Tate Adams at Gallery Ditchburn

Published On September 6, 2017 | By Artgaze | Exhibitions

Tate Adams at Gallery Sylvia Ditchburn

words:Frances Thomson

Tate Adams is regarded by many as the godfather of Australian printmaking. Born in Ireland, Tate studied at the London Central school with Gertrude Hermes before arriving in Melbourne in 1951. He established the first diploma of printmaking at the RMIT where he taught for 22 years. During this period he also ran Crossley Gallery, a dedicated print gallery and arguably the leader in its time in the promotion of printmaking in Australia. In retirement, Adams focussed on Lyre Bird Press, his artists’ book press which continues to this day publishing critically appraised books of original prints. Moving to Magnetic Island then to Townsville, Adams had a close involvement with the regional gallery beginning a series of solo exhibitions that precipitated an efflorescence in his own practice. The resulting series of gouaches and prints confirmed his status as a significant Australian artist. Adams was named a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia for service to publishing and to the arts, particularly through contributions to the development of printmaking in Australia. In 2018 a book on Adams and his art is scheduled for publication by Thames and Hudson.

The works currently on exhibition at Sylivia Ditchburn’s gallery show the range of Adams’ abilities, from highly detailed wood-engravings to large scale gouaches, and includes a linocut, Clown, 1962, done while Adams was teaching at the RMIT. Ireland, and in particular Irish literature, remains a source of inspiration for Adams, many of whose works deal with issues of identity. In a contemporary reading, the print Maura, 2010, is described as a woman wearing a burqa. The source of the image, however, is the female protagonist from the play, Riders to the Sea, by J. M. Synge. Set on the Aran Islands, the play tells of the drowning of Maura’s son, the last of her brood of five. In the print, Maura, as is the tradition of the Aran islanders, covers her head with her petticoat to mourn the death of her son. Rather than a mournful image, Adams, an aging Irish son, regards her as a benign form through which he considers his own mortality.

Concurrently on exhibit are two linocuts by master printmaker, Carolyn Dodds, from her flower series. Her detailed linocuts give joyful expression to the proliferation of flora and fauna at her home on Macleay Island. Dodd’s work is painstakingly hand-printed, and on occasion hand-coloured.  Her editions are small and her prints exquisite.

The exhibition of prints and gouaches by Tate Adams and prints by Carolyn Dodds has been extended to September 24.


image: Tate Adams,Storey Hall Gallery,Melbourne,Australia(photograph, Lloyd Goodman, 2011).

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