Printmakers pay melancholic homage

00:54, Feb 06 2014
Daniel Mortimer
PRINTS: Artists Wendy Murphy and Craig Bluett with their work at designroom.

Marlborough printmakers Craig Bluett and Wendy Murphy's show at designroom, titled Melancholia, is inspired by the apocalyptic drama film of the same name by Lars von Trier.

Murphy uses dry-point engravings, an intaglio print process, where a metal plate is scratched with an image, the ink worked in then the print made. Her work has been accepted for exhibition by the Centre for Contemporary Printmaking in New York.

Bluett's works are monoprints, where ink is used to create an image on metal plates for a one off print. He was recently shortlisted for the inaugural Parkin Drawing Prize 2013.

His work often reflects our dark colonial past, combined with an interest in early colonial photography. He uses imagery from old photographs like a window to the past, alluded to in Vincent Ward's films and Petris Van der Veldon's paintings.

In this exhibition Bluett's works pay homage to early New Zealand photographers Walter and Alfred Burton.

Because of their role as official photographers for the New Zealand Government the Burton brothers accompanied British military at the end of the New Zealand Wars as recorders.


"Their job often exposed them to the ruthless attitudes of the time," says Bluett. "The sometimes shocking and callous actions of the officials they accompanied took its toll on the older brother Walter, who committed suicide by drinking chemicals used in photography of the time."

One of Bluett's works in the show is based on a photograph of a waterfall taken by one of the brothers. He reproduced the image as a larger monoprint, adding the brother lying at the base of the waterfall.

Murphy is interested in the mythology around how perception of time and memory can be subtly affected by gravity and the unknowns of outer space.

"Often artists and writers weave narrative around the patchy and evolving understanding we have of space," she says.

"Outer space and how it may affect us has long been the subject of speculation by artists and astronomers alike."

One of the works, titled Mizar-Alcor, refers to an intriguing star system which two Arabic astronomers called Mizar and Alcor originally thought to consist of only two stars.

"There was no way for early astronomers to know whether such pairs of stars were really related to each other or were coincidentally close."

With the advent of the telescope, it became possible to resolve what were eventually recognised as truly multiple-star systems. Galileo discovered that Mizar is actually a double star, with a fainter companion, Mizar B.