French Connections

A new project begins

Australian Print Workshop
Paris study tour
May – June 2018

French Connections

Australian Print Workshop (APW) is the leading not-for-profit centre for fine art printmaking in Australia.

From its establishment in 1981, APW has worked with important contemporary Australian artists who collaborate with highly skilled APW printers to produce new works in the print medium.

French Connections is part two of a highly ambitious international project — Antipodes — instigated and led by Anne Virgo OAM, Director of Australian Print Workshop. The project's aim is to generate a significant new body of artwork in the fine art print medium, inspired by important collections of cultural and other material relating to early exploration of Australia and the Pacific. By providing privileged access to archives and historical collections in the UK and France, Antipodes creates opportunities to reflect on the interplay of natural history, the history of science, empire, art and anthropology.

The first part of this major project was undertaken in 2015–2016 with the collaboration of three leading contemporary Australian Artists (Brook Andrew, Tom Nicholson and Caroline Rothwell) and a number of significant cultural institutions in the United Kingdom. Each Antipodes UK artist created a significant suite of new work in the print medium which was launched in a season of solo exhibitions at APW Gallery in mid-2016.

French Connections commenced in May 2018 with a two-week study tour to Paris. NGA Curator Elspeth Pitt joined Anne Virgo and the four artists — Martin Bell, Megan Cope, Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison — for part of the trip, visiting collections and meeting artists and curators. The historical practice of recording journeys of exploration and discovery in print form provided opportunities to reflect on the representation of the ‘other’ — landscapes, cultures, and fauna and flora in these historical records.


Having recently returned from Paris, from spring and summer days to a winter palette of grey and rain and a singing garden, Louise and I are currently working on a new body of work, drawing upon all we have seen and learned as part of French Connections. Along the way we shared our adventures on instagram, and before our tales disappear in the stream of constant imagery, we have gathered here all that we posted (with the exception of videos) and some of what we saw, as a sort of keepsake of our own voyage. Over the coming days, on Marginalia, we invite you to rewind and start over, and take a closer look. Perhaps plan your own adventure.

15th May:
From the archives, from print, from the last time we were in Paris, in 2010.

And now we are ready to revisit Paris once more. Now, perhaps our recent trips to the State Library of Victoria will appear in a new light. Like these hand-coloured Banded hare wallabies ('Nouvelle-Hollande: Île Bernier. Kanguroo à Bandes') from the pages of Voyage de découvertes aux terres australes (Voyage of discovery to Southern lands).

“A Sailor does not travel with a library and rarely has one at his disposal on land: it is therefore useful if, when preparing for a great voyage, he reads the account of a Navigator who has preceded him on the same seas....”
— Paul-Marie Grinevald, Voyages of discovery (1750–1850)

16th May:
Like Anatole and Gaston, we are ready to explore Paris. And all of this is possible because we are two of the four invited artists of Australian Print Workshop’s French Connections project. We are giddy! We are all set to go. And we’ll be sharing our adventures with you all, naturally, so let’s go. Tails high!

19th May:
Finding our feet in Paris, by the graves of Delibes and Nijinsky and Degas, in the company of cimetière cats.

* * *

The dance music stops at 4:30 and in the street below cries of salut and au revoir can be heard. We are in Paris, staying in the 10th arrondissement, before our French Connections project with the Australian Print Workshop begins. We are soaking it in. We are happy. Since the last time we were here, much has changed for us. Louise has chronic pain caused by post surgical nerve damage (from a full hysterectomy to remove a fibroid mass almost three years ago). Our suitcases now have heat packs and a hot water bottle and other coping necessities and medicines. But we are both stronger and closer not in spite of but because of how it has shaped our shared path. If I could, I would take her pain away, just as her parents and my parents would do a thousand times over, our friends too, but there is no magic wand, only support, understanding, acceptance, and strength; a heart to listen, a shoulder to place forward, a weight to help carry, and togetherness. The last time we were in Paris, we were different, but things, in their way, they are tighter and brighter. We are in Paris and we are not going to miss a moment of it. As it turns out, in surprise to us both, this is an anniversary of strength, and in recognising that this is so, we are excited for what comes next.


20th May:
While we coil the streets of Paris, spotting plush-posed felines in windows, Lenni, Olive and company are being cat-sat at home by a dear friend, and Lottie is holidaying with my parents. Trotting across the pages of my Mum’s (@pasadenamansions) sketchbook, you can follow Lottie’s daily adventures too.

* * *

The joy of Henri Matisse’s La Danse at the Musée d’Art Moderne is doubled when you catch Centre national de danse contemporaine d’Angers (Robert Swinston) rehearsing Merce Cunningham’s Event #7. Timing is everything.

* * *

Our own dance, before Sonia and company at the Musée d’Art Moderne. Sonia Delaunay, Prismes électriques, n°41; Pierre Bonnard, Le Jardin and Nu dans le bain; Édouard Vuillard, Portrait de Pierre Bonnard and Portrait d’Aristide Maillol; Daniel Spoerri, Détrompe l’œil — Forêt vierge La jungle ou Hommage au Douanier Rousseau; Jacques Villeglé, 19.03.1965 <Moto, avenue Ledru-Rollin>; François Morellet, Peinture; and Olivier Mosset, Sans titre.


20th May (continued):
“The use of chance operations opened out my way of working. The body tends to be habitual. The use of chance allowed us to find new ways to move and to put movements together that would not otherwise have been available to us. It revealed possibilities that were always there except that my mind hadn’t seen them.”
— Merce Cunningham

There are few wrong paths in Paris.

* * *

Stepping through paintings, on our second day. At the Musée d’art moderne de Paris, a retrospective of Jean Fautrier, and our journey on foot, if viewed from above, would not be so very different from the marks on the canvas. Included here, Lac bleu I, Glacier I, (an almost-dancing, yet sad) Le Lapin pendu, Les boîtes en fer-blanc, and Green Trees.

* * *

Map making different perspectives, from the photographic documentation of Giles Caron, Paris 1968, at Hôtel de Ville to a collection of cartography at the Musée national des arts asiatiques — Guimet. (Ideas harvested from day II.)


Image credit: André Kertész, The Stairs of Montmartre, Paris, 1926