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The exhibition combines environmentally sourced materials from Aotearoa/New Zealand in the making of sustainable inks for letterpress art practices. The use of colour is described by William Colenso, of pre-European Māori techniques, offering a significant legacy from which the contemporary printmaker benefits. Since many of the materials used at the time were subject to decay, few pristine examples survive to show how colour was used.
The works represent materials (rauemi) sourced from the natural environment (taiao) to prepare inks from native flora (ngā otaota) and coloured soils and minerals (ngā tae oneone). The prints provide an array of colours from pale yellows to cool greens, blacks of various kinds, white, browns, and reds. The pieces are printed in multiples to demonstrate options for printmakers who wish to use sustainable materials from their own natural environment.
The legacy to continue the study of using colours described, to create letterpress relief printing inks from natural sources for printed works. To make use of substrates made from locally produced materials, iconographic representations of the source materials and artefacts produced by those that Colenso would have encountered. We start with a printed form developed from original images that are rendered into flat colours (ink making process), plates produced that link to the natural non-toxic environment. The use of old and new technologies complement each other in the series of work. These being plates made from 3mm Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) hand carved and cut. The Hunangāmoho (plumed tussock grass image drawn), separated into three colours to create contemporary prints. A green clay (in the northern part of the country) was the one colour that was most difficult to locate locally. White, cream, grey, yellow, brown clays were combined with the two-tone green clay (green sand) to offer colour definition in subtle ways.