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Colourful lino block print showing a house with harbour view

Peter Kingston — The frangipani house

Mathilde de Hauteclocque

Artist Peter Kingston is well known as an iconographer of Sydney and its glittering harbour. But he was equally interested in capturing the humble quieter places in and around the city.

Carinya, known to locals as ‘little beautiful’ or ‘the frangipani house’, is one of the original beach shacks at Palm Beach, north of Sydney. It faces Great Mackerel Beach in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, where Kingston spent the winter of 2014 living among the local community, observing their gentle coexistence with the natural environment and wildlife. He described the house as ‘the most precious gem in the whole of Pittwater … a perfect surviving example of a weekender shack, lovingly crafted from what was at hand’.

Wherever he went, Kingston was attracted to things that were well made and that showed the evidence of age. He created works that further preserved their beauty and charm. This image of Carinya comes from Kingston’s limited-edition artist’s book Mackerel Beach: A winter’s tale, a collection of stories, drawings and original prints that portray, with his distinctive humour and sensitivity, the characters of the community and their daily rhythms.

The Library holds a rich collection of Peter Kingston’s limited-edition artists’ books, strikingly illustrated with his hand-burnished prints. Kingston had a room at the front of his Lavender Bay home, flooded with natural light, that he used exclusively for his lino-cutting and printing. His sister Fairlie noted: ‘His favourite thing of all was doing his linocuts. They were as easy as breathing for Peter.’

The energy of Kingston’s prints may be due, in part, to a technique he called his ‘black square methodology’. Before applying the cut and coloured lino block, he printed a plain black square onto the paper so that the cuts he’d etched in the lino block appeared as black lines on the page. They look just like the lines he would have drawn by hand, rather than the white lines of a relief print on plain paper. The resulting images are like small-scale paintings, vivid with colour and full of imagery that builds an atmosphere of sensory pleasure — we can almost smell the frangipanis, feel the long grass underfoot and hear the old shack creaking in the midday summer sun.

Colourful lino block print showing a house with harbour view
Mackerel Beach, a winter's tale, 15. Carinya

Mathilde de Hauteclocque is a Specialist Librarian in Collection Acquisition and Curation.

This story appears in Openbook winter 2024.  

 


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