Vanessa Wallace in her studio. Image: Karin WallaceFrom little things…

Vanessa Wallace by Sue Starcken

Archaeological ‘galleries’ on the ground tender ephemeral moments that simultaneously intrude, disrupt and chime to the life and will of an era. Accomplished printmaker, Vanessa Wallace, concerns herself with those traces of existence and deep insights of historical ‘evidence’ that are – mostly inadvertently – left behind. Hers is a near obsessive contemplation of the tributaries of histories on the ground, comprising the relics of footfall past and those remnant marks on pavement, turf and inky tar.

On a foundational premise of printmaking, Vanessa has built an impressive range of skills that emerge from and inform her practice. Memory-laden particles find their way into her stories that are prompted by the honed sensibility of a conservator, the keen eye of a curator and the deft proficiency of the consummate printmaker. It is perhaps fitting that Vanessa pays close attention to the minutiae of the world underfoot, as she demonstrates a defined empathy for the documentation of historical ephemera. Her Artsource studio in Midland houses an eclectic stockpile of resource material: neat stacks and rolls of exquisite papers, reams of elegantly handwritten text and her kempt tools of trade – pencils, inks, photographs, copperplate, textiles, presses.

Vanessa is emphatically optimistic about the place and relevance of printmaking in a contemporary context, and she relishes the opportunities and initiatives she perceives in this part of the country. Keen to develop her range, she continues her studies and explorations, and she documents her surroundings and experiences through varied means including photography, frottage and text. This research informs sequential, diarised works of the artists’ ‘life-world’ and often takes the format of the artist book.

Vanessa Wallace, Negotiate, 2014. Heat transfer and stitch on fabric, 11.5 x 11.5 x 11.5cmIn fact, Vanessa asserts that “books have conversations with prints…[they] are central to my practice”, and it is the intimacy of engagement with the book form that she finds so compelling.

Vanessa Wallace is at the vanguard of contemporary printmaking and numerous awards, commissions, career opportunities and bold digital media forays attest to her capacity for durability and innovation. For now, though, a consequential milestone highlights the reason for recording the twists and shifts of the world, as a legacy to a future generation in which she is now inexorably invested. Eleven years out of art school and with a convincing arts career well underway, motherhood has generated a new sphere of quiet poetry amongst the chaotic business of life. Importantly, the birth of her daughter has sparked the impetus for work that she describes as “recording the ephemeral moments between parent and child”. This series will see the periodic documentation of the spaces that her daughter traverses, whilst her physical development is reflected in incremental images that relate directly to body height, head circumference and the curiosity-laden life-world of a child. Begun at birth, this intriguing project sees Vanessa creating at her visionary best. Clearly a long-term proposition, the initial works are rich with personal purpose. They relish the prosaic and record the deluge of ‘essential’ information provided to new parents. Importantly, they speak to the lyricism of the everyday and offer pause for the consideration of history.


Sue Starcken is a unit coordinator and lecturer in art at Edith Cowan University as well as Curator of the university’s Art Collection. She is also a practicing artist and writer. Sue is a member of the Artsource Board.

This article was featured in the Artsource Newsletter, Summer 2014/15