Above: Late Night Chinese (2017) by Allie Webb
At first glance, Allie Webb’s linocuts look like scenes from an old black and white movie. But look again and you’ll start to notice familiar objects—a bottle of VB, a Peter’s Ice Cream sign, a box of Redheads matches. This is the everyday stuff that interests the linocut printmaker and restaurateur. “I’m fascinated by interactions between people,” Webb explains. “Our vanity when we get dressed up to go out; flirtatious body language from a couple obviously in the beginnings of a relationship; groups of businessmen attempting to impress each other with caviar and Champagne; the face of boredom as a man educates a woman on the difference between the left bank and right bank of Bordeaux; women gathering for lunch with vapid, nasty gossip.”
Webb’s work captures these moments, when guards are down and heart rates are up, as well as the meals we’d cook every night if we had any culinary skills whatsoever. She’s currently working on a collection of Italian-themed prints for Gran Tivoli, a new restaurant and bar from Swillhouse co-founder Jason Scott and former Icebergs chef Robert Marchetti. The 30-odd linocut prints will decorate the wood panelling above the booths inside the 406 Broome St, New York location, set to open in November 2018. Here she is, in her own words.
“My name is Allie Webb. What I do isn’t the most straightforward to describe. I’m a linocut printmaker and also the creative director of Swillhouse with my husband Anton Forte [co-founder of Sydney establishments Shady Pines Saloon, The Baxter Inn, Frankie’s Pizza, Restaurant Hubert]. My linocuts are all based around hospitality, eating and drinking, which goes hand in hand with the bars and restaurants.
“I fell in love with [American artist] Jim Dine when I was growing up—his dark, messy prints featuring everyday objects and portraits. I’ve always painted and drawn; it’s very natural for me. Linocuts were a good progression from drawing, as I like to create scenes from memory. I really enjoy painting from life but found it limiting because there were so many more elements you had to think about. Then again, linocuts leave very little room for error—once an area is cut, that’s it. I do enjoy the restrictions it gives and would love to see how far I can push the medium.
“I don’t usually draw directly from reality for the prints. Many of the pieces are formed in my head and it’s just something I need to put to paper. I also draw inspiration from pictures I’ve seen in old black and white movies or photographs. Reinventing second-hand images interests me. I’ve been looking at Marlene Dumas’ monochrome paintings, reinterpreting black and white photographs from the newspaper.
“I record the world around me as I see it. When a recognisable logo or object enters the picture it’s there either because it’s part of my daily life or it might just spontaneously interest me. I do enjoy creating still-life scenes. I’ve recently been interested in memento mori and the symbolism of objects. Like candles and wilting flowers, which represent transience. I like to use food in this way: will it be enjoyed, or rot and thrown away? The symbolism of certain brands and products is interesting, like what Campari means to a bartender. I remember in my early twenties in Melbourne, before there were a zillion craft beers, people would often judge each other over a VB or a Carlton Draught, which is ridiculous and hilarious.
“I guess you could say I’m interested in pretence. Fleeting moments excite me—how every moment is original to that night, lost forever. I want to freeze a moment from my memory.”
Above: Rose & Fish Dinner (2018) by Allie Webb
Above: Order No.48 Brunetti (2018) by Allie Webb
Above: Caviar (2018) by Allie Webb
Above: Piedemonte (2018) by Allie Webb
Above: Untitled (2018) by Allie Webb
Above: Works in progress at Webb’s studio