A small room was built in front of the entrance to the gallery; the proportions of the room mimicked the specific architectural dimensions of the front half of the gallery space. The visitors could choose to either enter the false room through its own door, or walk around the space. The room was painted an institutional brown and the walls and three Montreal youths were invited to axe the walls with instructions to disrupt the surface of the walls without breaking through completely. A pink bathrobe was found and hung up inside the door. Between the ‘real’ gallery and the inner chamber lay fragments from the process and the lights from inside the room cast shadows on the gallery walls.
For more than 20 years, Denise Hawrysio has continuously pushed the boundaries of printmaking, shifting traditional printmaking techniques into the realm of contemporary art while reflecting modern realities. Hawrysio removes the walls between her studio and the outside world by taking her etching plates into everyday public spaces, where she finds unique and unexpected ways of mark-making. The resulting prints tell stories of social interactions and her explorations of different situations.
Selected Print Artist-in-Residence program for Summer 2014 at NSCAD University, Halifax, Canada
For many years, my practice has involved “pushing the possibilities of the normally recalcitrant medium of etching into unexplored realms”, as Gary Michael Dault wrote of my solo exhibition in Toronto. This is achieved through experimentation and invention, both materially and in terms of a kind of social engagement developed from the tradition of performance and process art. My work is informed by an engagement with critical conceptualism, both as an aesthetic attitude and as a political stance and the methodology I employ represents a bridge between conceptual based work and more traditional forms of printmaking. Printing plates are removed from the studio in order to negotiate complex notions of place, and the results can be read as scores or performative prints. They are the direct result of non-art situations that I have catalyzed or planned, and of Situationist ideas of intervention and the “construction of events”. Embedded within this process of storytelling with abstraction resides a deliberate advocacy for the accessibility of art making.
“The art of the everyday has often been explored in conceptual art through investigations of banal gestures and rituals, but it is interesting to see what happens when this tradition is married with the power of formalism. The humour of this exhibition and the curiosity it inspires makes it a joy to experience the meaning embedded in these experiments with abstraction taken out of the studio and into the everyday.”
VUEWEEKLY ARTS, REVIEW; “Behind the Marks, Denise Hawrysio, by Carolyn Jervis
Wall text: ‘I had this idea to put marks across the wall, that remind the viewer of the physicality of looking which art attempts to go beyond, but then I thought better of it…’
Titled The Beaver Still Needs a Log, this exhibition continues to push the boundaries of etching and lithography into new territory. Hawrysio builds a much needed bridge between the conceptual lineage of contemporary art and the typical tradition of print. The plates that were used to create the prints in this exhibition were removed from a studio environment and placed into everyday public spaces. With the help of participants, Hawrysio choreographed performances in which marks were made and then later impressed onto paper.
Hawrysio clearly remains committed to the study of the impression as more than simply a technical process, but rather as a subjective process of human interaction and social consciousness.
Justin Muir, Director, Vancouver, 2103
“Hawrysio produces her prints by employing external agents: human and physical (such as cars driving over etching plates). The prints are a collaboration between the artist and the world as she finds it; the actions and motions of Hawrysio’s surroundings leave their mark on her art, with the result that each print is a still, a frozen interface between the materials of art and the physicality of the world”. (Bill Jefferies) Full text (pdf)
“The critical effect of these works, the confounding of our expectations, is based on the latent discrepancy, the almost absurdist relation, between image and text, between engagement and indifference. They are as much a joke about the historical conundrums of artistic technique, as they are about social emancipation or creativity and the unconscious. This complexity of intention and effect is the radical strength of the work.” (Ian Wallace) Full text (pdf)
“Hawrysio’s prints are remarkable for both their conceptual premise and their social engagement-and for the oddly appealing aesthetic that emerges from the process of their creation. They boost the fading fortunes of traditional etching and lithography into the postmodern present.” (Robin Laurence)
This etching, Page 3 Girl, took as its starting point an etching plate I placed on a panel saw in a woodworking shop in Kent in 2006. Over the period of a month, the plate was subject to abrasions and marks from the wood which was being cut on the saw. When I received the plate back, it was wrapped in paper from The Sun newspaper, and I immediately decided to make a photo etching of the Page 3 Girl and collage it with the marked plate.
The resulting print becomes a frozen interface between the materials of art and the physicality of the world, traces of actions and motion contrasted with the stillness of the image of the Page 3 Girl. It also considers the conceptual possibilities of printmaking, especially in relation to the notion of site-specificity.
Revisiting this controversial work, I decided to overprint the Page 3 Girl’s speech bubble with a line from the song A Rapist in Your Path, a Latin American protest song which was used during the feminist uprising of 2019. This intervention to the text bubble, which takes the work in a more critical and perhaps defamatory way, felt poignant and appropriate in light of the Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement.
Like many artists of my generation, my interest in traditional mediums like printmaking was tempered by issues that emerged from the conceptual art of the late 1960s and 1970s. Through conceptual art, artists questioned formalist approaches and developed critical methodologies that challenged notions of ‘touch’ and ‘imprint’ that had preoccupied gestural painting throughout the modern period. My printmaking continues to address the conundrums of this historical rupture while addressing contemporary issues.
“The incongruity of Hawrysio’s protective attire pulls together, and comically deflates, the fear-mongering media hysteria about crime, and the heroic, or socially conscious artist’s imperative to be in the thick of it, located where the real action is.”
An Etching Plate Feels No Pain
Exhibition Catalogue, Open Studio
Toronto, Canada, 2009
“This refreshingly witty and provocative exhibition pushes the possibilities of the normally recalcitrant medium of etching into unexplored realms…. Hawrysio’s etching plates are passive receivers of her lived activity, bearing, for example, Finger marks from the guy whose job I stole and Marks from the chip that fell off my shoulder. It’s all quite ruefully funny, but it’s also, more importantly, about your vulnerability in a dangerous world, about being constantly conscious of the things that happen to you. In the end, therefore, it’s a lonely show, brave, funny and moving.”
Gary Michael Dault
Review of Situational Print show at Open Studio
Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper
July 18, 2009
The plate is first coated with an acid-resistant substance (etching ground) it is cut and welded together to form a life sized brick, a short time after its making it is then dismantled, etched and printed, the resulting marks from this process become a record of its making and unmaking.