Julie Paterson

Julie Paterson

I’ve been painting and drawing small landscapes in sketch books, on bits of card and found wood for ages now. I love to collect images of places I like, familiar places or places where I’m traveling. I love hand-making postcards and sending them to friends.

Somehow by painting the landscape – always in situ – I’m drawing it into my memory, so that when I see those postcards again, the moment of making them comes back to me, clear and strong. I can remember the light and the atmosphere, the mood I was in, the air temperature. There’s something very intimate about it. Making these small landscapes has always been an important part of my art practice: I’ve always thought of it as being a bit like what happens when a musician practises her scales.

And then two years ago I was invited to be part of a contemporary printmaking exhibition at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre. Curator Rilka Oakley provided the opportunity and the push to do something I’d been thinking about for a while: taking those small postcard-sized sketches and scaling them up. The right scale was obvious. I would work in the proportions I use as a textile designer. My fabrics are 140cm wide and the dimension of the repeat is 70cm. So there was my canvas.

I began my work for Rilka’s group show on a residency at Toolo, the Tool Library, up the back of their old space in Katoomba. As a designer I was used to working on a long wide table, but there wasn’t the room, and so I tacked my fabric onto the wall and stepped back. That simple change from horizontal to vertical was perspective-altering, and a moment that marked an increasing flexibility and fluidity in my creative process.

I had a simple idea that I could implement with simple tools, and it felt very right.

My designs and colour palette for Cloth are all in some way inspired by looking closely at the Australian landscape – either the natural or built environment. I set to using my printmaking skills to create large-scale landscapes printed over my textile designs – a landscape sitting over a landscape, a place enriched with layers of printing ink and meaning. Five artworks came out of this experiment, all shown as part of the group show As Far As the Eye Can See. It was seeing those works that prompted Geoff to invite me to extend the idea and make my own printmaking show at Lost Bear.

The process I use is the process I teach in my LookDrawPrint workshops. It’s not mysterious – it’s just staying focussed on observation and interpretation. I’m not aiming to create a facsimile of what I see. I’m looking to find the simplicity in the form, rather than the complexity. And of course, my training, and 25 years practising as a textile designer, I’m always looking for patterns, always doing my scales.

About two months ago I began working towards this show, Edge to Edge. While I was making these works I celebrated 30 years since I first arrived in Australia – Valentine’s Day, 1989. I remember how it felt, having escaped the chill, spare English winter, plunging into the lush, vibrant Sydney summer. The difference was remarkable and the place I had come to inspired me to start Cloth.

My mission was to make contemporary fabric for the home – fabric that was inspired by my experience of Australia, fabric that felt Australian. Printmaking and textile design speak the language of colour and texture and scale. They are skills that produce work that is generally more affordable than fine art, and always more practical. I’ve always liked that my work is accessible, and able not just to be admired, but also used.

So, I’m not sure now whether it’s ironic or apt that, here I am, 25 years down the track, making art works on my own textiles. What I do know though, is that the results are very satisfying. I’ve made 14 pieces, all of them printed by hand using box cutters, cut paper, masking tape and foam rollers. Each of the works I’ve made for Edge to Edge is a kind of palimpsest, blending my twin practices as artist and printmaker to make something greater than the sum of its parts.

What’s the difference between a painting and a print, anyway? I think it’s really just the ability to make marks in repetition. Even though these are all unique state prints – meaning I’ve only made one of each – the paper-cut stencils themselves are repeated multiple times during the process of building up the layers of the art work, just as they would be used in my design practice to make a repeat textile pattern. Each work might require 30 – 50 tiny stencils, small motifs that I’ve isolated in what I’m calling my Libraries of Shapes – a sort of catalogue printed on plain fabric showing every motif cut for that particular work.

And somehow, the journey of making these works has come full circle. I’ve realised that my Libraries of Shapes can inform new, ClothFabric textile designs. To me, this prospect feels full of promise. There’s an energy there that reminds me of some dynamic, abstracted early designs, like Stoney and Spotcheck and Looking for Water.

Printing these landscapes on Cloth has made me feel reinvigorated as a designer. I’m returning to designing experimental fabrics with a purpose again, using Australian landscapes as my muse. It’s exciting to feel this charge of creativity again, and I’m recognising now how much it comes from leaping between my practice as an artist and my design practice. The work I’ve created for Edge to Edge is very much the product of the sweet spot between those two disciplines. I feel lucky that this is the space I inhabit.

It feels comfortable here, working on the edge of art and the edge of design, stretching the boundaries and growing in the margins. Like Australia, it feels like home.


LIBRARY OF SHAPES

Making these artworks for Edge to Edge was a multi step process of building up layers. I started by creating the large background shapes, using masking tape and foam rollers, and then, as I got to the last layers, I cut small shapes from stencil paper and worked with smaller rollers and sponges. I was on maybe my fifth artwork when I started sticking the stencil shapes to the window, as a way of sorting through them. For each new piece I made between 30 – 50 tiny, purpose-cut shapes and realised I should be keeping a permanent record of each stencil, as I was working.

So I began printing each stencil onto a clean piece of fabric, one by one, side by side. And when I finished, I realised they looked a bit like a legend on a map, a catalogue of symbols that helps you interpret the landscape, understand its topography and vegetation, its roads and features.

This insight led straight away to another. That these stencils are full of potential to tell their own story. My Libraries of Shapes are a rich resource for new fabric designs. They mark the sweet spot where my art practice influences my design process, in a pleasingly uncomplicated way that’s easy to understand. I’m imagining new repeat patterns of abstract motifs, referencing trees, powerpoles, masonry, cliff faces…

It’s perhaps hard to convey the significance of this, but for me, it was a eureka kind of moment. The completion of that feedback loop of creativity is something I could feel hovering at the edge of my consciousness. It’s like I could sense the possibility, but it was just out of reach. Printing my libraries of shapes has opened up a new stage in my process. I feel like I’m on the cusp of some fresh inspiration for new designs for ClothFabric. It goes to show that when you’re looking for a new direction, it’s always good to look closely at the map.


ARTWORK STORIES

Wild Honey
Printed over Stoney on linen
Natural wild beekeeping uses a type of hive called a warré hive, that is built up block by block, vertically, as the bees grow their brood. I printed this work over my stoney fabric, which feels here like honeycomb.

On The Rough Track
Printed over Ironbark on hemp
The view from the saddle at the bottom of our land looks over the Grand Canyon, where you can walk one of the best tracks in the Mountains.

Mount Vic Flicks
Printed over Bird of Paradise on linen
The locals favourite place to watch a movie. It’s like stepping back into the seventies. You can drink a mug of tea from a proper cup and listen for the jaffas rolling down the aisle.

Blackheath Shops
Printed over Boardwalk on linen
I live in Blackheath and this is where I go shopping for my groceries. We have a butcher, a baker, a greengrocer and a shoe shop. My friend Helen calls it the CBD.

Dunvegan
Printed over Stoney on linen
A few years ago I spent a weekend with my dad in Scotland on the Isle of Skye. I was filming out the window as the water in the loch sped by, but the mountains seemed immovable.

Leaving Skye
Printed over Stoney on linen
My dad is from Scotland but he hardly visits any more, so together we went for a weekend and drove around Skye. We promised to return, but for longer next time.

Back Side of the Hydro
Printed over Ironbark on hemp
Drive down off the mountain early evening to the Megalong valley then look up, back where you came from. High up on the ridge you will see the clean white teeth of the Hydro Majestic catching the last of the sun.

Behind Katoomba Street
Printed over Ironbark on hemp
Coming out of the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre on to Froma Court the other day, I caught the peachy light of dusk over the back end of the Katoomba Street shops. You might recognise the sign from the Paragon.

Past Katoomba
Printed over Ironbark on hemp
So, you’re heading west on the Great Western Highway. When you’re passing Katoomba, look left and take it in. You can’t miss the well composed huddle of buildings and the stack of the Carrington, looming over the railway line, looking like something from the nineteenth century.

Early Morning at The Leap
Printed over Banksia on hemp
Generally we gather at Govetts Leap when the full moon rises, and sometimes, for the sunset. Creating this work reminded me what a good idea it is to go down to watch the sun come up with a thermos of tea.

Hanging Rock
Printed over Pickupsticks on hemp
On the Burramoko Ridge Trail you’ll find Hanging Rock, magnificent, edgy, dramatic. This place attracts risk takers, base jumpers, people out for a bit of danger. Me, I’ll stick to the path and maybe sit down for a picnic, but even that feels a bit spooky.

On The Road To Kandos
Printed over Ironbark on hemp
I’ve always had a thing for poplar trees, and there are lots on the main roads out in the Central West of NSW. The road to Kandos has a particularly lovely run of them and everytime I drive this way I stop and take a photo.

Gardens Of Stone
Printed over Boardwalk on linen
Known for its distinctive pagoda rock formations, this amazing wilderness area is in danger of being ruined by mining, quarrying and forestry. The campaign to protect it is ongoing.

Eaglehawk Neck
Printed over Stoney on linen
For my 50th, we went to Tasmania. On the morning of my birthday I drew this view from the beach at Eaglehawk Neck, looking south down to the stacks of the Tasman Peninsula.


MATERIALS

Like traditional tapestries, these artworks are on fabric and they tell a story. They are designed to hang on a wall without a frame. I print with water-based screen-printing inks, then the finished artwork is heat treated and Scotchgarded. It’s the same process I use for my commercial furnishing fabrics to make the works robust, which is why they don’t have to be framed in a traditional way.
The canvas for these artworks is commercially screen-printed industrial-quality upholstery ClothFabric. Some are linen, some are hemp, all printed by hand in regional NSW.

Shape, repetition, colour, scale and texture. The sublime landscape, the ordinary every-day built environment, these are the corner stones of my practice as artist and textile designer.

Every fabric I’ve created began as a drawing in my sketch book, made in situ mostly, in whatever landscape that’s inspiring me. My art practice has always informed my design process but in this new work I’ve made for Edge to Edge, my textile practice informs and underpins my artwork.

Using my own Cloth designs as the canvas I’m experimenting with making large scale stencil printed landscapes and streetscapes from places I know.

It’s an interesting, circular process and as I’ve worked through the concept I’ve discovered beauty in some unlikely places.

Julie Paterson

 

Photo: Andrew at Spy Photography