In the history of contemporary art, painting and printmaking have often been viewed as separate artistic practices. However in the 21st century, many artists implement these two traditions alongside each other in order to inform, explore and complement their overall artistic oeuvre.
Gill Sanders, ‘Senior Curator of Prints’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum says of printmaking,
“No longer merely secondary, supplementary or reproductive, print is now a central part of many artists' activity, the equal of their output in other media, and conceived as integral or complementary to it”.
In the exhibition ‘Hine Auaha’ at The Central Art Gallery (May 20-20 June), Christchurch artist Zara Dolan presents large mono prints, whose fluid lines, bold marks and brilliant colour, are informed by and spring from her earlier large abstract paintings.
Mono prints differ from other printmaking, in that they produce one single image. This is accomplished by applying ink onto (in this instance) a large block of perspex, which is then rolled through a printing press and thus the image is printed onto the paper. This process can entail several layers of colour blocking and mark making. In this way, mono printing can be very similar to painting, whereby layers are built up and the image contains an immediacy, vigour and depth. However there are differences with painting. The way the ink flows so easily over the perspex in mono printing often creates a more dynamic movement and freshness. Also, each mono print in its process brings surprise and innovation. As the paper is rolled through the press, each final print contains subtle changes of colour, mark and depth, that brings with it a uniqueness and immediacy. In this way the constraint of the printmaking process, with its strict structural process, can elicit a surprising and vibrant artistic creation.
Zara Dolan’s mono prints are often very large. Dolan states that she “wants to be really confident in mark making and have really big bold marks”. Her style is that of abstract expressionism, where the process informs the work. As in works of earlier twentieth century abstract expressionists, vivid colour and energetic line translate the immediacy and intuitiveness of the artist’s process making. Says Dolan, my ‘relationship between colour and mark is really important.” Her prints involve a complex layering where the paper will go through the printer various times “to get a really good gradient effect.”
Although the composition is carefully thought out and planned in terms of measurement and form, it is the bold, exuberant marks throughout the layers that suggest the intuitive flow of the body. We can imagine Dolan moving back and forth to gain the long sweeping gestures or “intuitive flow” of the process. The texture and successive large sweeping movement connects the viewer and the artist through a sense of stretching the body. In order to reach the final definitive work, Dolan may work on several prints at once in order to really “get me in the flow”. Dolan’s mark making extends to all edges of the fabriano paper she uses. Often the different directions of the marks create a conflicting vibrancy and tension within the work. Dense, saturated colour glimmers amidst the black and white framework of the work, creating layers of optical illusion and depth.
Born in Cavan in Southern Ireland, Dolan gained a fine arts degree in painting and printmaking, before moving to Wales where she attained a teaching certificate in art and design. She then taught in London for three years, before moving to New Zealand and teaching for nine years at Avonside Girls High School. In 2020 Dolan studied and completed a Masters of Fine Art at University Canterbury. Her end of year exhibition at The Den Gallery in Christchurch received resounding success. Zara resides in Christchurch and is a full time art practitioner.