Garage Sale Signs and other Ephemera

An excerpt from Rachel Johnson's interview with Julian Hocking published in Melbourne-based journal Anser.

You choose an interesting mix of production techniques, including traditional methods of woodblock, why is this?  

There’s a concern about pre-production methods and commercial methods of printing vs. traditional or fine art methods of printing– [I like to think about] how I can bastardise all of these things together into one. The woodblock-thing, that just came out of being really impatient I guess. I wish I was a painter but I’m too impatient. I studied screen printing and textile production for a couple of years and I just wanted to make t-shirts and stuff. 

Hence the bold aesthetic? 

These practices like woodblock and screen printing facilitate that aesthetic, yeah. They allow you to reproduce a painted or drawn image. The woodblock-thing also happened because I continuously didn’t have access to equipment, so you have to figure out ways of doing things on your own… 

Within your own means? 

...Bedroom. Yeah. The woodblock, sometimes even lino, is too expensive so you find substitute materials like MDF and plywood that then give their own presence, which I find more interesting anyway. It’s like making a print with an open screen and letting that become the work, rather than having an image and reproducing it. 

You’re embracing a quality that’s already there, that doesn’t need manipulating - like the packaging of your Hot Potatoes purchases - is this when you’re influenced to instead make a book? 

Yeah and the same for my book of garage sale signs. Albion Street seems to be a hotspot for Saturday morning garage sales and I find that culture really interesting... For me it’s just specifically about the sign. They’re made by people that might not ever have to consider the means of communication through their handwriting, or how they’re going to visually present something in order to attract an audience so they can sell their old shoes or whatever. It’s this one Saturday morning opportunity where there has to be a slight conscious consideration as to what they’re going to put on this A3/A4 piece of paper. 

Whether they opt for bubble writing or... 

Yeah! And I think it’s really interesting.

Have you always collected things? 

Yeah, but they’re really specific objects of interest, although I don’t know why I started collecting them. [Creating] books has been really great, partly because I worry about losing the collections. When you have so much ephemera it can just be a bit overbearing sometimes, so I think, if I can condense it all into a book then I know that’s where all those garage sale signs are. I think they’re all in there [points to studio], somewhere. That’s done–I don’t have to worry about them anymore, even though I’m a bit sad that I’ve finished that book because I keep seeing more and more great signs–maybe I need to do another one. 

So once they are in a book is the intent to draw a close on collecting that particular thing? 

It’s just kind of cleansing in a way, in its physicality–all this shit can now be out of my life and reduced to just that book. 

What was your experience of art school? 

It was great, I loved it, but it can be really explosive for some people. You rapidly become aware of human conditions and social conditions–aspects that can affect the work that you’re going to make or that can stop you from making work altogether. I already went into it with a quasi-established idea of what I wanted to do and that went straight out of the window right away. It can be really overwhelming. 

What was your idea? 

I had a process and a way that I wanted to learn about printmaking that I didn’t understand, I quickly realised that I can’t produce work in that manner without access to all of this stuff, so I tried working in other ways. It failed miserably. I then just kept on working the way that I’ve always worked I guess, just bedroom practices. 

How do other mediums such as photography and drawing inform your work? 

I like the immediacy of it–you have one shot and it’s done. I think drawing’s important. 

As a draft to your paintings? 

Yes, they’ve all come from an initial sketch or planning in some way. It can get really mathematical in a way, like actual plans of how it’s going to work and involving the frame. It’s like working from a blueprint or instruction manual that I’ve made myself. 


View Julian's work here.