Posts Tagged ‘megalo’

Bonsai and Monotype

April 21, 2016


Well I am well out of the habit of writing blog posts, but there are a couple of pieces of news to share, so I am back. The two things are related, and they have to do with monotype. Firstly, my work above, Eucumbene, is in a show at the moment at Megalo Print Studio & Gallery in Canberra.  The show is called Bonsai + Print and it is the culmination of a year long project which brought together five printmakers and five bonsai artists.  More about that shortly.  The other thing is that Megalo have asked me to present a monotype workshop next month (May 22 – see here for details). This will be just a one day workshop to keep it as a fun and easy thing to do.  We will probably concentrate on black and white images for this one, and then schedule a later class for working with multiple colours later.


The Bonsai + Print show has been really well received with many people commenting on how different the gallery feels with the living (and quite spectacular) bonsai in the space.  The above shot shows a great bonsai Banksia by Mike and a large print by Annika Romeyn which also happens to be a monotype.  Mike was the bonsai artist who responded to my query as to if anyone had any dead bonsai they could give me.  I intended to slice them up and either make relief prints as they were, or use them for wood engravings.  The dead bonsai that I received fromMike were such interesting objects though, I got stuck on making drawings of them and later monotypes and still haven’t reached the stage of being ready to slice them up yet.  A prominent feature of bonsai is of course scale, with the plants looking like scale models of much larger trees, and so it just felt right to start printing the monotypes on some of my sizeable collection of old maps (that’s another story).  I started drawing the trees in an upright fashion, but with them being dead, and using the maps which seemed to emphasise land as something to be used and altered for industrial purposes (like the map used for Eucumbene, which is actually a blueprint used in planning some of the tunnels that make up the Snowy Hydro Scheme in the Australian Alps) I began to think about the loss of very old trees from many of our landscapes and other forms of degradation of nature, habitat and soil that have occurred, and so my tree forms became fallen.

You can see a review of the show here, and it will be on at Megalo until April 30.  Keep an eye on the Megalo Facebook page; it seems like a number of us will be giving an artist talk in the gallery at 2pm on the last day (Saturday April 30) but that’s not quite confirmed yet.

The Endless Transience of Being

September 3, 2015


This blog may well have been in a state of inaction, but believe me I haven’t !  A new solo show titled The Endless Transience of Being opens tonight at Megalo Print Studio & Gallery.  Every show is important of course, but this one feels especially so.  It’s my first solo show in Canberra (where I currently live) since 2012, and the first big showing of a new body of work since a rather serious crisis of confidence and subsequent withdrawal from making much new work through 2013 and 2014.  Many artists suffer from a lot of uncertainty about the value of their own work, and whether it will be perceived by others in a way that even remotely matches how they themselves see it and its meanings.  The more personal the work, the greater the existential risk of course.  Well so far the feedback I’ve had on this show has indicated that the way other people interperate the work is quite within the bounds of where I wanted it situated, and if anyone has decided on the basis of the show that I might be a bit unhinged, they’ve kept it to themselves!

Noted art historian Sasha Grishin has published a review in the Canberra Times here.

McLean enjoys velvety blacks which have been pushed back with a cloth and brush to release brilliant contrasts, where white forms appear with an almost hypnotic intensity and develop a ghostly presence. Within this grid of monotypes there are some stark and beautiful images including Sacred grove and Fallen feather, which have a crispness of definition, while at the same time a certain sophisticated abstraction. It is this quality of something existing and being present, but within an undetermined passage of time, that seems to be implied in the title of one continuous meditation on the “transience of being”. The mood of the whole installation is slightly melancholic and sombre with rocks, water and the naked human flesh appearing as recurring elements. The whole installation could be interpreted as a young man’s meditation on being and time with a considerable dose of passion, angst and high romanticism.

I’m pretty happy with that!

Monotyping at Megalo

March 17, 2013




In between teaching days at the National Art School in Sydney, I’ve been doing some walking and camping, time on Sydney Beaches, seeing some shows etc.  This weekend I have traveled to Canberra for a bit of time in the studios at Megalo.  It’s a bit like a second home here at Megalo, since I am so familiar with the studio and presses.  I’ve been taking advantage of the big Hilton electric press to make some more monotypes, with the imagery referring back to summer in Queensland.  I’m thinking a whole new series might be nice, with the figure in the landscape being more explicit than some of my previous work.  They always take a lot longer than I expect though.  I only took two prints yesterday, and one at least should be trashed.  I’ve been here several hours this morning, and only the above print has so far come off the press, but I’m reasonably happy with it.  Bleed printed in a greenish black ink on a half sheet of Hahnemuhle (76 x 56 cm). Below is the second print from yesterday, showing how the drawing changes each time, especially since I am only working from a rough thumbnail drawing about one inch square, which itself was drawn from memory soon after visiting this creek in Mapleton National Park.  What might be lost in faithful realism, is amply made up for by what is gained in the freedom to express a mood and sense of the place without feeling the need to copy a photographic reference.




August 31, 2012

Megablah is a members project being run by Megalo Print Studio in Canberra. Inspired by Noel Counihan’s The Broadsheet publications, produced in the 1960’s featuring relief prints by Counihan and others.  Everyone using the studio’s at Megalo is being encouraged to make a megablah – or even just submit and image and they will make it for you!  So of course, over the last few weeks, a megablah has been one of the things I’ve been working on.

With Counihan’s work being the loose inspiration, I wanted to make something with a more obvious political content.  So it was, that I decided to make use of the copy of the San Francisco Chronicle I had kept from last year, along with some of the leaflets I picked up at various Occupy Encampments.  I left California in late October 2011, when the Occupy Camps were still in full swing on the streets, and it was very much an issue in the media.

I decided to pretty much make a straightforward re-creation of a selection of my source material, and let it speak for itself, but with a few twists.  So this led me down the wondrous path of CMYK screenprinting – something that has long fascinated me but which I hadn’t actually done before.  CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black – known as the process colours and used along with colour separations and halftones to print full colour images, like those found in newspapers and magazines.  When you see the separations, it can hardly seem possible that they will combine to produce the colours you want, but magically they do.  Well almost.  Printing this stuff by hand, not to mention variations in the amounts of pigment and paste, always leads to minor variations and inconsistencies.  With a lot of patience and careful testing they can be ironed out, but this was meant to be a quick fun project, so caution was thrown to the wind and I just printed them straight up.  Time for some pics-

First colour down, Cyan.  Megalo had already printed up the border for me, I just had to insert my image.

Second colour down, so with Cyan + Magenta it’s looking pretty purple.

The yellow screen, clamped in the table and ready to print.

So now with Cyan, Magenta and Yellow all printed, it’s looking pretty good (though it did end up a bit over yellow in some spots).  The final black will really make it zing, even though in this case there was a lot less on the black screen than I would have thought.

And There we are.  I just love the way the shadows under that top part of the image really make that bit of paper seem to sitting above the rest.

The final stage to complete the image was to cut out and paste in the wood engraving I had made previously to replace the main photo of some pretty heavy looking police action to clear the Oaklands Occupy Camp.

Quite pleased with the final result.  On one level it’s simply a recreation of my memorabilia, documenting a particular episode in history.  On another level, the two types of print used refer to newspaper imaging old and new, with wood engraving being the original means of producing illustrated newspapers, and of course CMYK and halftone is the current technology.

remembering san francisco

August 14, 2012

It’s been nice to be remembering my time in California last year, while I’ve had the Fog and Fault-lines exhibition on at Megalo Print Studio + Gallery in Canberra, and as I relate to the audience here my experience of the residency there.  While the works from the residency focused on the physical and natural environment, I was of course also interested in observing aspects of culture and politics etc, especially while I was travelling after the residency and spending more time in towns and cities.  So this week I’ve  been working on a new/old project, that I have had in mind since then but is only now starting to take form.  I’ve kept a San Franciso Chronicle (October 26, 2011) and various leaflets that I collected from the Occupy Camps in Berkley and San Francisco, and am planning to recreate them to produce a print as part of Megalo’s Megablah project.  So far I have made a wood engraving, based on the main photo from the Chronicle’s front page, and printed them on kozo paper, but that is only a part of the overall image, so stay tuned for more…

Fog and Fault Lines

July 22, 2012

Tomales Bay, relief print, Peter McLean, 2011

The Great Northern adventure is not quite finished (a few days left in Helsinki), but it is time to cast my mind back to California as I will be showing the work created there last year at Fog and Fault Lines, a new exhibition at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery in Canberra.  I was invited to participate in the JB Blunk Residency by the Lucid Art Foundation, located in Inverness, West Marin, and spent two productive months there.   Actually, I often cast my mind back to California, and Inverness in particular.  I felt so at home there, like that place and I were really beginning to understand each other, especially the hills and forest around JB’s very special house.  The prints and drawings that will be shown in Megalo’s gallery still make me feel like I am looking into the eyes of the spirits of the land, speaking to me with a voice I can’t quite understand.

The show will be opening on August 2 at 6pm and will run until August 18.  Megalo is at 49 Phillip Avenue, Watson, ACT, Australia and is open Tuesday to Saturday 9.30am – 5.00pm.



February 20, 2012

Nattaginni Cottage, wood engraving, 10x12cm, Peter McLean, 2011

What a wonderful word is Nattaginni!  Just one little part of the remaining legacy of 40 000 years of culture in Australia.  Unfortunately, these days the word is a largely stranded remnant of the culture the produced it, but I’m glad the word at least lives on.  It lives on in the form of an alpaca farm of all things – Nattaginni Alpacas.  I was commissioned to make an image of this charming building.  Not the main house, but a second building on the farm, known as Nattaginni Cottage.  It wasn’t just a commission though, I had my own reasons for spending the time on this image.  The ‘client’ is a great mate, and I had enjoyed staying at Nattaginni on numerous occasions while he lived there in the cottage with his family.  I worked from photographs he sent me for the cottage and it’s garden.  I was keen to place the cottage in it’s broader environment, since it was so nice to spend time on the back verandah, watching the cows roam the green hills, flanked by Bunya peppered rainforest remnants as the tropical heat makes big white cumulus rise above the horizon.  (Bunya – now there’s another good word.)  Just as well I’d made some small sketches on one of those occasions, so I had that to refer to in order to create the background.  I printed ‘Nattaginni Cottage’ at Megalo Print Studio on Kozo extra light paper from a commercial maple block.

clouds on a black sky

May 27, 2011

I know the blog has been pretty quiet of late, and I apologise to regular readers.  I hope a few of you at least has persisted and check back in now and then, secure in the knowledge I’d eventually get back to posting.  Rest assured I have been busy, in fact blog posts are probably somewhat inversely proportional to general business.

Peter McLean, Untitled (clouds), 152cm x 56cm, monotype, 2011

One recently emerging project is large monotypes, continuing on the themes of clouds and skulls.  I think I have written about skulls and bones here before, but why clouds?  For a lot of the same reasons really.  Clouds are ephemeral of course, coming and going with every one unique, and yet adhering to recognisable forms.  And where do these forms come from?  The interactions of physical materials (water vapour, ice crystals etc) and nature’s processes (convection, condensation etc.) all operating beyond ordinary perception leaving us these fleeting objects in the sky which often promise but don’t always deliver life-giving rain.

Monotypes are a form of printmaking, though unlike most print forms can not be made as multiples.  Flat plates of metal, glass or perspex form the matrix on which the image is drawn in stiff ink.  The positive image can be applied to the plate using brushes, rags or a range of implements, or ink can be applied to the entire plate with a roller and a negative image drawn by removing the ink through similar means.  This second approach is the one I have been using.  While monotypes can be printed by hand, the best results are achieved by passing the plate and paper through a press in a similar way to an etching.  I’ve been using the Hilton electic press at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery in Canberra, which is just big enough to allow me to print up to a full sheet of Hahnemuhle paper edge to edge.

Inking up on the Hilton press at Megalo Print Studio

fitters workshop

September 20, 2010

Megalo Print Studio + Gallery is planning an exciting exhibition titled Print Big, to be held in the (former) Kingston Fitter’s Workshop to coincide with Materiality, seventh national print symposium hosted by the National Gallery of Australia. This historically significant industrial building is currently totally empty and largely unused. Beyond this temporary exhibition (16-17th October), there are discussions underway for this building to soon be the new home for Megalo. I made a wood engraving of the fitter’s workshop, which Megalo is using on some of the promotional material for Print Big – a little tongue in cheek since this print is 5x6cm. Rest assured the prints on show in the Fitter’s Workshop will be at the other end of the spectrum at up to 4.8 meters so definitely not a show to miss if you are in Canberra in October.

The Fitter's Workshop, wood engraving, Peter McLean, 2010

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