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Lawrence Finn - Newbury

Newbury artist, Lawrence Finn is passionate about two things – printmaking and the need to communicate.

“When I was a kid, I never had a voice. I think most people want to say things (about the world) but they don’t have the words. That was me as a teenager; I came from a difficult upbringing and I didn’t have the words - but I slowly developed the language through pictures

“At art school, I learned to communicate universally. I discovered I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t crazy, I just saw the world differently; and I discovered that art is an extraordinary device for unravelling your own internal mysteries.

“My Master’s thesis was about my love of fine art and my distemper with the ‘art scene,’ exploring the social and individual benefits of art while asking the awkward questions about why we have so many artists and art schools in a country which (fiscally speaking), does not love art.

“Art has wonderful benefits for individuals and society. For a few it makes money, for many, it gives them life. It helps people to cope with life.”

Lawrence arrived in Victoria – “the printmaking capital of Australia” – to set up his own letterpress print studio (Hipcat Printery), in Kyneton in 2013. The intention was to create an educational and access print studio for artists, designers, students and novices More recently, in 2017, he built his fourth studio at Newbury and his latest project has been opening the doors on his new printmakers’ gallery.

“Generally, artists, rather than the artwork, are treated as the commodity by galleries. Artists have been grossly exploited by galleries as a result but it is the fine arts that have suffered as a consequence. My philosophy is to highlight the artwork. The idea is that the artists are represented properly and professionally, and that the gallery takes a percentage of any sale, nothing else.

"Artists already pay, in the time it takes to learn the skills, in the making, in the framing, in so many ways, so when a gallery which purports to support the arts charges them for every little thing to exhibit – they exploit the need artists have to be heard and seen. HipCat Gallery, unlike many Australian galleries, does not expect artists to pay the rent, or the bill for the opening night and or promotional costs. Artists need to be represented."

It’s a small space – just 20 square metres – but the first show has attracted some of Australia’s most established printmakers and Lawrence feels enthusiastic about the future.

“I want to exhibit the work of top Australian and international printmakers. I want to attract both established artists and ‘new blood.’ Printmaking is undergoing a renaissance but unfortunately that is being strangled at birth by art galleries.”

Lawrence has never pulled any punches about his thoughts on the art scene, and he’s never shied away from the gritty, dark underbelly of the Australian political landscape. He’s never been afraid to use his printmaking, his artistic expression, to “hold a dark mirror up to the nation’s social conscience.’

He was just 16 when he began his art studies at East Sydney Technical College, School of Fine Arts (1986-89), and he has always challenged people with his thoughts and ideas.

“If you want to tell a dark story, you have to do it beautifully – you have to make the work aesthetically pleasing to draw people in, so you can talk about the world and dark secrets – the things people don’t often talk about.”

He worked as a printmaking technician at the University of New South Wales, College of Fine Arts (1991-92), and then pursued a post-graduate diploma from Sydney College of Arts in 1993. In 2007, he completed a Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking at the National Art School, East Sydney, at the same time travelling to Europe and the United States to study with artist printmakers.

He has work in the National Gallery of Australia (purchased before he turned 21), and was added to the national again in 2006 via an acquisition award from the SilkCut Prize, one of Australia’s premier printmaking prizes.

In his spacious Newbury studio, Lawrence simultaneously works on his own work and with other artists, focussing on tuition, artist editioning and printmaking workshops. Surrounded by printing presses, wooden and metal type, inks, prints and papers, he finds enormous pleasure in printmaking processes.

“I love the process – the click and whirr of the machinery and ‘the conversations’ I have with the plate. At the same time, I want to facilitate artists’ work. We’re professional communicators and that’s what this space is for. We have to facilitate communication if we are to be a successful society, if we are to nurture and heal as individuals and as a species.”

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