Inside a studio eyrie

By Rhonda Dredge

When it comes to creating a studio, most artists find a rustic back shed or share an old warehouse with others and work in an enclosed kind of way at ground level. 

Gaye Paterson has done the reverse and set up a studio with an overwhelming view of the city.

Studio Nova is a corner apartment on the seventh floor on Elizabeth St. 

The view of the post office clock through the window is a fierce reminder of city life, of Melbourne’s establishment and those not as lucky.

Gaye works with issues such as asylum seekers and tackles large questions but she does it with the constraint of a printmaker.

An artist needs a medium to get her point across and it won’t necessarily be visible in the studio where just a few prints are on display. Her finished woodblocks and etchings are on Instagram, Facebook and blogs. 

There’s something special and more intimate about actually visiting an artist’s studio and getting a briefing on her working methods while keeping an eye on the sky.

Gaye said she had a brilliant teacher at East Sydney Tech when she first took up the craft many years ago and his teachings still drove her. 

“He taught us so well,” she said. “He got you invested. Most students don’t even know which ink to use and why when they leave college.”

In pride of place in her apartment studio is a huge Hilton tooling printing press, just one of 10 made in Melbourne, which had to be squeezed in through the door. 

A press defines the work of a printmaker, allowing her to simplify her message by creating beautifully consistent surfaces and overlaps that are impossible to do by hand.

The process is very exacting. The paper needs just the right amount of dampness. “You feel the dampness of the paper with your cheek,” she said, passing on some of her teacher’s commandments to her own students.

Then excess ink has to be wiped off the plate with a cloth and it has to be just right. 

Printmaking is a hands-on thing, she says. “You have to know chapter and verse how it’s done. Then you can be free with your concepts.” 

A set of three woodblocks on the wall has been printed on black paper with black ink in Geneva but the ink looks silver. 

This is one of the techniques she has invented. She said that more people these days were going back to woodblocks. Less are doing etchings. She likes to keep up with trends.

Gaye lived in the apartment for a while after moving back from Europe where the printmaking culture is strong then began transforming the standard set-up into something unique. 

Printmaking can get messy if you don’t keep materials under control so you need a workable space for them. 

In the racks overhanging the kitchen bench where plates are usually displayed she keeps her completed prints. 

She took the doors off the wardrobe in the bedroom to store her special Magnani paper. And her inks are in the overhead cupboards in the kitchen. 

Work that she has made in her CBD eyrie has been shown at the major prizes such as the Mornington Peninsula Works on Paper, Burnie Print Prize and Megalo Print Studio in Canberra. 

Gaye has a show coming up at Tacit Galleries in Collingwood later in the year •

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