Cressida Campbell survey featured on NGA

Speculation about the way artists work is often pointless, but you can imagine that Cressida Campbell must be both very patient and extremely courageous.

The 62-year-old Sydney artist painstakingly carves a block of wood, then spends up to a month coloring it with small brushstrokes of watercolor.

She then wets the block and presses a sheet of paper onto it, creating a single, beautiful print.

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

“Even now, all these years later, she never knows if that print will work at all,” says Sarina Noordhuis-Fairfax, curator of the National Gallery of Australia.

The gallery in Canberra will feature a major overview of Campbell’s work, showcasing about a third of her body of work, with over 140 works.

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, untouched by fashion in contemporary art, said Dr Noordhuis-Fairfax.

“And then there’s this unique method. I don’t think anyone has 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 labor-intensive that she can only finish a handful of works a year.

The NGA curator believes Campbell is an amazing colorist whose techniques are deceptively simple.

“She’s at the top of her field…she’ll keep experimenting, and we don’t know what she’s going to paint next,” she told AAP.

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

A quarter of the NGA’s Australian collection is made up of female artists.

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

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