Rub around the world

“THIS is my beast,” print artist Susanna Castleden smiles, pointing to a “small” section of her 30-metre work stretched along a Fremantle Arts Centre wall.

The 5-kilo roll of black paper was the only item she’d packed with certainty as she prepared to circumnavigate the globe on a mission to record her journey through frottage, the art of dry rubbing.

“I had the harrowing idea of a trip around the world without knowing where I was going,” Castleden tells the Herald.

Her “co-collaborator” took care of bookings for the non-stop journey.

“[A] complete circumnavigation…to opposing antipodean points,” the Fremantle artist says.

At a simplistic level frottage is a bit like brass rubbing, reproducing an existing object—but with a more random result.

In Castleden’s case objects include a footpath in New York, a car bonnet in Florida, an airport gate in Hong Kong, and a bike rack on Rottnest.

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Using black paper the result has a photo-negative effect.

“I call this reverse frottage. I start with black paper and rub to reveal the white,” Castleden says.

She wanted a journey that was deeply personal, not a series of postcards.

“I was interested in a sense of place that’s not a photo.

“I couldn’t have done the Dodge bonnet in the Everglades if I wasn’t there. [In] New York there’s a bit of spit and rain.”

Rottnest Island was the starting point, its antipodean opposite Bermuda Island.

That she’d be heading to the northern hemisphere in December was a no brainer, so winter woolies went into the suitcase, but Castleden hadn’t factored in the extremes.

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“I hadn’t taken into account for the fact I might be in knee-deep snow… [In Istanbul] it rained for 24 hours…I had to do the Turkish rug in the hotel.”

Over a whirlwind three weeks she touched down in a swag of places including Singapore, Vietnam, Istanbul, Hamburg and Copenhagen before heading to North America, travelling from Ottawa to New Orleans.

Her journey’s journal ended where it began, at Rottnest: “I was coming home. It felt triumphant.”

The Round the World print trip paid off: the Curtin University lecturer took out second prize in this year’s prestigious Fremantle Print Award.

The award attracts national and international artists and has a reputation for challenging what prints are, says Castleden.

“It is the most experimental, because you can do things like print on grass [Holly O’Meehan’s Arrangements of a Verge].”

The Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award 2014 exhibition is on at the arts centre until November 16. Entry free.


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