Tag Archives: Australia

Collecting Colour

119 test tubes of sand from Western Australia collected by Emily Ketteringham
119 Small test tubes of sand and rock from Western Australia, collected over a two month period in 2018

I had been to Western Australia before in 2011, and the thing that really stuck in my mind was the colour. When we were preparing to visit again in 2018, I wanted a way of physically bringing that memory back with me. I had just finished my MA design project ‘Shifting Sands‘ where friends had been collecting sand from around the UK for me to turn into concrete pebbles. As a result, I had a house full of left over pots of sand – the perfect inspiration for a holiday project to collect colour.

Over the two months we travelled round Western Australia, I filled 119 tiny test tubes with sand, gravel, ochre, ore, and if I am very lucky, one test tube might even have tiny bits of fossilised stromatolite in it. None of my samples were taken from sacred Aboriginal sites. I found more colour, and more variety, than I could have dreamed of.

Close up of test tubes filled with sand from Western Australia

I started being restrained and collecting only one sample a day. That went out of the window on the day we found this extrodinary place by the side of the road. I think I collected 10 colours in under an hour.

Close up of test tubes filled with sand from Western Australia

I have samples from places that are contradictory – such as this iron mine
that was wondrous and horrendous at the same time.

My favourite is dark metallic sand collected with a magnet from a perfect circle
of sand around the top of an ant hole found behind Dales camp site in Karijini
National Park. Just steps away, in one of the most beautiful, magical place I
have places I have ever been to, we saw this graffiti – you do have to wonder.

Every time I look at this collection, I am back in Australia.

119 test tubes of sand from Western Australia collected by Emily Ketteringham

119 Small test tubes of sand and rock from Western Australia, collected over a two month period in 2018

Finding a Language

I spent July and August 2018 travelling around Western Australia in a camper van with my husband Laurence.  I went to indulge my love of rocks and to revisit the layers and colours I have had stuck in my mind since our last visit nine years ago.  I left feeling saturated with colours.

Since we got back I have been struggling to find a way to make work about the landscape we travelled through.  The photos I took don’t do justice to the vastness of the landscapes, so how could a print? I didn’t want to make representational work as my brain doesn’t work that way, but more abstract ideas refused to resolve themselves.  Several false starts left me disheartened. 

In this print I think I have finally found a way to explore my memories of Australia.  By focusing in on a specific circle within a photo, I am containing part of that vast landscape, selecting an area to analyse in detail, rather than being overwhelmed by the whole.  The colour of the place becomes the all-important subject of the print.  I have found a visual language that works to express what I want to say, as well as being challenging to me as a print maker. I hope this is the start of a whole new body of work.

Syntax of a Circle

My starting point is a photo taken just before sunset from the top of a small hill, at Cheela Plains Station camp site, on the way to Karijini National Park.

I chose a circular section of the photo, and a focal point within it (the yellow flowers above right of centre).  As this had the potential to be a highly complicated print, I did something I don’t often do, which is to try a mock up on the computer first, just to check it wasn’t going to be another false start.

To create the computer version, I looked carefully at the colours within the photo, and in particular, at the colours that touched the circumference of the circle.  I choose the colours that covered the largest areas of circumference, drew a point where they first and last touched on the circle, and used the focal point as the third point to draw a wedge shape.  As some of the colours mixed and intermingled within the photo, I ended up with some wedges overlapping.  As my inks would be translucent, these would create additional colours. 

I received positive reactions; I decided to try it in print.  I could have started with a simpler image, but where would be the fun in that?

More precise analysing and planning of my layers followed.  What amazes me is that I could look as this photo one day and plan one set of colours, then come back the next day and think that I needed something totally different. 

Two afternoons of colour mixing and three days of printing later…

The dots down the side show the 24 different ink colours that I used (some were printed more than once).

The only problem now is that because I had no faith in myself or my idea, I only printed five prints, and everyone has a mistake or flaw of some kind.  So if I want to have a edition of this print, it means I have to print it all over again.  But actually I think this is no bad thing.  I was quite seduced by how the print looked when I had printed about 5 colours.  It was very calm and quite minimal, the temptation was to leave it as it was, but then I wouldn’t have known if my idea was worth pursuing.  So the fact that the prints had flaws from the very beginning meant that I was less precious about them, I felt that it was OK to keep going to the very end, that if I ruined them by putting a bad colour on it would be justified as they were only a proof of concept.  And it worked, and I am happy, and it is OK to print 30 layers all over again, I just hope I don’t run out of any of my colours.