Adam Rish started printmaking in 1979 while attending East Sydney Technical College. During that year he made some 30 different etchings, screenprints and lithographs. In 1981 he produced a further series of etchings while living in Melbourne plus a series of linocuts made while on an artist residency in Vence, France. These formed a book, with Garry Shead, called “Vence Upon a Time”. In 1984 he made linocuts in the narrative series “The Age of Reason” and 1986 saw a similar narrative series “Historia Mundi Illustrata”. Between 1984 and 1986 Rish also made a set of line etchings and linocuts which he hand-coloured with gouache paints.
The prints were exhibited at Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne (1979,1983), Harrington St Gallery, Hobart (1979), Salamanca Place Gallery, Hobart (1983), Mori Gallery, Sydney (1984,1986), and Solander Gallery, Canberra (1987). Work was sold to numerous private and public collections including the National Gallery, Canberra and the Art Gallery of NSW.
Rish stopped printmaking in 1987 but in June 2010 on a trip to a studio workshop in Skopeles, Greece with master printmaker Basil Hall, his interest was reignited. Here he produced four etchings and two linocuts on Greek mythological themes. On his return to Sydney he commenced a series of drypoints inspired by this trip.
Rish has diverse influences in his printmaking, but Goya, Hockney and German Expressionists, such as Max Beckmann, feature strongly. His work stems from his early cartoons for literary journals and student newspapers, and is full of visual puns and literary references: “Entertaining My Sloane”, from the title of Joe Orton’s play, has a circus in the home; “Batman in Bologna” shows Batman in a Renaissance interior, complete with LA style swimming pool. “An Evening at the Mamounia Palace” is from a trip to Morocco and shows a recurrent theme of music and dance. “Balmain Poetry Reading” was commissioned for the literary journal “Aspect”. “Greek” and “Across the Universe” mix Helenic mythology with Russian Lubok woodcuts and Rish’s own domestic images.
Rish style is very precise and graphic. He uses a thin, nervous line, drawn directly onto the hard ground plate with a fine stylus, usually from only a rudimentary starting sketch. He then uses a gradation of three or four aquatints from polished, white plate-tone to jet black. He employs unrealistic, high contrast, distorted perspective and intense shadowing to define his imagery.
In 2011 he held a retrospective of his prints “True Fictions from Australia - Sanna historier från Australien” at the Grafikens Hus Print Museum in Mariefred, Sweden.