Cutting Through Time—Cressida Campbell, Margaret Preston, and the Japanese Print

I recently went to a wonderful exhibition at the Geelong Art Gallery, 100kms or so south of Melbourne, Australia.

The purpose of this exhibition was to examine the influence of Japanese woodblock prints (ukiyo-e) on two famous Australian printmakers who worked in this field almost 80 years apart - the famed contemporary Australian painter and printmaker, Cressida Campbell (born in1960), and the groundbreaking modernist painter and printmaker, Margaret Preston (1875–1963).

I was very keen to get to this exhibition as we have written about Cressida Campbell, Margaret Preston and various Japanese ukiyo-e printmakers in the past (links to these posts are in the footnotes below). I just love all their work even though their styles are so different.

The exhibition is called Cutting Through Time which I think is a great title as it reminds us this is all about woodblock printing dating back from the Edo Period in Japan (1603 – 1868) through to the current day. The link below describes the works sourced and the objectives in choosing these particular artists:

Cutting Through Time—Cressida Campbell, Margaret Preston, and the Japanese Print | Geelong Gallery
Discover the captivating Geelong Gallery exhibition exploring how renowned Australian artists Cressida Campbell (born 1960) and Margaret Preston (1875–1963) were inspired by Japanese woodblock prints (Ukiyo-e).

The exhibition showcases three completely different ways of making a woodcut.

Ukiyo-e means pictures (e) of the floating world (ukiyo). In the Edo period (1603 - 1868) “the floating world” referred to the trend at the time of living for the moment, and particularly in the urban entertainment districts of courtesans and kabuki theatre. It suggested affluence, fashion, and glamour. 1

Both Preston and Campbell studied print making in Japan, studying the processes of the old masters before further developing their own individual styles. It’s worth revisiting our previous posts (below) to get a good understanding of their techniques, but the face cards from the exhibition give a little bit of insight into their fascination with Japanese printmaking:

The exhibition was divided into three rooms – firstly Cressida Campbell, the second for Japanese prints and the third devoted to Margaret Preston.

The thing that fascinates me the most about all three artistic styles is the incredible detail in them all. It’s hard to remember that these are woodblock prints, not drawings, paintings or watercolours. The artistry to draw/design the picture, then the skill and patience required to cut the detail into the woodblock, apply the ink/paint, and then transfer it to make the print is awe-inspiring.....

The following 4.20 minute slideshow shows some of my photos taken at the exhibition. Some of my photos aren’t great as I couldn’t get close enough, but I’ve included some close-ups so you can hopefully appreciate the exquisite detail resulting from each of their meticulous techniques, particularly Cressida Campbell. I’ve put the description card before each work to give you the title, but you may wish to pause the video to read the ones where there is a bit of extra information provided.

I hope you like it .......

This exhibition is on until the 28th of July 2024 in Geelong, Victoria. If you get the chance, it would be well worth a visit!


  1. With thanks to the Geelong Gallery.

Links to previous posts:

Cressida Campbell: Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.
Margaret Preston: Click here.

Japanese printmakers: