Established in 1902, Whanganui’s Universal College of Learning offers over a hundred courses, including a number of nationally-recognised art courses. Recently my friend Anne Bennett, who is enrolled in UCOL’s Certificate of Art and Design, invited me along to see a display of puppets, woodcuts, and drypoint prints at UCOL’s Edith Gallery (named after local artist Edith Collier, who I really must write a post about at some point).
Drypoint According to Wikipedia, Drypoint is ‘a printmaking technique of the intaglio family [the opposite of relief printing, intaglio is where the incised groove in the plate holds the ink] in which an image is incised into a plate (or “matrix”) with a hard-pointed “needle” of sharp metal or diamond point.’ The brief for the UCOL students was ‘to imagine themselves in a scene from either: Lord of the Rings, Vikings, Game of Thrones, or others and create the vision as a drypoint.’
Woodcuts This is ‘a relief printing technique in printmaking. An artist carves an image into the surface of a block of wood… leaving the printing parts level with the surface while removing the non-printing parts… the surface is covered with ink’, which is then transferred to paper or cloth when the wood is pressed against it. ‘The theme for woodcuts was: dark and light contrast. The students had to produce a woodcut which included: Symmetry, repetition, an animal related to the night and a mythological person related to the night.’
Puppets ‘The students had to produce a stop-motion puppet based on hybrid creatures from their imagination.’
All twenty-six students produced art in all three categories, and as you can hopefully see from my photographs the results were varied and effective. I did find a few of the puppets rather too grim for my tastes, but these were balanced by some rather sweet and playful pieces. I was fortunate enough to run into Lauriel Masson-Oakden, who kindly told me about her six-limbed, fur-covered creation based on a French myth. Cute and cuddly at first glance, the pile of bones at his feet suggested that in fact one might well wish to avoid ending up in his embrace.
My favourite, even before I checked the artist details and realised it was hers, was Anne’s gorgeous cat, of which she says:
The theme of our work this term was Hybrid Creatures. We had to research hybrid creatures from legend, folklore, mythology and history to design our own stopmotion puppet. Mine is based on the Egyptian goddess of cats, the household and pregnant women – Bastet, a hybrid of a cat and a human. I chose to use a leopard rather than a cat in my design… minus the spots. Each puppet in the exhibit can have its head, arms, hands, legs and body moved and be used for stopmotion photography.
Of the drypoint, one which particularly stood out to me was River O’Brian’s picture of Frodo and Gollum from Lord of the Rings, which I felt expressed in a single image the contrast between the young, optimistic Frodo and the worn, tormented Gollum.
In the woodcut prints, I appreciated the combination of symmetry and contrast in Shannon White’s work, and the way he merged the rear image of an owl into the deaths-head. I also loved Nat Paki’s gentler image, as the phases of the moon arch above the head of a goddess, framed by detailed images of moths and flowers.
Contemporary art is, for me, often the most difficult art to relate to, but I found the work produced by the UCOL students to be both accessible and enjoyable, and am very glad I made the time to visit the exhibition.
The photographs in this post were all taken by me with the kind permission of Anne’s teacher, Leigh Anderton-Hall.