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Townsville artist Ron McBurnie has put together a collection of etchings of artists’ studios, accompanied by artworks by the featured artists, for his most recent exhibition ‘The Artist’s Studio’.
The idea for this unique touring exhibition had been at the back of McBurnie’s mind since his first studio etching of David Paulson in 1993. This initial idea did not progress until 1999 when McBurnie decided to pursue a series of prints that captured artists in their studios. Things started to move in 2000 after McBurnie had discussions with Michael Marzik, Project Manager with Cairns Regional Gallery, who agreed to tour the exhibition.
McBurnie attributes much kudos to Marzik in developing the final exhibition concept, particularly for conceiving the idea of combining McBurnie’s etchings with artworks from the depicted artists. Since 1999 McBurnie has visited twenty-five more eastern coast artists in their studios, each for a period of between three and five days, to build up this collection of twenty-six prints with matching artworks. After the studio visit, McBurnie completed the copper plates, in some cases involving up to three plates per image. The exhibition was finally launched at Cairns Regional Gallery in June 2003, before it embarked on its three year touring program.
This exhibition is more collaborative than might initially be apparent, as the artists contributed more than the sharing of their studio space, the exchanging of ideas and the provision of an artwork. Mc Burnie has always been intrigued with a collaborative approach in art as he believes the result of such a process ‘…is always more than the sum of two halves’. This was his approach to the exhibition, with the artists also working into the etching plate to produce a truly collaborative print. McBurnie told the artists that they had free rein over the entire plate, even to change or destroy any of his marks, but only a minority took up the offer. This freedom can be seen in the etching Tony Coleing’s Studio, in which Coleing has added many interesting asides throughout the print surface. Many are political statements, for instance where he parallels Howard with dinosaurs.
Some of the imagery was the result of conversations the artists had while they were working rather than being a specific object in the studio, and McBurnie asserted that this revealed a deeper understanding of the artist. In other works McBurnie incorporated multiple images of the artists, particularly if they repeatedly worked in different areas of their studio. Euan Macleod appears four times in his work and during this period of recorded activity he is actually completing a painting of McBurnie as McBurnie depicts Macleod on the plate. These different approaches usually came about because of the varying responses McBurnie encountered in the different studios and with each artist. He explained, ‘When I am working in the studios, the dynamic established between the artist and myself can effect how the works turn out. Flexibility is needed depending on the artist’s work attitude, studio space, and the interpersonal dynamics that evolve’.
In his own studio space, McBurnie’s approach to the etching process is quite traditional and he will often regrind and etch the plate up to six times after using hatchings to build up areas of form.
Further touring information and a preview of the exhibition can be found at http://homes.jcu.edu.au/~arrjm.