This issue, we chat to renowned printmaker Aileen Brown, whose bold, colourful works you may have seen come up at our auctions. She shows us around her studio, garden, and home; all bursting with personality (and art!), with her kittens Ronnie and Minnie in tow…
Tell us a bit about yourself and your practice.
I come from a farming family and grew up in rural Victoria and in Western Australia. I initially trained as an occupational therapist, mainly working within the mental health sector. In 1982, I met the artist and printmaker Murray Griffin, and found his linocuts so masterful and beautiful; his work was a revelation to me. Murray encouraged me to seriously start printmaking and I owe him a great debt of gratitude for pushing me in that direction.
In 1983 I attended three adult education classes in Melbourne where I did a linocut and etching, and my passion for linocut printing took off. I earnestly developed my design and printing skills. I quickly progressed from a rather primitive printing method (using the back of a wooden spoon and a rubber mangle) and in 1987, I bought a wonderful etching press. I took the plunge and quit my job as an occupational therapist in order devote myself to linocut printing full time. Since then, I have had regular exhibitions every two years. Murray has always remained an inspiration to me in my work.
What do you look for in a print?
I always look for something striking and unforgettable. I am inspired by the technical skills of so many printmakers. My collection has grown over the years to include a range of prints, with many that are quite eclectic as my interests change and my knowledge of the art of printmaking develops. I have several prints by Murray Griffin now and am always on the lookout for others.
What do you enjoy about browsing the art at Leonard Joel?
I have been going to Leonard Joel since the 1980s and used to love going to the Malvern town hall for the big sales; that is really where my collection started to grow. I have bought some beautiful Japanese woodblock prints as well as works by women printmakers over the years. Leonard Joel is a treasure trove of amazing surprises for me, where many wonderful and unexpected prints show up at the auctions.
How do you curate your space?
Many editions of linocuts I have done over the years are completely lost, as in my house and studio, every wall or surface seems to be filled up. However, I can always locate all my tools, paper, and inks for the next linocut.
You have a beautiful garden; do you feel inspired by your surroundings?
I spend a lot of time cultivating and working in the garden and find many subjects and inspiration for my prints there, including flowers, leaves, and birds, black hoyas, black lilies, poppies, and camellias.
What advice would you give to those looking to start an art collection?
My advice to budding collectors is to look at as much art as possible. I have found both the Salon and Fine auctions at Leonard Joel the perfect place to start and the perfect way to learn. It is important to build your knowledge about the artists and their techniques and styles. It is also very important to be aware of the condition of artworks that you might want to buy; conservation can be costly but often necessary.
I also like to see the work of other contemporary printmakers and go to exhibitions as much as possible. Always be on the lookout for art that is special to you. One chance find for me years ago was a Shiko Munakata woodcut at an Op Shop! I am surrounded at home by many beautiful and interesting prints and paintings which all give me such great pleasure every day.
Thank you to Aileen for welcoming us into her home and chatting with us. Follow her work at aileenbrown.com and
on instagram at @aileenbrownlino
Banner Image: Aileen Brown in her studio