Cressida Campbell

Pyrmont, 1984
colour woodcut print
58.0 x 32.0 cm
signed and dated (lower right), inscribed with title (centre) and numbered '7/7' (lower left)


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Mori Gallery, Sydney
Acquired by the present owner in 1985

John McDonald, Edmund Capon and Peter Crayford (ed), 'The Woodblock Painting of Cressida Campbell', Sydney, 2008, P8512

Cressida Campbell is an artist who finds beauty and intimacy in the familiar realm of the everyday. In Campbell's 'Pyrmont' (1984) the city view through the balcony doors of a 19th Century terrace house is adeptly articulated in hues of soft blues, yellows, pinks and greens. The subject matter is approached with a quiet contemplation that consummately balances composition, colour, light, shade and design in superb harmony. The work's apparent straightforwardness in its subject matter belies the complexity of its creation, in which the artist has assiduously carved out the entire image onto a wooden block, then painted each single segment with colour, before finally spraying the block with water and taking just seven prints. This, the final print in the series is characterised by a soft texture, arousing a magical dream like quality.

  • Pyrmont

View artist profile

Cressida Campbell is a Sydney-based artist who works in watercolour, painted woodblocks and woodblock prints. Her work, which follows in the traditions of Margaret Preston, Giorgio Morandi, Thea Proctor and her friend the late Margaret Preston, is celebrated for its beautiful and poetic depictions of everyday domestic scenes, landscapes and still lifes.

Born in 1960, Campbell studied at East Sydney Technical College from 1978-1979, followed by a year of study at the prestigious Yoshida Hanga Academy, Tokyo, Japan. The Academy was founded by Toshi Yoshida (1911-1995), a renowned woodblock printmaker of the shin hanga (or ‘new prints’) tradition who was the son of Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950) one of the great Japanese printmakers of the early twentieth century. Toshi Yoshida was also a pioneer of the sōsaku-hanga or ‘creative prints’ movement, in which the roles of designer, carver and printmaker were all assumed by the one artist instead of being performed by separate craftspeople. 

Drawing upon sōsaku-hanga and broader Japanese woodblock printmaking traditions, Campbell creates prints and paintings that refer to and invert the traditions of the woodblock print. Often taking up to two months to complete just one work, her technique is often painstaking. First, she draws a scene from life onto a wooden block. (Campbell has said “If the drawing is wrong, then everything goes wrong.”) Next, she carves out the details of the image; she then paints segments of the block with layers of watercolour paint; and, lastly, she sprays the final object with water, often to take just a single print. The painted blocks themselves will often then become artworks in their own right, a celebration of the woodblock printing process which is so often ignored or concealed behind the beauty of the final image.

Campbell has exhibited extensively over the past four decades and is widely represented in Australian and overseas public and private collections, including the British Museum, London, and the National Museum, Krakow, Poland. In 2009 a major survey exhibition of her work, Timeless: The art of Cressida Campbell was held at the S.H. Ervin Gallery, and subsequently toured to the Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Brisbane. A major monograph, The Woodblock Painting of Cressida Campbell, was published in 2009 by Public Pictures, Bronte, edited by Peter Crayford and with a forward and introduction by Edmund Capon and John McDonald. Campbell has won the Pring Prize and the Trustees’ Watercolour Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, and has received an Australia Council for the Arts Verdaccio Studio Residency in Italy.