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Out of the Matrix

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

My Out of the Matrix assignment has pivoted from public interventions regarding the anti-vax and conspiracy movements to a more studio based focus. My studio proposal explored the psychology and philosophy of people falling down the rabbit hole just when they think they can see outside of the matrix. Thematically I unpacked this idea through my monoprints and drawings.

With the prospect of returning to the studios after two years of mostly working outside them (outside the matrix!) I wanted to get back in and try all the print methods again! This assignment has used two of my principle drawings with collage elements. I have used them as a launching place to layer colours using a playful mix of lithography, linocuts and screenprinting.

Whilst I had planned on more public performative and performance activist art as seen below by the works of the Assemble collective (UK), the Yes Men (US) and Voina (Russia), I could not give up the opportunity to hone my practical studio based skills before entering third year art school.

Coinciding with this was the feeling that I had already worked so hard to process the darker, toxic and often aggressive and painful aspects of the conspiracy movement, and I wanted to bring a less confrontational and more playful aspect to my work. In any case, Victoria will hit 90% double vaccinated this week so the haters are on the losing side now. I don't want to focus on the minority any longer. I do feel that my public artistic interventions helped inform may way through to this next step in the project.

At this time, Andrew Gunnell introduced us the amazing Art Lecture Series by scholar Jennifer L Roberts. Jennifer's insights into print making were enlivening and inspirational, and in particular her lecture Separations (apt name given the COVID situation) made me see two artists in a new way.

I have been a long time fan-girl of Sister Corita Kent. But I had not realised that her screenprinting works in the early 50s were so layered hand-drawn and organic looking! I am enamoured by her almost messy style of printing, the way she has used vivid colour and hand-drawn and digital elements together to slowly build up over layers and layers. Her At Cana of Galilee, 1952, and Fiat, 1953 bring in modern icons such as Eames chairs and talk to conversion on multiple levels. Maybe conversion out of an old and unhelpful set of beliefs? Maybe converting unrelated layers into a built up, fantastical image.

In the lectures also, I learnt about the complex, dynamic and symbolic work of contemporary artist Julie Mehretu. In particular, her 32 colour lithograhy Entropia (review), 2004, is inspiring in the way she layers and builds the image using hand-drawn, organic and abstract imagery to develop an activist and emotional charge. Her use of maps and architecture, like in some of my previous work, talks to institutions, systems, power, and the stories, trauma and consciousness that is borne from these immersive environments.

As I made the lithography in the studio one day, I was trapped and couldn't safely leave because of 1000s of noisy protesters in fluro marching the streets of Melbourne. I felt a bit scared, very unsafe, and I realised how triggering toxic masculinity was for me. The protestors congregated on the steps of the Shrine of Remembrance shouting 'Lest We Forget.' The Shrine was urinated on. As a pro-vax veteran who has had many vaccinations to stay deployable in duty of the nation, as well as served in many vulnerable countries where the pandemic has been devastating - as well as experienced losses most protesters have not suffered- I was disturbed by the selfish turmoil created.

Whilst listening to the protests outside I mixed two colours to work with: I called them Toxic Masculinity (a dirty Fluro Orange) and Institutional Grey (Baby Boy Blue mixed with Privileged White and Corporate Grey). These colours were the backbone to much of my project.

I transferred the collage / drawings to lithograph stones and printed them on white and fluro paper. I printed in Black and also Fluro Orange. I paused to reflect on how the fluro colour range used to be of the fashion conscious youth and now it has turned into the colours of institutional systems. Lithography is a complex process and you can read about it in my recent blog. I found the colour prints a challenge initially because they took a long time to build up the colours. Eventually I got there.

There were also a couple of beginner mistakes: I set the press too loose at one point and finished the roll ups with a damp sponge - and this left some prints with a lighter, watery quality. This didn't look too bad in some ways actually, and I was able to remedy the problem for later prints. I also accidentally rubbed the greasy scraper bar on the top of my Alice and the UFOs stone, but again, this made an interesting glitch look to the prints. Finally I accidentally poured straight straight etch instead of gum arabic onto the white rabbit in the UFO print, and erased it somewhat. Whilst that was pretty disappointing, and I did consider counter-etching him back in or incorporating a lino or dry point of the rabbit and Alice over the top - I decided it leave it for the time being. When missing Cleo Smith was found and the solo Alice was printed out in the apocalyptic UFO scene, I felt that it might have reflected the surreal experience she must have gone through over the 18 days she was missing.

The Shrine of Remembrance protest occurred the week that I received the seasonal Legacy magazine in the mail - it featured the Shrine on the cover surrounded by a garden of poppies.

As I carved and printed the wonky Shrine for the work, I reflected on how this place of grief, sacrifice and commemoration also became a place of protest. I used my linocut project from last year as a launch pad for this print.

I experimented printing different colour combinations and locations of the Shrine over the White Rabbit. I was grateful I had so many copies and proofs to confirm the most pleasing outcomes (grey Shrine over Orange Litho, placed to the side so the rabbit doesn't look like he's in gaol looked interesting).

I then got to work on my organic screenprinting element. I wasn't yet sure how these artworks would link up, or even if they would - but there was so much that I wanted to explore that I just kept trying new things. I tried using the masking fluid I had played with in the drawing project earlier this semester, and experimented with washed out inks and tusche on different papers and acetate.

I photocopied the paper results to transparencies and exposed them on silk screens. I also exposed some Alice and White Rabbit imagery, UFOs and the pixilated photo of the Welcome to Roswell sign in various sizes.

For the free-style drawing I used posca texta, lithograph crayon and black spray paint on acetate, which I sometimes scratched off. I then exposed the drawings onto the screen. I taped the edges of the rag paper to try keep the margins clean and create a tidy 'matrix'. Some elements worked and some needed work. The Alice and White Rabbit parts were my least favourite and I would like to practice Corita Kent style screen prints another time because I can see how hard it is technically to build up images that look good.

The colours I used was both really deliberate, and also quite spontaneous and fun. There is a cupboard in the screenprinting studio full of little tubs of left over inks from other student's projects. I enjoyed drawing inspiration from the beautiful and complex colours others had made, mixing them a little, and using the colours in an experimental and carefree way. I felt it was a nice way to both up-cycle old inks and also secretly collaborate with others in the studio.

I added the linocuts to the screenprints and began to be more experimental with the compositions. Sometimes the linocut was frottaged, sometimes the background was simply old paper I'd used to clean my roller on after many printing sessions. I felt that there were some really interesting outcomes and that the warm colours seemed to look the best. Sometimes the Shrine of Remembrance looked like the Wizard of Oz farmhouse going up in the tornado , and sometime the layers made elements almost indistinguishable.

What I liked about it though, is that this series of work was a lot more complex and less didactic than my initial work on the anti-vax and conspiracy movements. The layering of the Shrine and the incorporation of symbolic colours added a conversation about institutions, protest, grief, anger and chaos. The UFOs that often looked like eyes of mouths hovered like drones in the air near the burning earth - maybe a subtle reference to the climate summit in Glasgow which occurred as I made these works. The tin foil hat people and Alice were less of a feature of these works, and I think that the art was stronger for leaning less on mocking or stereotypical iconology. When I removed the tape that kept the border clean, I ended up printing elements coming into the margins to create depth and to be Out of the Matrix too!

Overall, I feel that this work could have continued and continued. I only scratched the surface of the ideas I had - which is a good thing. I still feel these prints still have loose ends which could be explored at a later date. Had I more time I would have loved to incorporate dry point into the images, and I also wish to experiment more with multi-coloured lithographs and more organic, hand drawn screenprints. All of this will can be explored next year.

In the meantime, check out the expensive thumbnails below.

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