Images from a lifetime of journeying

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‘Mawson Station’ – etching, 16 of 50, 2003, 4 sheets.

Art / Jörg Schmeisser “The Journey Continues: Prints From the Family Collection”, Beaver Galleries. March 26-April 12. Viewable at beavergalleries.com.au or by appointment. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

DRAWINGS by travellers fill many a visual diary, but few will be of the quality or hold the imaginative and bold concepts that Jörg Schmeisser’s prints do in this exhibition at Beaver Galleries.

Having travelled widely and trained in art in Hamburg before gaining a scholarship to study in Kyoto, Schmeisser was head of printmaking at the Canberra School of Art from 1978 to 1997. Throughout his career, he had more than 200 solo exhibitions across the world. He died in 2012.

Several of the works in this exhibition are in a series, such as the four prints that make up the large image titled “Mawson Station”. Schmeisser did this on one of his visits to Antarctica in the late 1990s. This vast landscape in black and white captures a desolate view of the icy and remote outpost at the bottom of the world that is Mawson Station.

‘New York’ – etching, test b&w, 1981, 107 x 80cm, unframed

Another landscape, this time an urban one from 1981 titled “New York”, says something different. This etching is framed on the sides with a rather animated script text of his notes from his time in this mega-city. The text flows into the main image and evolves into a floral arrangement sitting before the viewer. It makes the vertical lines come alive.

There’s a strong feeling of adventure in the works on display, and not just the kind a traveller experiences. The combination of forms, shapes, designs and content, hold few boundaries in their compositional aesthetic. This is adventure with artistic style.

Everything is seen and captured with a unique artist’s eye. It’s as if Schmeisser was viewing his subjects with an eye for what the finished work would look like when transferred from an etching to a print. If so, his equations were perfect.

The smaller works hold an infinite amount of visual information. That said, there’s a directness that is accompanied by splashes of extended ideas which go to make up a personal statement about how Schmeisser viewed the world. Buildings, a rock, windows and face masks, which he captured while on a journey into Kashmir in India, these all say much more than what is seen on the surface.

‘Nine Masks’ – etching, 51 of 100.

His work, titled “Nine Masks” 1986, seems to be alive. The echoing colours in the mask and background make this work hard to walk past. This is a picture of many stories and many histories.

The images and memories from a lifetime of journeying across the world with art as the final destination, come together in a powerful display in this exhibition of direct and imagined realities.

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