Michael Kempson | Child’s Play

With a nod to printmaking this quarter with Issue 39 'Painters who Print', we look at one of our contributors Michael Kempson - a longstanding and instrumental printmaking figure in the Australian art industry - presenting new work both at home and overseas this June and July.

His latest work, a collection of 50 prints titled Child’s Play, will be presented in Cork, Ireland this June, and Manly Art Gallery, Sydney, in July.

The prints were created in response to his time in an artist’s residency at Taronga Zoo. Whilst surrounded by live exotic animals from across the globe, what struck Kempson’s attention was the menagerie of stuffed animals including wallabies, frogs, birds and pandas in the souvenir shop – and their seemingly innocent roles as symbols of nature and nations.

In his recreation of the stuffed animals Kempson’s prints engage in the toy world production of making representations of nature. Creating 50 prints the multiplicity of the different prints combined with the repetitive printmaking process amplifies the viewer’s awareness of this act of representing and copying nature. Showing their “true colours” (or absence of) in print form, the gimmicky and naive toys are further distanced from their attempted representation of the ‘real’ thing. In the commodification of the ‘wild’ animals, they are modified and resized as a soft toy.

50 strong in their collective grid, each unique animal transforms to act as a commericalised national symbol of its respective country. Noting that cuteness is the selecting factor over official symbols in the souvenir shop  – the round cute koala takes the place of a Kangaroo or emu, and the the lion representing Britishness is replaced by the bulldog. In the authorative grid structure of Child’s Play – the cuteness of commodities rule reality – disregarding the live animal or the identity of a nation.

As a mainstay in the art industry Michael Kempson’s career as a writer, print maker and Director of Cicada Press, UNSW, Sydney, has resulted into long standing printmaking relationships with international and Australian artists.

On the 23rd & 24th of June, Kempson will be presenting Child’s Play at FIRST EDITION, a Print Symposium at Millennium Hall, Cork City as part of Cork Midsummer Festival. He will also be speaking alongside; Susan Tallman, Editor in Chief, ‘Art in Print’, USA;  Dr. Angela Griffith, History of Art & Architecture Dept, Trinity College Dublin; Jason Urban & Leslie Mutchler, both of The University of Texas, Austin, USA; Dr. Carinna Parraman, Professor in Design & Colour Print, UWE, Bristol.


In July, Kempson will exhibit Child’s Play alongside work by 10 Australian artists who use printmaking techniques in their work. Rich and varied the works will include wall-based prints, installations, sculpture and video from emerging, mid-career and established artists.

Curated by Ben Rak the line up of artists range from across Australia including Alison Alder (ACT), Anna Kristensen (NSW), Ben Rak (NSW), Erica Seccombe (ACT), Gary Carsley (NSW), Judy Watson (QLD), Michael Kempson (NSW), Milan Milojevic (TAS), Samuel Tupou (QLD) and Tony Curran (ACT).

Collectively the works confront and explore the supposed “shortcomings” of the printed media. Engaging the viewer in a discussion of printmaking, the diverse works are linked by the unique and distinctive printmaking process that inherently informs new ways in which artists approach their work. Through the repetition of printmaking the works amplify the marks of the artist and the perceived ‘aura’ of the works.


FIRST EDITION | A Print Symposium
23 & 24 June 2017  
Millennium Hall, Cork City
Presented as part of Cork Midsummer Festival

Opening Friday 21 July 2017, 6 – 8pm
Manly Art Gallery & Museum

Image: Michael Kempson, Child’s Play 2016/17, etching and aquatint, 200 x 1000cm (50 panels)

Courtesy of the artist and Flinders Street Gallery, Sydney

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