Bavarian limestone, grease and water – these are the essential elements that alchemist of sorts Peter Lancaster has been using for 26 years to transfer imagery from stone to paper, through the magical process of lithography. Since 1990 Lancaster Press has operated as a small independent printmaking studio in Melbourne that specialises solely in the art of lithography. As Master Printer, over the years Peter Lancaster has worked with numerous Australian artists, building ongoing relationships upon a foundation of collaboration. Some artists are well practiced in lithography, others are new to the medium, yet all rely on Lancaster’s considerable expertise and deep experience to successfully translate their ideas into lithographic prints.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place currently showing at Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop, is a milestone exhibition. It celebrates a career built upon skill, collaboration, expertise, and complete specialisation in a now rarefied art-form. Invented in 1796 by German actor and author Alois Senefelder, traditional hand-driven stone lithography has endured through the centuries, yet as an art form it is not popularly understood in today’s cultural landscape, amongst the proliferation of digital and other print processes. Practitioners such as Peter Lancaster are few and far between, yet play an important role in keeping the rich artistic lineage of this medium alive and imbued with contemporary agency.
Over the past 26 years, Lancaster has quietly forged a unique place in Australian art history. Some of our leading creative talents have been through Lancaster Press, creating some truly remarkable images in print which are now to be found in public and private collections around Australia. Operating as a private business, this important work has also taken place without the support of government or institutional funding. Rather, it has been primarily driven by passion, and artists’ appreciation of the value inherent in working with a Master Printer. Good intentions lead to fine results.
Overall, this exhibition is a visual delight. It highlights the diversity of aesthetic possibilities afforded by lithography, which can be adapted to translate an array of conceptual strategies and artistic visions. From the grainy texture of a tusche wash applied to stone or aluminium plate in painterly strokes, to the intricate drawing seen in many works. The medium is the unifying thread that ties each individual and idiosyncratic artistic personality together so effectively.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place celebrates not only the work of Peter Lancaster and the individual artists whose lithographs are included in the exhibition, but also a spirit of creative collaboration. Printmaking is often noted for its inherently collaborative nature, defying the cliche of the solitary creative genius furiously working alone in their studio, at odds with the world. This show acts as a reminder of the rich outcomes when great minds, and hands come together with purpose, and above all, good old fashioned skill.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place – Lithographs from Lancaster Press
Queenscliff Gallery & Workshop
81 Hesse St, Queenscliff VIC
All images ©the Artists listed. All text ©Marguerite Brown 2016.