Etchings and Lithographs catalogue forward by Michael Kempson

Australian artist Alan Jones at Cicada Press

Alan Jones Prints

I’ve long admired the art of Alan Jones – honest, rigorously engaging and technically intriguing. There was great anticipation when Jones, as the recipient of the Paddington Art Prize’s UNSW Art & Design award, agreed to take up the opportunity to explore the exciting potential of printmaking with students in our Paddington campus. In an industry rife with posture and hubris, it is a pleasure to collaborate with someone who exudes openness while embracing the challenge of something new. Most inspiring was seeing how he deploys good old-fashioned hard work, along with more than a modicum of talent, in the realisation of his artistic intentions. 

The etchings and lithographs produced by Jones at Cicada Press are an introduction to the working routines of two mediums from a broader suite of related disciplines. Printmaking encompasses many beguiling features, none more prominent than its unique expressive range: the tactility recorded in a traditional print; the haptic manipulation of layering, scraping or cutting that together provides a record of an individual’s creative process. A painter is able to make a mark and respond to it immediately, but when a printmaker does so on a metal plate or stone it must then be processed through several crucial stages before seeing the result. This challenging change of pace encountered when embracing the arcane rituals of superseded print processes can be difficult, for the resultant print is also the mirror image of what is drawn. 

When deconstructing Jones’ painting methodology, you quickly realise it is an approach that is not conventional, for his ideas are conceptually layered and applied in a unique technically procedural way of working. Using drawing as a starting point, these prints depict locations from his childhood suburb of Cherrybrook in Sydney’s sprawling north-west. Jones has clear intentions for an image, knowing exactly what he wants. He seeks a duality by revisiting the distant memory of lived experience only to sync those experiences with a depiction of what is current. It is not a literal description, but there is enough of a resonance of the familiar to provide a scaffold so that he can do what he does best – a focussed immersion into fundamental creative concerns, so crucial in the practical business of making.

Like many who have preceded him, Jones has sought to engage with printmaking because it is a tangible and intimate link to the hand of an artist that spans generations, attesting to the wonders of human ingenuity found in the phenomenal engineering achievement of print technology – along with the science of how we combine pigment, oil, water and paper under pressure to package and broadly circulate innovative images and ideas. The outcomes of his labour at Cicada Press have all the qualities that normally distinguish his work, and more. There is clarity and freshness in their execution, nuance in its kinaesthetic scope and a confidence that belies someone so new to the medium. He is also a person, like those rare individuals found in the many facets of the dynamic of human endeavour, with the uncanny ability to make the profoundly difficult look easy.

Michael Kempson
Senior Lecturer and Director of Cicada Press
UNSW Art & Design


‘Etchings and Lithographs’
7-23 November 2019
Olsen Gallery, Sydney