Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Home as a Sanctuary - XL copper sulphate etching


"Home as a Sanctuary", Toni Hartill

Aluminium etched with copper sulphate
Plate size: 300mm x 585mm

This work was created soon after our initial full lockdown, due to the covid pandemic. My heart and mind was very much inspired by trying to capture a sense of the many emotions that had emerged as a result of our perilous place in the world at present.



Preparatory drawing, Toni Hartill


Prior to covid I had already decided to create an ongoing series of works based on the concept of artifacts within a protective dome. Seems, eerily, like a premonition in retrospect.



Earlier A5 sized snail plate and print, Toni Hartill


Having already created an A5 etched image of kauri snails in a dome, I was curious for the challenge of developing this concept further but at a much larger scale and therefore with a lot more detail. Would I be able to manage the etching process at this scale? And would I then be able to print successfully from such a large plate? The answer to both was yes, but yes, it was also certainly challenging!



The etched aluminium plate, Toni Hartill

 Scroll down to view more process pics.


As mentioned in an earlier post, snails seem to have become a totem creature for me and I was inspired to attempt to use the kauri snail as a means to gather and convey my thoughts. With much of the world being encouraged, if not ordered, to stay at home, while many were also trying to get home from overseas, it felt as if, globally, we were all retreating in some way. Returning to our family, to our homes, to our physical and spiritual place of belonging, to a place we felt most safe. For a brief while, in New Zealand at least, we were isolating ourselves within our "bubbles", our protective domes. Very quickly we seemed to accept that our “worlds” would need to shrink back to include our own “back yard”, with overseas travel being off the cards indefinitely for the foreseeable future.



"Home as a Sanctuary" (detail), Toni Hartill

 Scroll down for more detail pics.


For many, although not all, of course, this imposed containment has perhaps come as a welcome relief from the frenzied pace that modern life seems to have become. I, for one, am quietly grateful for a slower pace and time to reflect on what really matters. At the heart of this, for me, is the sense that “home” and family are at the core of our being. In this image we see the endangered kauri snails amongst the leaf litter of the kauri tree, which is found only in the north of the North Island of New Zealand. (The kauri tree is fighting its own battle against a deadly pathogen too, at present.) This is their home. This is my home. This is where I am from, where my ancestors settled, where generations have lived. It’s what I know, it’s what I’m familiar with. It’s my place of belonging, my place to stand, my tūrangawaewae.


"Home as a Sanctuary" (detail), Toni Hartill


In trying to decide on a fitting title for this work I tossed around many phrases until I settled on my final choice. With the concepts of tūrangawaewae front of mind, I came upon this quote which seems very apt:


“Most people have forgotten nowadays what a house can mean, 

though some of us have come to realize it as never before. 

It is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, 

a stronghold amid life’s storms and stresses, 

a refuge, 

even a sanctuary.”  


Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Letters and Papers from Prison”



Written while in prison c.1945 under very different circumstances yet it conveys the importance of “home”, especially in a time of turmoil, and still rings true today.  Sadly, a home in the physical sense, is not always a sanctuary, as has been highlighted during lockdown events. However, whether it be a place, a person or group of people, a belonging, or even a sense of being, "home" can perhaps be held as a sanctuary in our hearts and in some ways we can be "at home" wherever we may be by holding close what really matters.



"Home as a Sanctuary" Detail Pics

"Home as a Sanctuary" (detail), Toni Hartill

"Home as a Sanctuary" (detail), Toni Hartill

"Home as a Sanctuary" (detail), Toni Hartill

"Home as a Sanctuary" (detail), Toni Hartill

"Home as a Sanctuary" (detail), Toni Hartill

"Home as a Sanctuary" (detail), Toni Hartill

"Home as a Sanctuary" (detail), Toni Hartill



 Process Pics



The completed Plate

The etched plate is a thing of beauty in its own right. I am in love with the incredible variation and intricacies of marks that this etching process can achieve using a myriad of tools and materials to manipulate the way that the copper sulphate solution reacts to the metal's surface.
I've been told, by other artists who work with this medium, that's it's not an easy technique to control. And yes, its certainly true that a moment's inattention could lead to a ruined plate. However, the uncontrolled aspects of this and many printmaking processes is what appeals to me. I very much like  that unexpected things WILL happen and it is so often these quirky "mistakes" that I see as "happy accidents" and, when celebrated and embraced, can be the making of a work. 

"Home as a Sanctuary" Etched aluminium plate, Toni Hartill

Merit Award for Printmaking

And finally,

I'm delighted that my framed piece won the 

Merit Award for Printmaking

in the Hibiscus and Bays Art Awards 2020

at  Estuary Arts Centre, Orewa.


 Thanks so much for visiting!



Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Letters and Papers from Prison”