One of the hardest things to do as an artist – when you’re just starting out – is call yourself an artist.
Scholarships change lives: Franz Kempf Award winner Jake Holmes reflects
I just want to start this by saying I realise how lucky I am to be in the position I am as an artist; white, middle class and with a supportive family. I’ve definitely worked hard but not blind to the fact that I’m lucky. My privilege has definitely afforded me a lot of freedom to explore my practice.
Graduating from art school is a weird time, you spend three years or more studying and learning your craft and then… you’re suddenly out the door. Hopefully you’ve developed some good relationships with fellow artists and a lecturer or two but unlike many other tertiary courses, a Bachelor of Visual Arts doesn’t exactly pipeline you into a job. Suddenly you’re back to making art in your bedroom by yourself.
Carclew’s, Independent Arts Foundation Franz Kempf Printmaker Award, goes towards supporting the professional development of a South Australian printmaker, aged 26 and under.
This year’s award recipient is Victoria Paterson. Victoria will utilise the award to participate in an intensive mentorship with Louise Kohrman at Zea Mays Printmaking in Massachusetts, USA for approximately one week in February 2019.
When I “graduated” art school in 2010 all this came crashing down on me (I actually didn’t complete one Art History subject until 2015) especially as a printmaking major. Printmaking mostly requires the use of big, heavy expensive equipment so it was hard to even have a practice. Many students I know would enrol in single subjects year after year just to have access to a press.
In 2011 I was working as a bike courier and trying to figure out what my practice was, now the safety net of being an art student was gone. When you finish art school are you an artist? I didn’t feel like I was.
Late in 2011 my partner and I, with a $3000 loan from a family member started up Tooth and Nail Studio Gallery; an affordable, communal art studio and gallery in the Adelaide CBD. Running this space helped with that lost feeling after art school, but in the first couple of years running the studio it was hard to find time amongst the day to day management to spend serious time with my practice.
In 2013 a fellow studio artist told me about a printmaker in Darwin whose work I should look at, Franck Gohier. Franck has been a practicing Darwin based artist since 1987 making work across a variety of mediums; painting, sculpture and printmaking. It was Franck’s political screen print work, which he does under the name Red Hand Prints, that particularly interested me. Honest, cutting, funny and unashamedly Northern Australian his work tackles a wide range of social and political issues and he makes it all out of a shed in his backyard, I had to meet this guy.
In 2013 Carclew Youth Arts put a call out for the inaugural Independent Arts Foundation Franz Kempf Printmaker Award. This grant allowed for a young printmaker to undertake professional development activities, and was made possible due to a generous gift made by long-time Independent Arts Foundation member and internationally recognised, Adelaide-based artist Franz Kempf AM.
Undertaking a mentorship with Franck felt like the perfect match for me, and for this printmaker award, so I called Franck out of the blue and he was more than happy to have me and even said I could stay with him and his family. I applied for and received the Franz Kempf grant and headed up to Darwin for a two-week residency in July 2013. A big part of this residency was just allowing me the time to focus on nothing but my practice for a couple of weeks solid, something that managing a studio and gallery for the last two years hadn’t really allowed.
Franck’s approach to printmaking was similar to mine, do what you can with what you’ve got; coating screens in a bathroom, running across the yard with screens to hose them down, hand painted transparencies. His DIY approach really meshed with my way of thinking. Although his techniques were not always what you might find in a highbrow print workshop, Franck is a meticulous printmaker, this really helped re affirm for me that you can make fine art with what you have and definitely calmed some of my imposter syndrome. Much of the technical side of what Franck showed me involves the minutia of screen printing and letterpress, though fascinating for me maybe not so much for the reader but suffice to say most of these techniques I am still using today. The work I made was really just a way to practice technique.
The real benefit of this residency was the time spent talking with Franck about his practice and particularly socio-political work and printmaking. Screen printing is an incredibly versatile medium that allows for the creation of work in high volume, this makes it really accessible and communicative, hand made works can be distributed widely and quickly.
Ever since, this trip has had a profound impact on my practice, a lot of my work since has focused on socio political poster making. My biggest project was the C’mon Aussie C’mon campaign a series of approximately 1200 posters distributed for free around Australia and the world in support of marriage equality. Copies of this poster now sit in several major collections, including The Art Gallery of South Australia and the Flinders Gallery Collection, which is a real honour.
We can go on and on imagining the cause and effect of the pivotal moments for important things in our life but that two week stint with Franck definitely made one of the biggest impacts on my trajectory as an artist.
The IAF Franz Kempf Printmaker Award is offered biennially for professional development, with the latest activity period taking place from 1 January – 31 December 2019, valued at $4,000. The award has been made possible due to a generous gift made by long-time Independent Arts Foundation member and internationally recognised, Adelaide-based artist Franz Kempf AM. With a celebrated career spanning over half a century, Franz realises the value of providing development opportunities for emerging printmakers. The biennial award of $4,000 is to pursue professional development opportunities in the artistic practice of printmaking.