Drawn to the City: Jake Holmes, the Print-Maker

Each month, illustrator Leo Greenfield sketches and profiles an Adelaide character who makes this city tick. This month: Jake Holmes.

Jake Holmes is an artist who uses screen printing as the heart of his practice. His work emerges from the tradition of political posters and, like printmaking, it’s a tradition he has immersed himself in. Today, media is littered with digital content but Holmes feels “screen-printed posters stand out, as you know an artist has put their hand to it”.

In 2011, Holmes and his partner Cassie Alvey opened the studio Tooth and Nail, currently located on Coromandel Place. This studio and teaching space is the home for Holmes’ creations, as well as those of other Adelaide artists. ‘Together we print’ is one of their house mottos, and this sense of collaboration and inclusion flows through Holmes’ work.

As his own education drew to a close at the Adelaide College of the Arts, Holmes was keen to maintain his identity as a practising artist. “I didn’t want to go back to making art in my bedroom,” he says, so with the support of their peers, Holmes and Alvey opened their own studio business.

“It’s art school without the assignments,” Holmes says. This doesn’t mean they don’t take their work seriously. Since developing this studio model, the pair has been invited to speak at the National Gallery of Australia and Holmes has built a practice that extends to regular exhibitions, mural commissions, podcasts and teaching at schools.

Most recently, Holmes returned from a residency in Rajasthan, South Australia’s sister state in India, where he worked alongside local artists to create collaborative art and teach as part of a state government initiative.

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Holmes is the printmaker behind the rainbow ‘C’mon Aussie C’mon’ posters that subverted the famous cricket anthem and became an iconic image in support of Australian marriage equality.

“I’m aware that I’m not LGBTQI but I’m working as an ally,” he says. Holmes originally set out to produce the posters anonymously but his inspiration to contribute to the movement is a personal one.

“My family, that’s my mum and my other mum, they are beautiful people who would have gotten married if they could. I didn’t want to take over the space, but I talked to Mum and lots of other people, and we decided that a personal story would help people connect [to the poster’s message].”

The very process of printmaking allows for multiple copies of an image to be produced, but these are not messages printed out by a machine, they are personal ones, printed one-by-one, colour-by-colour. “All of the posters still have the artist’s hand, but it’s democratic and lots of people can have copies,” he says.

Today, Holmes’ mums are engaged. The printmaker has his sights on new issues shaping contemporary Australia: Australia Day. Working with Indigenous artist Elizabeth Close, the new ‘C’mon Aussie C’mon’ poster expresses a desire for the date of Australia Day to be changed.

Leo Greenfield is a freelance illustrator
leogreenfield.com

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