Lisa Rochfort

Lisa Rochfort

Lives and works in NSW

Lisa Rochfort
Flow - The River Runs Red
Raku clay & underglaze, mid fire
32 x 32 x 14.5 cm

Lisa Rochfort works in her country studio, ‘Yarrenbool’ in rural NSW in a township called Manilla. The name comes from the Gamilaraay language, it is said to mean ‘winding river’. Manilla lies next to the Bundarra-Barraba, an important bird sanctuary imperative to the conservation of the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater. A better terrain could not be found for an artist embedded in the subtle tides and rare patterns of the natural world.

The pale winter light, the wind articulating every moving leaf, schools of birds taking formation in the sky, all of this falls into the lines and forms of her vision.

“I don’t look at nature” Rochfort reflects, “I read it and immerse myself deeply within it. Nothing around me is static and as a result, the composition of my large prints and smaller ceramics might be mapped – but they can never fully be planned. I will conceive a carving and then very swiftly depart from it for the next eight hours of work. I guess that is the main difference between art and design. In art, the template always get lost and inevitably, it just transforms.”

Intricate, profoundly faceted detail is a hallmark of Rochfort’s work. This, and a highly dramatic use of positive and negative space. Following the Japanese concept of Notan, her abstract use of the void is punctured by intense bursts of ornament. Visually each work is rich in movement, swooping diagonals thread the eye across ornate wings and foliage as the patterns of nature fuse. Her homage to the hummingbird also plays with the volume of line by contrasting bone thin lines with tiny ellipses that evoke both petals and feathers. The interchange between species and their camouflage is just one of the departures from realism that these works take. For here is not the bird as a naturalist specimen or the indigenous flower as an obedient sample, but a much wilder hybrid of the two. In her studio carving linear whirls or at the press, both hands soaked black with ink, Lisa Rochfort joins ornithology to botanica, Edo and Bush poetry. Rendering up a rare imagined beast of her own making.

To work deeply with paper and ink is a discipline dependent upon a deft knowledge of materials. Rochfort first layers her carefully chosen Japanese papers in a process known as Chine Collé. Chine-collé  translates from French chine = China, and collé, meaning glued or pasted. The word chine is used because the thin paper traditionally used in the process was imported to Europe from China. Chine Collé allows the printmaker to print on a much more delicate surface, such as Japanese paper in this case, and it is a process which also allows the pull of much finer details off the plate.

To Rochfort, the art of the print is also the art of paper. The quality of paper as a breathing, living entity is honoured in a ritual where she feels the paper surface “receives the ink” rather than simply being imposed upon. Her preference to create single rather than multiple edition prints is expressed through a desire to create an image of almost scintillated clarity. A cleaving between light and dark so deep the paper looks somewhat embossed and so crisp the original verve and energy of her line is not lost.

Mesmerised by pattern, here are compositions of rapture and restraint, patient forging and passionate scale. Australian artists return again and again to shared themes, but for each the trajectory is completely personal. Here is homage to home ground, steeped in a sense of place, and something more: A romantic elegy to the deep history of the decorative arts.