Rona Green is one of Australia’s most celebrated printmakers; her unique graphic aesthetic and anthropomorphic subjects are instantly recognisable and her works have joined the global community of printmaking collectives in Glasgow, Chicago, Belfast and London.
Printmakers are a rare breed in the artistic community. It takes a certain dedication – hours of painstaking cutting, carving, and treating, inking, pressing – and much is left to chance. In Rona Green’s case the works are carved from a lino block, printed in black ink and then painstakingly coloured using ink and watercolour.
Green also works in painting and textiles, but it was the tutelage of printmakers at Bendigo’s La Trobe University that seeded the ground for Green’s print passion.
In the past two decades Green has cultivated a menagerie of tattooed, anthropomorphic characters and now – via this survey exhibition in the town where it all began – they have come back to ‘roost’.
Using language gleaned from suburbia, science fiction and pop culture, Green proposes a fantasy world where dogs postulate as stand-over men, cats are villainous masterminds and rabbits become fierce cyber warriors. Adorned with the tattoos and uniforms of archetypal gangsters, urban legends and quintessential ‘Aussies’, Green’s characters are absolutely unique but also uncannily familiar.
‘Submission Magician’ (pictured) is brazen and unwavering in his gaze, decorated in tattoos reflecting his nationalist pride. He has the head of a Dalmatian and the body of young lean man. Arms stretching forward out of frame, his stance suggests that of an aggressor – maybe on the cusp of a confrontational head-butt – or perhaps he is taking a selfie – baring his allegiances to the world.
The cropping or framing of Green’s subjects is a key device used cleverly by the artist. Green claims to frame her characters at portrait or ‘mirror’ height (ie from the waist up) to allow the audience a moment of self-reflection. As is the dichotomy of her characters, we all have moments where light vs dark, good vs evil, aspiration vs reality or, as Green declares, moments of ‘Champagne taste and lemonade pockets’.
Rona Green’s ‘Champagne taste and lemonade pockets’ opens Friday in conjunction with La Trobe University’s major exhibition ‘Revealing Identity: The Collections of La Trobe University’. Both exhibitions run until September 3.
Artists Rona Green and Juan Ford will give talks in the exhibition space on Saturday June 24 from 10.15am. Hosted by Dr Kent Wilson, Senior Curator, La Trobe Art Institute. All welcome. Free.