Hi Sarah, tell us a bit about yourself and your practice.
I’m a 29-year-old Melbourne-based artist, cartoonist, and environmental activist. I’ve been making artist books since uni days and switched to traditional printmaking techniques when four friends and I started 5 Press, an all-female artist collective that focuses on creating artist books through traditional printmaking and bookbinding techniques. Since then my work has used bookmaking as a tool to reflect on and process issues I’ve been engaged with through direct action and protest movements.
Why did you enter the FAC Print Award? Is this your first time being part of the award?
I’ve been included in the award once before in 2017 with another artist book about the ongoing logging of old-growth native forests in Victoria. I entered again this year because I love the diversity of work that gets selected for the FAC Print Award. I think it’s important to expand and share stories beyond the places they originate. It’s very exciting and such an honour to be shown in such an exciting award again.
Tell us about your work in this year’s FAC Print Award?
This is the largest artist book I’ve embarked on yet. It’s a book of monoprints that I was inspired to make when hiding out in the forest overnight as a ‘black wallaby’, keeping watch for logging trucks while a blockade was being set up in an area of high conservation value forest in Toolangi, Victoria. When you have that much time to sit and think about what you’re doing and the state of things, you start to see the forest differently. Your mind plays tricks on you, but you can also see everything more clearly. I realised that my emotional experience of these forests has changed significantly over time. It’s no surprise to me that the term ‘solastalgia’ (a type of homesickness and distress caused by changes in your environment) originated in Australia.
What do you think about the state of contemporary Australian printmaking?
I think contemporary Australian printmaking is at an exciting point. I’ve felt a wave of interest and experimentation as universities have begun to downsize their print departments and there are more second-hand presses on the market. At the same time, I’m craving more of the sort of stuff that was coming out of the Australian modernists. They have a freedom and a playfulness that is less apparent in more recent printmaking, but perhaps this is just a projection of how I’m feeling in my own practice.
What’s up next? Where else can people see your work? (other exhibitions, projects etc.)
I’ll be showing new work with 5 Press at Sydney Paper Contemporary in September. At the moment I’m in between projects and wanting to prioritise Djap Wurrung and Adani while red alerts for both have been called, so we’ll have to wait and see what’s next!
Find out more about this year’s FAC Print Award and join us to hear the winner announced 6:30pm Thu 19 Sep.
Main image: Sarah McConnell, Black Wallaby, 2019, 53 x 33 x1.8cm, 11 monoprints on 230gsm Hahnemule paper, concertina structure artist book