1. Review of winning print in Gold Coast City Art Prize 1984.
April 29-30, 1984 p.12
In May, the Araluen Centre opened in Alice Springs with two galleries, a theatre and a bistro. The first acquisition prize was in 1970 and in 1971 I gave it to David Aspden, a leading abstract painter.
Ironically, people are not used to it yet. More ironically, the Gold Coast, where purchase prizes have been made yearly since 1968 and where I made 10 last weekend, has no gallery though it is second only to Brisbane in the amount of money it administers. True, the rapid expansion means tremendous infrastructure costs, but do the citizens want a culturalist (sic)retirement city?
San Francisco, partially a retirement city, has three internationally noted galleries and another, Berkley, (sic) lies across the Bay. However, the point is that the purchase prize preserves a lot that may be lost. The Gold Coast collection is already fine and last weekend works that are not readily were added. .................
Rod Ewins of Hobart (contributors came from far afield) showed a mysterious triptych etching: a boy looks out from a door; a man turns his back and faces it; alas as just the bare door. It is all tidy and yet full of peril.
2. Review of one-person show, Cadaques, Spain, 1984.
The print Series "The Residence" and several serigraphs are the works that the artist Rod Ewins showed in Cadaques, and these had the power of attracting the attention of the spectator for a long time due to his enigmatic compositions and to the technical process that makes them possible.
His expression is rending, poetic, ironic and above all disquieting.
The technique is etching, using photographic compositions, obtained by an assemblage of old and recent photographs that he transfers to the plate by photoengraving to be bitten by the acid, after application of resins, getting aquatints with deep black and grey qualities mixed [with] some red.
These splendid etchings (rich in subject and technique) tell us about the problems of human beings and of Australia as a continent.
Eloquently, the artist introduces us into a sort of clime, framed by desolation, in which only nature lives triumphant.
His characters, with fixed and questioning or distant and meditative glances, occupy a meaningful concrete space, like the pieces of a chess game, and seem to look to us in search of answers.
Past, present and future live together in each of his works which bases its expressive strength on the intelligent game of manipulating time (yesterday and today) and space (outside, inside) getting lots of contrasts that submerge us, irremediably into an impatient sensation of anguish and anxiety.
The connection with rigid and austere ancestors, necessary to achieve identity, the obligation of fitting conduct to tradition and to get submerged in anonymity in looking for security ("Happy the Bride") and the avidity of overcoming insatisfaction by looking for new ways of behaviour ("The Doll"), are reflected in his works with unusual wisdom.
We can guess the protagonism that agriculture and cattle have in Australia's history through the expectant and symbolic images of destruction in which, among its debris, the grass is born and the landscape appears serene and imperturbable. The sheep is treated with the emotional respect that it deserves for being a key to Australian life and the rabbit is also put on a pedestal in a fine, ironic way.
Rod Ewins' prints keep awake secrets and inquietudes of Australia, and we verify that his secrets and inquietudes are ours as well.
3. Review of one-person show, Stadia Gallery, Sydney 1985.
Of all the images around for many weeks, those of the Tasmanian photo-etcher, Rod Ewins, now at Stadia Graphics, haunt the mind. He can make of nostalgia a living loss. grief, or shadowed happiness. No cuteness.
Happy the Bride has a white bent tree and a house on the horizon against the black sky. A child in Victorian dress is half-way down the hill and right on the bottom edge sit three men in black, and in front three women, two the bridesmaids, with hats. The bride, in the centre. is featureless. Time has devoured her already.
In The Way It Was, a soldier boy sits in a ruined barn, his sweetheart's head in cameo; a little girl peeps in at the door. Childhood and soldiers are time's victims.
Ewins encapsulates the inevitability of time, especially in Father of the Man, three panels of a boy, a man turned from us and a closed door. It can be read from either side, but whichever way, happiness is darkened.
Exhibitions about place are a feature of this week's Sydney scene, which is dominated by Judy Cassab's paintings from the Rainbow Calley in central Australia, and an exhibition of photo-etchings by Rod Ewins, a master printmaker from Tasmania.
Although Ewins draws on the locality where he lives, his exhibition is about displacement as much as place, and he gives a wry twist to the conventional picture of Tasmania's early settlers.
Ewins at Stadia Graphics, manipulates photographic images so that he seems to stand outside his subject. This is literally true in his wryly humorous self-portrait called Snapshot, in which he plays a triple role, appearing as the photographer, the model, and a gentleman in Victorian dress.
By displacing his own and other people's images in this way, Ewins, who hand works old photographs of pioneering types as well as his own family album snapshots, says something about his relationship with the historic district in which he lives, as well as about his own mortality.
4. Review of one-person show, Powell Street Graphics Gallery, Melbourne 1986.
Friday 27th June, 1986
Drawn from the day to day ...
Art begins at home.
With Chardin's brown pots and Matisse's goldfish, with timeless interiors by Vermeer and table-tops by the cubists, frozen fruit by Cezanne and Giacometti; with Oldenburg's awful cakes, Tucker's green trams and Brack's sharpened pencils.
At least three exhibitions this week make that point again: artists with vison can make eloquent pictures from the most mundane available facts.
At Australian Galleries, Donald Friend does it with arrangements of the things he eats or collects. Helen Maudsley, at the new Standfield Gallery, does it with mirrors, faceted furniture, boxes and bottles. Rod Ewins (Powell Street Graphics) uses his discovery of an old house to re-create the past, re-kindled in memory from old photographs and nostalgia.
Rod Ewins uses a photo-etching technique, combining this with other printmaking effects. In some hands this can be a very boring way of shuffling ready-made pictures but Ewins has something to say: about war and the bomb, about the continuity of generations and families, about the romance of elapsed time.
Ewins has a couple of memorable prints: a girl, obscenely garlanded with an ammunition belt and surrounded by the ghostly reminders of conflict; and a child looking innocently from and outside and present reality into the interior of a derelict building.