Which tools did you use for the creation of this piece?
This piece is a cyanotype on paper, cyanotype is a 170-year-old photochemical printing process that produces a distinct Prussian blue colour.
What was the creative process behind it?
This work is part of a larger anthology series that was created on residency at Megalo Print Studio, Canberra. Documenting personal landmarks around Sydney’s inner west and the suburbs where I grew up, I was drawn to the suburban landscape and the act of physically and repetitively documenting these streets through the analog photographic process. The image was taken on 35mm of a house at the end of my parents’ street where there was a domestic incident some years ago, knowing nothing else about the place it has been colloquially referred to as the ‘stabbing house’ by my family since.
“I like the idea of simplifying the human form down to its fundamental shapes, being represented through our absence.”
What feelings come to you when you look at it?
Utilising the dreamy quality of the traditional cyanotype process, the images are a nostalgic exploration of time and place as I look to return to a feeling of ‘home’ as we grow older and ‘home’ doesn’t feel so absolute anymore.
What do you like most about this piece and why?
Recently I have begun exploring the history and significance of the ‘self-portrait’, and in this piece I have represented myself through the negative space in the centre of the image. I am keen to explore this concept more as I like the idea of simplifying the human form down to its fundamental shapes, being represented through our absence.
What were your references, influences or inspirations during your creative process?
Recently I’ve been inspired by the ethereal installation practice of Do Ho Suh who creates ghostly life-sized replicas of every day buildings from sheer polyester material. His exploration of the mundane and the sense of nostalgia he induces in his work have been a big inspiration for me in this print series. In a similar vein, Heidi Butcher’s skin-like latex casts of derelict houses have been a big reference for me in creating these works. Equal parts creepy and beautiful, her work is delicate and monumental. Elise Rasmussen’s series “did you know blue had no name?” was also a big visual inspiration for me with her mastery of the cyanotype process creating large fabric prints that evoke a true sense of the sublime, utilising the intense Prussian blue of the cyanotype process beautifully.
“A part of the process was also letting go of the need for ‘perfection’ and embracing the individuality and hand-made quality of the printing process.”
What did you enjoy the most about the process?
I find printmaking and more broadly analog-photochemical processes incredibly cathartic and meditative. There is an element of wonder every time you wash out a new cyanotype no matter how many times you do the process or how confident you are it will work. It’s a magical thing to watch.
What was the hardest thing for you and how did you solve it?
I think consistency is the most difficult thing for me when producing multiples, and in creating a series I was looking for consistent results in a process that is often unpredictable. Having access to a proper studio set-up in Canberra definitely helped me to overcome this challenge as I was no longer relying on the UV exposure from the sun but instead had access to a UV exposure unit that creates consistent results. However, I think a part of the process was also letting go of the need for ‘perfection’ and embracing the individuality and hand-made quality of the printing process.
Where would you like to see it exhibited?
I’m hoping to turn this series into an artist book that can be handled and explored by the audience. I think this tactile quality speaks to the anthological element of the work, so hopefully, it can be exhibited in a museum or gallery setting where this would be possible.
This work was created on Ngunnawal land, I would like to pay my respect to their Elders past, present and emerging. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.
Special thanks to Megalo Print Studio, ACT.
Bea Buckland-Willis is a Sydney-based artist, with a passion for all things print. In 2020 they completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the National Art School (AUS), majoring in Printmaking. Their practice is multi-disciplinary, combining traditional print processes with digital technologies and experimental installation – often employing collage and found images.