Recent donation Dawn…’till Dusk shows the potential of collaborative works of art
Special Collections blogger Bianca Arthur-Hull speaks to two contemporary artists.
The University of Melbourne’s Print Collection recently received a new donation through the Cultural Gifts Program: Dawn…’til Dusk, a 2010-2011 diptych by contemporary Australian artists Rosalind Atkins and eX de Medici.
‘til Dusk…Dawn began while both artists were on residence at gallery and arts facility The Art Vault in Mildura, where they have spent many years. When Atkins returned to her home in Melbourne and de Medici to Canberra however, their collaboration continued long-distance. They sent the copper printing plates of ‘til Dusk…Dawn back and forth between their two cities by Australia post and communicated via phone and email.
Yet beyond the necessary logistics of working across two cities, it is the relationship of their artistic styles that is the true promise and potential of such a collaboration. “The fact that we are somewhat different in our approaches and thinking is what makes our collaborations interesting and unpoliced,” says de Medici. And indeed, the two artists work across different spectrums of the arts.
Rosalind Atkins works primarily with copper and wood engraving, drawing and etching, to create fine prints of the everyday natural world. Atkins’ prints are often in stark back and white; an eerie midnight glow as if they are photonegatives of the real-world trees, skies and bushland that she grew up around. “Growing up in the country at Terang, there were a lot of trees. They are part of your visual language. As I’ve got older, trees and landscape have become more important to me.” She said in a previous interview from 2004.
eX de Medici works in painting, instillation art, photography and drawing. She initially trained as a tattoo artist and has undertaken residencies at the CSIRO and Australian war memorial. This diverse range of interests in reflected in her practice, where she explores the relationship—or in her words ‘paradox’—of the violent, destructive human in the form of gas masks, guns, skulls and surveillance technology to the delicate intricacies of nature.
While a focus on the natural world might be the logical point of contact for these two artists, de Medici notes that even this shared interest is complicated: “We share a commitment to the natural world if only from two very different positions. Ros works from a positivist outlook, and I, a sceptic’s perspective.” Collaboration does not necessarily require a shared artistic vision then, but rather the work is defined by the contrast and contradiction of each artists’ style. Negotiating two different artistic styles in one work is an exercise in creative vision alone.
Notes Atkins, “I am interested in how the contribution of different people can create something that is harmonious. It is the different skills and perceptions that work together that make something greater than the individual parts. For eX and me it is about friendship, trust and the giving up of ownership. Working with eX challenges me in positive ways.”
In Dawn…’till Dusk, the acanthus leaf corbels, a gas mask, sparrows, tree, sun-rays and the medium of the print synthesise not only de Medici’s imagery of war and tattooist themes, but Atkins’ fine printmaker’s hand and intricate natural beauty. The contrast inherent in the artwork is compounded even further as a diptych—two images designed to be seen as one. Even in the inverse titles of ‘til Dusk and Dawn, the rising and setting of the sun can be both supremely beautiful and/or symbolise the monotony of time and the passing of days. Says de Medici: “Time the Tyrant, is bystander to the iniquitous behaviour of Human Development. Time in continuum, we continue with our planetary infestation, day in, day out. Dusk till Dawn, Dawn till Dusk.” In all, the title, imagery, and artwork itself suggest constant interdependent interpretations.
‘til Dusk…Dawn is a world of contrasts: that of the natural and the manmade, of artistic visions, and of the process of art making as a whole. Says de Medici: “Often we have a lot of fun with the ‘contested’ space of a copper plate. Two minds in co-existence within the same object is not possible when you work alone.”
Atkins, Rosalind. “Re: Acquisition of ’til Dusk and Dawn by the University of Melbourne.” Personal correspondence. 27 Aug 2020.
de Medici, eX. “Re: Acquisition of ’til Dusk and Dawn by the University of Melbourne.” Personal correspondence. 28 Aug—2 Sept 2020.
Glattauer, Silvina. “Rosalind Atkins.” Baldessin Press, accessed 15 Sept. 2020.
“Perspectives: Jon Cattapan and eX de Medici” The Australian War Memorial, accessed 15 Sept. 2020.
“Residencies.” The Art Vault, accessed 15 Sept 2020.
“Trees a pressing matter” The Age, 5 July 2004.