Printmaker Grace Turman Damien’s symbolic self-portraits

by Jessie O’Brien

Local printmaker Grace Turman Damien is quick-witted and funny, but her reliefs reveal her dark shadow without being too literal. Turman Damien said her work is typically a reflection of the inner worlds and thoughts she expresses through symbolism. Next month, Turman Damien will be creating Moku Hanga (Japanese woodblock printing) and other types of relief printing during her residency on Vancouver Island in Duncan, B.C., but you can currently see her work at Rendezvous Doughnuts and at Sideshow Emporium and Gallery in June. Follow her on Instagram at @gtd_arts.

Tell me about Moku Hanga.It’s the process by which the Hokusai Great wave series was produced among countless others. It’s harder to carve wood than it is to carve linoleum because it’s softer. The wood has its own life, so there is always going to be more inconsistency until you really master it, because the grain exists. You have to work with that, versus a piece of plastic that is uniform completely all the way through. It also makes your hands tire faster.

What are your usual subjects? Whether I’m carving (a) flower, or some animals, or whatever it is, anything I’m producing is an autobiographical story. So it always comes back to how I’m seeing things or how I’m reflecting on things, (as) opposed to literal subjects. I have three or four, what I call self-portraits, but they are paintings of mountains and things like that.

Will you share an example of one of your “self-portraits”? (A recent piece I made) was a reflection of my domesticity… I was reflecting on what it is like to be someone’s wife and mother and how I feel about that, and how that makes me think about the world, and how that makes me think about myself, and how people think about me… Without being super specific about what (that) image means to me – I’m not really comfortable saying that exactly – but I think you can look at those images, like the skewered rabbit’s feet and go, ‘I think I know what she’s talking about.’ It’s a way for me to create something autobiographical, or a reflection of something I see or feel, without it being anything about me.

Jessie O’Brien


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