The James Gleeson oral history collection
James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists
Print, linocut, printed in black ink, from one block
274.0 h x 107.5 w x 31.0 d cm
© Robin Wallace-Crabbe, Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
8 February 1980 [unknown location]
James Gleeson: Robin, as you see, you’re not at the moment well represented in the National Collection. We hope we’ll be able to build up from that in the future. The things that we do have are two graphic works, a linocut and a work called And so on. Could you give us some information about those two works for our cataloguing?
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: Right. Well, chronologically, the first of them is the linocut, which must be about 1966, I would think, but I’ll just have a look. Yes, ’66 it was purchased. I think it was probably purchased out of an exhibition or a travelling exhibition of Australian prints which was put together by the Print Council.
James Gleeson: I see.
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: And went to I think perhaps the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.
James Gleeson: Do we have the title correct? Did you give a definite title to it?
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: I usually don’t have definite titles, so I’m not sure, because I think Gary Catalano reproduced it in a book. What’s it called? Is it called Imprint, the magazine?
James Gleeson: Yes, yes, yes.
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: He had an article about two years ago in Imprint called ‘Some linocuts by Robin Wallace-Crabbe’, I think. Whatever the title is on that might not be the same as this. But this is a title which I think is quite adequate. It’s the kind of title that I give.
James Gleeson: I see. So Artist drawing from the model should be its official title from now on?
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: Yes. Fine. Good.
James Gleeson: Okay. It’s the fourth of four.
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: Yes. I think Frank Watters owns another one of them, if I remember rightly. Yes. Now, it was done on that very fibrous Japanese paper.
James Gleeson: I see.
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: And was hand printed with a—do they call it a burin? *
James Gleeson: Yes, yes.
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: Yes.
James Gleeson: This is a sort of bamboo—
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: Bamboo pad.
James Gleeson: Over a pad.
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: Yes, that’s right.
James Gleeson: You rub it.
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: Yes, and was one of a long series. Most of the linocuts at the same time were based on a remembrance of things past, I think. But this one was done as a result of myself and a number of other people drawing naked ladies in the evenings once a week at a house I lived in in St Kilda Road, and that’s one of the naked ladies. It’s a pity I can’t tell what the Time magazine is because it must have been a real Time magazine to be in there.
James Gleeson: Yes, it looks like it. Did you do a lot of linocuts?
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: Yes, at that stage I did a lot, although these were printed at home. I was teaching I think at Prahran Tech, one of Melbourne art schools. That meant I had access to printing presses and things, so that stimulated a sort of interest in etching and linocuts. I’ve quite liked the sort of direct approach of lino-cutting. So that wouldn’t have been drawn first. It would have been drawn first with a tool cutting a fine line, and then sort of gouged out fairly quickly and directly.
James Gleeson: Yes. I see. So there’s no preliminary drawing for it?
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: None, no.
James Gleeson: Just work straight on to the lino?
Robin Wallace-Crabbe: Yes, yes. I’ve been doing a few actually recently using the same technique. I think the nice thing is—don’t you think?—lino-cutting always gives you a pleasant surprise. It doesn’t matter how bad you are at what you’re doing, you’re going to be saved by a pleasant accident. It will come out the other end not looking quite so bad.