In this aptly named exhibition, Oceanus, Rice shares her adventures of sailing and snorkeling, and takes us on a journey underwater introducing new creatures amongst the sea grass and algae. Rice’s approach to printmaking became clear in her four solo shows. Her personal style of overlapped natural elements, and sparkling effervescing color has continued as her dominant aesthetic quality. Yet it’s through this new body of work, at Port Jackson Press Gallery, that her method of solar plate collaged printing has now been transformed into a trademark within Melbourne’s printmaking community.

It was a perfectly preserved seahorse that Rice found when walking along the rocky beach at Lorne many years ago that inspired the study of the innate marine. Yet it is fair to say that Oceanus was inevitably bound to surface as her new studio in one of Australia’s most scenic seaside towns, places her in daily communion with her subject matter.

Collection and observation is at the core of Rice’s practice. From gathering elements that have been washed ashore, they are then examined through a pensive drawing process. Each drawing is produced by applying black ink onto clear film and is then exposed on a plate. Whilst solar plate etching has provided Rice with the ability to capture quite in-depth, detail, she has also adopted a natural printmaking process with the use of natural pigment inks and plates exposed by sunlight, which has added an additional dimension to her organically driven practice.

Rice’s printing process is quite different to the distilled and tranquil imagery that is formulated within each print. Fast, pasted and rapid, experimentation drives progression. The printing procedure holds similarities to a production line as paper is cut in accordance to ease and convenience and kept wet whilst inks are applied to plates as trialing begins; testing various layout combinations before works have hit a level of undistinguished satisfaction in the artist’s eyes.

The result of this printing process sees elements intertwined which draws inspiration from John Wolseley’s layered landscape. The viewers eye is constantly flickering, discovering new detail, peering passed the shrub and seaweed to the careless creatures within the background. As this particular quality was also apparent in previous works, it is these ambitiously charged chosen pigments that have differentiated Oceanus from any previous series. Even though as a student, authorative influences persuaded her restraint on her bright and bold pallet, this natural attraction has since broken free from the rip and discovered its own way back. This fascination has employed a new area of experimentation. The entire Oceanus pallet has been mixed from their original base color which Rice takes pleasure in knowing, that along with her own drawings, her inks are her own as well. Overall, color has provided the lifeless creatures a revival as their atmospheric apparitions float and weave their way through their new home amongst the inert shrub.

Trudy Rice has again delivered an inspirational body of work. Oceanus and her recent shift towards the open water has introduced a new sedative and comforting sensation. The empathy and passion she holds for her surroundings is not difficult to witness. This continuous component within her practice is reflected through her intense study of gathered elements, which has provided a significant level of detail leading the viewer to discovery. Without her unique method of experimental printing, it would not be possible to produce the same outcome. It is through her unique printing practice that her empathy for composition and color is apparent and it is these aesthetic elements which Port Jackson Press Gallery are inclined to declare Trudy Rice as an irreplaceable contribution to their printmaking collective.

Kate Ellis

May 2015