Cressida Campbell survey on show at NGA

Speculation about the ways artists work is often futile, but one imagines that Cressida Campbell must be both very patient and extremely brave.

The Sydney artist, 62, painstakingly carves a woodblock, then spends up to a month colouring it with tiny brushstrokes of watercolour.

She then wets the block and presses a sheet of paper to it, to make a single, exquisite print.

Campbell learnt the art of woodblock printing while studying in Tokyo in the 1980s and developed her unique “painted print” style at that time.

“Even now, all these years on, she never knows whether that print is even going to work,” National Gallery of Australia curator Dr Sarina Noordhuis-Fairfax said.

A major survey of Campbell’s work is set to go on show at the gallery in Canberra showing about a third of her oeuvre, with more than 140 works on display.

They range from interiors and still lifes, to panoramic views of Sydney and the bush.

Campbell’s subject matter is inspired by the elements around her and as such is deeply autobiographical, unaffected by fashions in contemporary art, Dr Noordhuis-Fairfax said.

“And then on top, there’s this unique method. I don’t think anyone will have seen anything like it, actually,” she told AAP.

Campbell works in her studio seven days a week, according to Dr Noordhuis-Fairfax, but her methods are so labour intensive she is only able to finish a handful of works each year.

The NGA curator believes Campbell is an astounding colourist whose techniques are deceptively simple.

“She is at the top of her field … she will continue to experiment, and we don’t know what she’s going to paint next,” she told AAP.

The survey is part of the Know My Name project, which aims to celebrate the work of women artists.

A quarter of the NGA’s Australian collection is by women artists.

The Cressida Campbell show runs from September 24 to February 19.

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