OUTSIDERS don’t know just how cosmopolitan a city like Canberra is, as a coming exhibition of Greek linocuts by artist Michael Winters will prove.
Winters is not only a long-time resident of Belconnen but one who, after years of having lived, painted and partly raised his family on the Greek island of Leros, was made an honorary citizen there.
This is a major retrospective survey of his Greek-themed artworks from 1995 to 2022, comprising 45 pieces.
The exhibition will be opened by the legendary printmaker Basil Hall, who it turns out was a mighty influence on Winters in his early days in Canberra.
By coincidence, like Winters, Hall has a printmaking studio in Greece. Winters has exhibited widely in Canberra, most prominently with a grand exhibition of artworks about Australia’s involvement in Crete during World War II at the Australian War Memorial in 2005.
He is responsible for several large public murals around the ACT, is still an active painting teacher and regularly takes his students on arty trips to the Greek islands to soak up the kind of inspiration the former boy from Frankston enjoyed when he was a young man.
Canberra’s wandering Philhellene artist left Australia for Greece and Europe in 1965. After time in Greece, particularly on the island of Leros, he travelled to Sweden and studied at the Stockholm School of the Arts, then lived in the UK, returning to Greece several times.
After exhibiting in London and Sweden, he repatriated to Australia, but kept returning to Greece for long periods from 1979.
He tells me about his arrival in Canberra in 1992 from living near Bathurst for a few years and how, almost by accident, he happened upon Studio One Print Workshop in Kingston, banged into Hall, who showed him the ropes.
Above my computer is a delicate Winters lithograph of Leros, but his preferred mode is the linocut. “Lino is more resilient, you can heat it with a hairdryer,” he tells me.
“The joy of cutting these blocks is indescribable,” Winters says, explaining how some of his lino cuts have ended up with 30 colours, a technical challenge that involves a reductive practice of printing – cleaning one block off, recutting it a little and changing the colours.
Although at first a painter trained at Caulfield Institute of Technology, then a lithographer and linocut artist, Winters likes to experiment and in a major exhibition at Orange Regional Gallery, he exhibited framed three-dimensional hanging works, some of which will be on show in the exhibition.
The idea behind the three-dimensional works, he says, is “to play with how you use a graphic to describe a place in all its complexity. It’s not just descriptive”.
One such is “Sailing into the Depths of Time No 10,” showing an ancient Greek “trireme” vessel set as a backdrop of Leros.
His exhibition will cover linocut images of Athens, Monemvasia, Corinth, ancient Olympia and Crete, but the majority will be of Leros, where, in 2007 he shipped his equipment and spent two years making prints and teaching in the adopted homeland of his youth.
The title of the exhibition, he says, is intended to show how much of his creative life is entwined with Greece.
“My history of art lecturer instilled in me the desire to visit Greece, which I did,” he says.
The relationship continues – the Saturday before we talked, Winters learnt that he’d just sold two works on Leros.
“My Greece”, West Gallery, Belconnen Arts Centre, July 8-August 22.
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