In Conversation: Stephanie Jane Rampton

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Quiescence 3rd – 27th March, 2017

In the Romantic tradition, Stephanie Jane Rampton’s etchings explore the emotional resonances between the self and the natural world. Charting new territory in this exploration, Quiescence introduces landscapes and grand scales previously unseen in Rampton’s prints. The energy, passion and time exerted by the artist in the creation of this body of work are visible in every intricate detail. Talking to Rampton it becomes apparent that this physical process of printmaking and technical development is therapeutic for her – a retreat from the outside world that is as tranquil as the landscapes she toils to depict. The title of the exhibition Quiescence is as much about its creation, as its final state. This strong relationship between process and print has resulted in a body of work that undeniably positions the viewer inside Rampton’s world, engulfing them in their still, peaceful environments.

Quiescence is your latest solo exhibition here at Port Jackson Press, can you tell us more about the show and the ideas behind it?

The word Quiescence means a state of quietness, tranquillity and being at rest. This resonates with both my subject matter and state of mind when I am making prints. I also very rarely make reference in any of my work to humans or anything man made… it’s about me, or the viewer, alone and immersed in the landscape and experiencing the solitude to observe small details.

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You’ve said that this exhibition challenged you to step outside your comfort zone. How is this body of work different to what you’ve created in the past?

On a recent drive, looking out the window, I realised I wasn’t focusing on the view as a whole, but on the textures and details and I realised that’s what I wanted to explore more in my work. Quiescence explores subject matter, like water and rocky terrain, that I’ve not really used in my work… that I’ve avoided doing! Coast especially shows the different landscapes that came from this urge to investigate new textures. The work is also bigger – the scale allowed me to try to capture these new landscapes and textures, and also lets the viewer explore the variety of details in them.

Something else that’s new for you is mentoring. How have you found this experience?

I’m astonished that anybody trusts me! But really, it’s always an honour when somebody sees in you something to offer. In terms of my own practice I really had to think back to basics and give order to things that I usually do without thinking. In terms of ‘basics’ it’s so interesting to see how somebody uses the same techniques –ones you’ve taught them! – in such different ways.

You’ve collaborated with other artists like Danielle Creenaune and you mentor young artists. Are there any other elements in your practice that give you pause from the ‘isolation of the artist’?

There is a really strong community of printmakers on Instagram. On my own Instagram page I post loads of things from unfinished work, to process shots… and other printmakers do the same. From that there’s a great back and forth between, well, strangers really – asking questions, giving support and advice. It’s really great. I’ve made friends with printmakers around the world and I still get to be in my own tranquil art-making bubble.

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How do you approach making new work?

I do all sorts of things, really, but my sketchbook is always my go-to to hash out new ideas or find inspiration. Songs, poetry, things I see and hear I put in my sketch book and often I look back on something scribbled in a corner and it inspires me. I’m inspired by a lot of the late Romantic poets, so it could be a line from Wordsworth… but it could be a Billy Bragg lyric. Any words or lines that speak to me, really. Sometimes looking back on them they match up with a landscape in my head and inspire me to recreate it through the lens of those words, or it could just be as simple as giving a title to a work or exhibition. Quiescence was a word I found in the margins of my sketchbook.

I also draw a lot and tack a lot of test prints into my sketchbook with details about the process, like time the plate spent in acid. I do a lot of that sort of documentation when I’m exploring new techniques, like with this exhibition. For Coast I probably made eight different test plates and they’re all in my sketch book with notes about what I did for each one.

I see printmaking as a reflective practice; I’m constantly learning and evaluating what I do, in terms of both subject matter and technique. My sketchbook is a point of inspiration, but it’s also my technical manual. Over Christmas I went overseas and it went missing with my checked-in luggage. I was beside myself! Thankfully it showed up!

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What is it about printmaking in particular that resonates with your practice?

There’s a history and spontaneity to the process that is quite romantic. There’s not a lot about the techniques of printmaking that has changed over the centuries. Printmakers are doing the same things that Rembrandt did, just to a different end. Besides the artist’s vision, there are also variables that can change the result of a print, like if the acid has been recently changed, or if it’s a hot or cold day. It’s like alchemy, the right ingredients coming together just so.

…Like how you use your sketchbook?

Yes, I suppose that’s my history and alchemy too!

And finally, how would you describe your art to somebody who had never seen it?

Traditional. In the romantic traditions of poetry and place.

Laura Kirkham, 2017

Quiescence runs from 4th – 28th March at Port Jackson Press Gallery, Collingwood.

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