Artist Tim Maguire, best known for his precise and detailed oil paintings, has left his latest printing project almost entirely to chance.
In a recent fellowship at the Australian Print Workshop in Melbourne, Maguire decided the design and colour of his pictures with a throw of a dice.
The Sydneysider's Dice Abstracts project began as a series of charcoal drawings digitally transferred onto etching plates.
By tapping a dice app on his phone, Maguire directed the workshop printers to ink the plates in yellow, magenta or cyan, and even decided which way up they would go.
He emerged with a series of 80 square prints in fields of startlingly bright colour, with simple lines or bands that could be taken for horizons.
They are on display at NGV Australia as part of the show New Australian Printmaking, alongside works by Megan Cope, Shaun Gladwell and Patricia Piccinini.
"It's a fantastic demonstration of the kind of exciting places that printmaking can take artists ... I feel printmaking tends to be overlooked in the greater scheme of things," Maguire told AAP.
The four artists are renowned for their work in other medium, and developed fresh artworks through the annual fellowship with the workshop and NGV.
Senior workshop printer Martin King, who began working with Maguire about 30 years ago, put the Dice Abstract plates through the presses in 2021.
"There's something quite miraculous about the fact that the same three colours have been used to give you that whole range of both image and colour," he told AAP.
The show is a world-class example of leading artists working with specialist printmakers, a tradition that takes in the likes of Durer and Picasso, King said.
Piccinini, whose monumental Skywhale sculptures - which inspired a hot air balloon - wowed audiences across the world, had never been involved with printmaking before.
But for Maguire, the process has become fundamental to his painting technique.
In 1987, Sydney's Mori Gallery sent the young artist to the workshop with instructions to make the biggest prints possible as cheaply as possible.
He worked with the late Neil Leveson to produce his very first print, of a classical column lying submerged in water.
"It was the '80s, it was postmodernism, it was a bit wry and ironic," he laughs.
The experience proved formative: Maguire was inspired by the four-colour process, in which layering cyan, magenta, yellow and black can make every colour in the spectrum.
For delicate pale tones, the ink must be thinned so the whiteness of the paper can shine through.
"I sort of fell in love with that luminosity and started applying it to my oil paintings, I make my paintings as if they're prints," Maguire said.
He will often apply colour to his canvases one layer at a time, in a process known to printers as colour separation.
It's standard in the world of printing, with colour magazines produced this way, but for an oil painter, it's unusual to say the least.
His giant canvases often show the world as if seen through a magnifying glass, depicting the flesh of a petal, an insect on a flower, or the sheen of a water droplet on fruit.
The subject matter is taken from still life works by the old Dutch masters who contemplated the fragility of the natural world.
There were about 44,000 possible outcomes for the Dice Abstracts project, and Maguire said wryly that he was ahead of the curve in contemplating randomness just before COVID-19 hit.
"I've always felt that life is a perilous pursuit, it didn't take COVID for me to start thinking that way," he told AAP.
New Australian Printmaking is on display until September 11 at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia.
Australian Associated Press
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