Lynn Taylor's Watermarks
Ever since she was a child, Dunedin printmaker and visual artist Lynn Taylor has had a special affinity with the sea. She attributes this to spending most weekends at Toko Mouth beach in South Otago when she was young, and to her father’s involvement with building boats. “I’ve always identified with the sea rather than the land,” she says. “Out on a boat or swimming, I have a real sense of being at home.”
Not surprisingly, most of Lynn’s work has a marine focus. She’s tried working with other sorts of imagery but keeps returning to watery themes. “It’s not so much being influenced by water; I do it intuitively because the sea is part of me.”
Among the things that inspire her are historic photographs, navigation charts and old boat-building plans, which she interprets in ways that make her prints unique. Working with several processes at once and using French Charbonnel inks in antiqued colours, she mixes the hand-drawn with found objects manipulated to provide the moody, evocative images that have become her signature.
Prints are put through the press many times to achieve the desired effect and Lynn generally makes just a few of each image available for sale – hence collectors are always keen to snap them up.
“I might work with a photopolymer plate that I can use to capture an image off photographic slides,” she explains.
“But, as photopolymer plates can look a bit flat, I’ll often layer them with textured metal plates to give more depth.”
As an example, she cites her most recent project, a visual narrative of the French barque Marguerite Mirabaud, which was wrecked in 1907 on the beach at Akatore, South Otago. To give it a corroded quality, Lynn weathered a copper plate of a ship’s compass in the sea outside her studio for six months. She also made textured plates from pieces of wood, old lino and sea-weathered corrugated iron she collected from the shipwreck site.
Memories – her own and other people’s – are an important aspect of Lynn’s work. By recalling the past in pictorial narrative form, she hopes that people will see the significance of events that might other-wise be forgotten.
As artist’s studios go, Lynn’s is one of the more architecturally interesting. Turn the corner into Edwards Bay on the Otago Peninsula and there it is, a whimsical wooden structure with a domed tower, near the water’s edge. Designed and built by Lynn’s husband Chris Fersterer specifically as a workspace for his wife, it has four rooms and extensive harbour views. The couple and their teenage daughter Petra live next door so the family cats are regular visitors. Fittingly, the puss with only one eye is known as Nelson.
A tour of the studio attests to Lynn’s acquisitive nature. As well as the usual printmaking tools of the trade – printing press, lightbox, etching materials, well-squeezed tubes of ink – the place is awash with inspiration. Fragments of fabric and scraps of wallpaper spill out of drawers. A collection of battered leather suitcases suggests long-ago sea voyages and stories ripe for the telling. There is even a champagne cork saved from the launch of the Kakawai, a boat built by her father and his friend Les McLeod in the 1950s.
Inside what Lynn calls her “obsessive things” cupboard, jars of buttons, pearls and beads are lined up alongside collected objects such as shells and shards of metal and china. Many of these will eventually find their way on to Lynn’s prints, giving them a three-dimensional effect.
“Something can lie around for years,” she says, “then it’s like the light shines on it and it’s ready to be used. I want people to read with their eyes but also to get a sense of touch from my work.”
During her career, Lynn has had numerous exhibitions here and overseas and her work is held in many national and international private collections. She has lectured in printmaking, art theory, textiles and design and has been an artist-in-residence at a South Korean university. Last year she faced a new challenge as co-director with Peter Booth of the Salisbury House Gallery.
For web exclusive images see the Photo Gallery attached to this story.
Story: Cecilie Geary
Photographs: Steven Wooster