Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Cressida Campbell: Recent work, solo exhibition, Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney, 13 July – 7 August 1999, cat. 16
John McDonald, The Woodblock Painting of Cressida Campbell, Public Pictures, Sydney, 2008, illus. p. 231 (woodblock only)
One of Australia’s best-known and loved printmakers, Cressida Campbell, is celebrated for the distinctive and innovative technique with which she renders her still life, domestic and landscape scenes. In 1980, Campbell attended the Miasa Bunkacenter International Hanga Academy, Miasa, Nagano-ken, Japan. Also known as the Yoshida Hanga Academy, the school was founded by Toshi Yoshida, an eminent woodblock shin hanga and sosaku hanga artist and the son of the great shin hanga artist Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950).
Campbell’s innovation was her decision to begin painting directly onto the woodblock itself. Traditional woodblock prints are comprised of multiple blocks – a key block with a black outline, and several other blocks for each colour in the final image. Campbell condenses her process onto a single large block, painting directly onto the wood with watercolour paint, and opening up heightened levels of detail not possible with conventional woodblock printing.
Wetting the surface of the wood and the paper, Campbell then lays paper over the block to make a single impression by lifting the paint from the surface. From there, Campbell works with the paper image in the studio with further paint to refine aspects of the printed impression. The results are mirror images reversed through the printing process – materially and visually distinct, but deriving from the same point of origin.
Interior with Red Ginger, 1998, is one of Campbell’s unique woodblock prints made using her distinctive method. One of Campbell’s recurring subjects across her career is domestic space, scenes from her or another artist’s home or studio. Here, the red ginger (or ostrich plume) plant is seen twice – first, on the cupboard between the open white doors and, second, outside the window in the distant left of the composition. That suggestion of the plant in the garden being brought into the home connects the interior and exterior spaces, giving a sense of idyllic domesticity that runs through Campbell’s work.
As John McDonald wrote of Campbell’s work in his 2022 catalogue, Cressida Campbell for the National Gallery of Australia: “This intense sort of attention is what one finds in the Campbell’s interiors. Each object has a story which she has rehearsed innumerable times in her mind, but it retains a fascination over repeated viewings. The primary act of composition is the physical arrangement of paintings and other objects within a room, but to translate these items into a pictorial composition requires a very different set of aesthetic decisions. It’s an engrossing process: a puzzle that can never be solved because there is no right or wrong way to arrange a room or paint a picture.” (John McDonald, Cressida Campbell, 2022, National Gallery of Australia, p. 8.)
Image courtesy of the artist and Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane