Looking at Art -June

<strong>Franck Gohier</strong><br/>Born 1968, St Nazaire, Brittany, France<br/>Arrived Darwin, Northern Territory, 1975<br/><br/><i>Picnic at Berry Springs</i> 2012<br/>7 colour screenprint on Ivory board, edn 31/99<br/> 41.7 x 27.6cm [image]; 45.5 x 32.5cm [paper]<br/>Charles Darwin University Art Collection – CDU2451<br/>Gifted by the artist, March 2013 Image © and courtesy the artist

Franck Gohier

Darwin-based painter, sculptor and printmaker Franck Gohier is best known locally as an energetic and committed political poster artist. With satirical wit, his work captures the texture and momentum of contemporary events in the Northern Territory, often exploiting historical “frontier” stereotypes.

Born in St Nazaire, Brittany in France, Gohier emigrated with his family to Australia in 1972, where they sought a new life. His parents’ involvement in protest marches on the streets of Paris in the late 1960s influenced his personal beliefs and social conscience. Relocating to Darwin following the destruction of Cyclone Tracy, Gohier grew up within the local multicultural community, which included Aboriginal and Asian families.

As a student at the Northern Territory University (now Charles Darwin University) in the 1990s, Gohier was inspired to focus his practice on graphic art after a talk on Australian political poster prints delivered by local veteran print and poster artist, Chips Mackinolty.  Gohier lectured in printmaking at NTU, co-founding the Northern Territory University Printmaking Workshop (NTUPW) with George Watts and Leon Stainer in 1993. For the next three years, they worked together to teach a range of printmaking techniques to Indigenous artists throughout the Northern Territory and the Kimberley region of Western Australia. As a result, printmaking became an important element of many Indigenous artists’ long-term artistic practices.

Red Hand Print Studio was formed in 1997 by Gohier and fellow printmaker Shaun Poustie, formerly of Red Planet poster press in Melbourne.
Active until the early 2000s, Red Hand’s ethos was community-based and open-access, with a passion for the graphic arts and a commitment to social justice and equality. Posters were created for various political and social events, including fundraisers, May Day marches and local concerts or musical sessions. Local artists including Colin Holt and Olivia Hittmann contributed their time and artistry.

Gohier and Poustie were also technical innovators, developing printing inks for the unique tropical conditions of the Top End of the Northern Territory (“Hemi-Opaque” inks, named after Poustie’s Chrysler Valiant Hemi Coupe car). Unlike conventional printing inks, Hemi Opaque was non-toxic, water-based and mould-resistant – ideal for tropical climes.

Picnic at Berry Springs 2012 was recently gifted to the CDU Art Collection as one of 25 poster prints created by Gohier at the revived Red Hand Print Studio. Operating from Gohier’s studio-home, Red Hand today is “primarily focused on commissioned fine art prints and the professional practices of Franck Gohier, Chayni Henry and selected artists.” Its re-birth as a private printmaking enterprise was prompted by a survey exhibition of early works from the original Red Hand Studio (1997-2004) held at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory from late October 2011 until early February 2012, entitled Cultivate – Activate.

Picnic at Berry Springs is reminiscent of old comic book covers, depicting “action characters” in dramatic or dangerous situations, cast in a limited range of bold colours with crude cross-hatching for shading.  The banner title within this work – “Wild North Comics” and the subheading “More true tales...” – are satirical references to the perspectives of “southerners” who regard the Northern Territory as an untamed wilderness with an abundance of dangerous reptiles (in particular, crocodiles and snakes), poised to strike at every corner.

The female warrior astride a thrashing red-eyed crocodile, in the process of rescuing her female companion on a sinking raft (who in turn clutches a green baby crocodile toy), pays tribute to the fictional comic book warrior Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Sheena’s astute ability to communicate with wild animals and her accomplished skills as a fighter appear to make her a perfect candidate for “Northern Territorian” status. Like many of Gohier’s poster prints, figurative elements – rugged, slightly out-dated heroes and heroines – predominate, with humour used to convey messages of personal, social and political import.

Charles Darwin University Art Collection holds 130 Red Hand Print Studio poster prints gifted by Franck Gohier since 2004.

Eileen Lim, Assistant Curator, CDU Art Collection & Art Gallery
30 May 2013

 

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