislocation, my experiences were charged with sentiment, vulnerability, and a sensitivity to change. It was a period of introspection, weighing up what would be lost and gained and bearing witness to the closure of a chapter in my life.
Now, in Australia I am challenged by new places of personal significance in my local area such as wide coastal perspectives and waterfalls. My work is concerned with the rhythms in nature and the importance of treading lightly on this borrowed land. The title of this exhibition is also the name given to a series that I worked on over the course of the last two years. Each work is created as a unique state monoprint using a range of lithographic techniques and the works are sensitive, atmospheric and ethereal.
Aside from the implications of relocating a life, family and possessions, the main challenge was setting up a workspace again while waiting for my studio equipment and press to arrive from Barcelona. After a year of working between various studio spaces, I now have my etching press installed and a new studio set up, complete with a bit of bush and native birds out the back. The work has shifted from having a focus on the Catalan Pyrenees to my local area of the Illawarra . For practical reasons I have been working on a smaller scale both in lithography and watercolour during this period. Now, the press is set up, I anticipate getting back into larger works for 2021.
Australia is my country of birth, however it felt like coming home to a completely new place and starting from square one. While I’m now working on local areas of South Coast and Southern Highlands NSW, there is still a focus on places I continually revisit to draw and build on my understanding of that landscape. Observing these places since the bushfires early this year, I’m drawn to the visual contrasts. Some of these have surfaced in Quadern de Pedra 7 and Quadern de Pedra 8 which have recently been added to that series. I continue to be concerned with the importance of conserving the natural environment and treading lightly on our earth – the land is fragile but also has a potent strength while regeneration takes place. During lockdown my daily outdoor walks were by the ocean, observing the wide winter sea and skyscapes so now I feel challenged by different sentiments and forms such as coastal perspectives and waterfalls.
I work mainly with stone lithography, Mokulito and watercolour. For me, with stone lithography there is a flow between the process, materials and image making. It’s very tactile, sensory and requires awareness. The materials have a history, the stone has had a life before you existed, there’s a sensitivity with marks and meditation in the pace of working, an attention to detail and patience required. It offers a very direct way of making painterly and graphic marks within printmaking and possesses a rich gamut of tones and textures such as the reticulated washes.
Around 5 years ago I also started using plywood as a plate for the lithographic process. It’s a technique called Mokurito/Mokulito originating in Japan and it offers some elements of traditional lithography with an organic wood grain and the option to carve into the plate as with woodcut. I approach processes with curiosity, find out what works best for my imagery and then push and refine until I’m content with the results. These techniques offer me a way to work intuitively onto the matrix considering the use of a broad range of textures, strokes and implements to suggest the energy, light and contemplation I feel in landscape.
For further information about Danielle’s use of Mokulito, click here.Do you have a favourite place/memories?
For many years it was a small village high in the Catalan Pyrenees – Farrera, a place I revisited over the course of 18 years which had a profound impact on me and the way I experience mountainous terrain. My current favourite place is the area around Budderoo National Park and Carrington Falls NSW. I made a few works from this area on a visit in 2017 and this year I have been revisiting often to walk and draw. It’s the place where I spent the last day of bush walking together with my elderly parents in 2017. They instilled in me a love of landscape, quiet reflection and admiration for the details of nature. In this sense almost all of the landscapes I work with have a human connection and I tend to associate people with the places I make work about. What are your favourite artworks/artists that continue to inspire you?
One of the most powerful artworks I’ve seen is “Las Meninas” by Velazquez in El Prado. From the moment you walk in, you feel its scale and luminescence radiate throughout the whole room. Its impact made me realise that there is so much we can read from a historical, cultural and compositional perspective in this work. While I wouldn’t necessarily consider it as informing my own work directly, its impact in that moment was magical and instilled in me a sense of purpose and drive to continue making art.
I also have a fondness for artists such as Ivon Hitchens, Milton Avery, JMW Turner, Antoni Tapies, Helen Frankenthaler, Sally Gabori, Tacita Dean and Christiane Baumgartner. I notice that often the artists inspiring me are painters which makes me question why I’m drawn to their work when I predominantly work in printmaking. The answer lies in the way many of them engage with the subject of landscape and how their concerns, techniques and composition team up to convey the feeling of being in nature in a way that makes sense to me. I imagine how their strokes move across the surface to suggest movement or how their colour and composition play on our sensory experience of landscape.
What does the next year look like for you as an artist?
I see myself settling into the new studio, working constantly and challenging myself to produce larger works that are honest and new to me. Discovery is a key part of why I continue to be excited about making art and I enjoy pushing my own boundaries, building on my existing skills, expanding them and putting them together in unusual ways in order to create a new perspective on landscape. In terms of the opportunities and exhibitions plans let’s see what transpires in our current climate as many events are postponed or to be confirmed.
The following video offers a view inside the artist’s studio as she works on her recent series, Quadern de Pedra.
Video courtesy of Tobias Rowles.