Caras de madera (faces in wood)

Castell, Laura
Production date
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Object Detail

Caras de madera (faces in wood)
Production date
solar plate etching and woodcut
19 x 14.1 x 2.5 cm (closed)
Object type
Interpretive text
Laura Castell was born in Venezuela and has been an exhibiting artist in Townsville since 2008. She is regularly shortlisted and awarded in regional art prizes including the Inkmasters Print Award, Geelong Print Prize, and the Rick Amor Print Prize. Heavily active in Townsville, she has recently had her work acquired by Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, as well as prints held in the National Gallery of Australia and the National Library of Australia, Canberra. This proposed acquisition would be the first work by Castell to enter the MRC Art Collection, capturing a popular highlight from the 2020 Libris Awards exhibition.

The faces that appear in Castell’s prints are people she has observed in her life, including experiences both in Venezuela and Australia, while travelling on buses or watching world events on the news. The work showa a desire to break down barriers and empathise with people who are essentially strangers to the artist. Each close-up portrait is accompanied by a short description underneath the image. Castell includes heartfelt descriptors based on an impression she has observed from a distance; for example, one comes with the text, ‘A woman of great strength’, another has ‘A refugee girl full of hope,’ and ‘A young man facing trouble.’
I think my Venezuelan background has made me very aware of people from different walks of life and I carry that sensitivity in my life here. Just to give you an example, the image of ‘a strong woman’ may have been inspired by a particular story I saw recently but it also carries the memory of the strong woman who I shared the bus with back in Venezuela who told me a bit about her many children and her challenges in life. I used to ride the bus very often in Venezuela (extremely little here in Australia, only if I go to bigger cities). I lived in a big city and riding the bus was the way to get around, very common. It was also very common to talk to the people on the bus, something much less likely to happen here. These conversations were often much more than a hello, they were sometimes quite intense, so their general effect on me was important, especially as I was still a young person learning about the world. That’s why I wanted the title in Spanish so it reflects all of that. –correspondence with Laura Castell 4 August 2020

The portraits were first rendered in woodblock prints as mid-length figures with longer texts built-in to the image, now adapted as solar plate prints with closer-cropped faces and shorter texts underneath the image. One of the original woodblocks (inked from previous use) has been repurposed as the work’s front cover. The closer-cropped views of strangers’ faces and the artist’s short but compassionate phrases work together to prompt viewers’ empathy with the subjects.
Credit line
Mackay Regional Council Art Collection, purchased through the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal Fund 2020.
Accession number