Lancaster Press Fiji

Lancaster Press Fiji

A blueprint for creativity, concentration and cultural exchange

By Samantha Magick

In the hills above Malaqereqere on the Coral Coast, a pocket-sized gallery is showing art unique to Fiji. 

Much of the work on display is produced at Lancaster Press Fiji, a studio dedicated to making lithographic prints, and run by Peter Lancaster and Dinah Caroline.

Lithography is a printmaking process in which a design is drawn on a flat piece of limestone or a metal plate (usually zinc or aluminum) and affixed to paper using chemicals and inks. Lancaster Studio uses both mediums, with huge slabs of Venetian stone and metal plates dotting the workspace. It’s a complex and technically-demanding process with many different stages, and Peter Lancaster is a master of the art.

Lancaster Press Fiji also offers a place for artists to stay and work. Painters, photographers and mixed media artists from all over the world have already participated in the residency program in the studio, which is a place of peace, creativity and cultural exchange.

Peter Lancaster says the studio, and returning to Fiji, has been a long-term dream.

“My father was a doctor in Suva, he started the Lancaster Ward  training gynecologists and so I went to Samabula Primary School, so it was a big shock going back to Australia and adapting.

“Australia has been an amazing experience, but Fiji has always been under my skin…it has always been a very deep feeling for me.  So, to come back and do another thing that I am very passionate about, this printmaking process, which nobody knows anything about in Fiji, or lithography, is a very dumb idea probably,” he laughs.

Lancaster says since setting up in Malaqereqere, “I have had some amazing artists that I have collaborated with, that’s just such a beautiful thing, to work with an artist, and help translate their work into this process called lithography.”

A recent exhibition at the gallery included work from three West Australian-based artists and a number of locals.

Many of them were working with lithographic prints for the first time, like Josua Toganivalu, who is a well-known painter and part of the original Red Wave Collective at the University of the South Pacific’s Oceania Centre.

The works he exhibited were printed in response to Covid-19.

“For artists, that’s part of our history now. Artists use their medium to…tell stories as well…for artists we use this platform to create awareness of what happened during our lifetime,” Toganivalu said.

One piece, ‘Staying Alive’, features a mask-wearing warrior.

“It was part of the uniform, you’d take your phone, your wallet and your mask. And during that time, you know, Fiji is known for their bula smile and but you’re hiding. And I did that piece like a warrior with a mask to say how we’re resilient during that time. We can remain strong and to just stay alive.”

Toganivalu’s second artwork features a syringe, with the years of the pandemic marked. “You’ll notice that one of the vaccines was the Moderna vaccine so I’ve put in my own local spin, ‘Mo Dina’, to be true, to be real.”

Visitors to the Lancaster Press Fiji compound can stay in a home that is equipped with TV, Wi-Fi and airconditioning, that includes three Queen-size rooms, a lounge and dining room, and access to an in-ground pool and lovely productive gardens. Those gardens have inspired Lancaster’s own work; some of his prints feature abstracted, dream-like images of foliage where he has played with light and colour.

Lancaster Press Fiji also occasionally offers workshops and courses. Follow them on Facebook to find out when they, and upcoming exhibitions are scheduled. The accommodation and gallery is a 10-minute drive from Sigatoka.

This article first appeared in Fiji Traveller, July-September 2023.

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