Hertha_Klug_Pott_ACUlores-270x408. Hertha Kluge-Pott
Born 1934, Germany; arr. Australia 1958
The Other Side of a Time, 2017
drypoint etching, rice paper
H 64 x W 44.5 cm
Donated by the artist 2019

Hertha Kluge-Pott set up her first home printmaking studio in 1966. A fully functioning professional home studio, as Kluge-Pott’s would become, was a luxury. Printmakers are generally forced into collaborative, workshop-based studios: machinery, materials, work stations all shared. Privacy and convenience were a revelation for the thirty-two-year-old artist. She purchased her first press on a visit to her native Germany, as presses were not made in Australia at the time, and had it shipped to her home in Melbourne.[1] It was a table-top model, and the artist has reminisced about the kindness of fellow printmaker Grahame King, who made a wooden platform for it to sit upon. [2] Also working as a professional art teacher, Kluge-Pott increasingly split her time between two productive worlds: teaching in one and her private practice in the other, sealed in her treasured two-storey workspace at the back of her garden.

Fifty years later, Kluge-Pott still brings her work materials into this studio space. Along with the usual printmaker’s inks, copperplates, blankets and papers (the latter often home-made or hand-dyed), the artist gathers together the subjects of her prints—pods, seeds, grasses and bodies or carapaces of dead insects are common, as well as indefinite forms such as decayed ropes, cannibalised slices of past works, and black wool, which she uses to mimic and ‘sketch-out’ her fuzzy drypoint lines.

In her studio, these organic items are placed judiciously. They wait their turn. When the artist is ready, she selects one and turns it over, and often produces a diptych or triptych from different perspectives. They are, in a very real way, compliant and silent sitters. The resulting image is considered a portrait. Rather than a generic illustration, her print of a shell or a root or a gumnut is always a depiction of a particular specimen, one that the artist can identify and has become attached to and may have kept for years.

The Other Side of a Time, featuring a bottom-heavy tree of unidentified species, complicates Kluge-Pott’s studio practice. As large as her ambitions are, this soaring specimen would have been too old and huge for the artist to have collected and hoarded. Instead, this tree has ‘sat’ via a photograph clipped from a newspaper. Kluge-Pott felt an immediate sympathy for the colossus that would become one half of a couple. The Other Side of a Time is the ‘male’; his pair, the feminine, is depicted in Foreside. The two tree images are gendered in a way that has little to do with botanical fact and more with feeling and empathetic force.

The Other Side of a Time is, however, related to the organic found object-sculptures on the artist’s bench. Despite the tree’s evident heft, it is airborne, as if Kluge-Pott were a curious giant who has torn the trunk from its root system. In reality, the tree was felled in a violent storm. Onto it, Kluge-Pott has grafted memories of other trees, other roots she has known; this individual is hybrid. It is a portrait of weather events and storms that Kluge-Pott has experienced—it is a snapshot of ‘a time’. More specifically, it is a portrait of the remembered ‘other side’ of a storm from her perspective today.

Kluge-Pott’s influence over the natural world—her power to arrest and examine time (fixed or fluid)—is contained within the visions she creates in her studio, where she is sheltered from wind and rain (except for occasional leaks). When Kluge-Pott steps out of the studio’s large glass door she is subject to the laws of nature and gravity once more, like the rest of us.

Victoria Perin

 

[1] Hilary Maddocks, Hertha Kluge-Pott: printmaker,  MacMillan Art Publishing, Melbourne,  2015, p. 62.

[2] ibid.

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