Essay by Maria Flores as part of Contextualising Practice course.


Ancient and earthly material in the form of limestone shapes my everyday as a printmaker working primarily in lithography. The crux of my practise is working through my thoughts and experiences as an immigrant growing up in Australia. My motherland is wrapped in nostalgia and longing which shapes my identity and connection to place. My practice also delves into the cyclical nature of life and death in the natural world and contemplates how this shapes my experience on this planet. However, in recent months these themes are discussed in a more abstract sense as my practise has become

more materially driven as the limestone matrix[1] becomes a more involved actor in the process. This text is written through the lens of New Materialism; a theory that re-evaluates the relationship between artist and their materials through production, contending that materials have agency in the process (Bolt 2007, p.2). In this text I will walk you through the making of my work In Motion (stone 61) and my reflections in the studio as the landscape where this event takes place.


To begin I grain the limestone. This is done to remove the work that currently rests upon the surface. The carborundum becoms milky grey in colour with each pass I make with the levigator, carrying with it the ink of the image that once rested here and calcium of which the stone is composed of, then washed away in a shower of water. I do three passes with four different grits until the surface is clear, smooth, and level. A fresh landscape is formed.

(Sometimes a ghost lingers)

Graining can be long and laborious on the body even dreaded by many, me included. It’s mindless work as I rotate the heavy levigator over the stone over and over again, nothing to see but the swirls of milky grey carborundum. My arms and shoulders ache the next morning from the effort. However, Waters (2012, p.71) claims ‘a transference of energy’ may occur here. Due to the repetitive and extended nature of the task, body and material become bound, and an intimate relationship between me and matrix is formed (Waters 2012). I begin to notice intricacies of the limestone. Logging the texture of the surface, naturally occurring marks, or patterns that were created when it was quarried and cut down, and my body becomes accustomed to how much strength I need to exert to move it from one surface to the next. More details become uncovered as I delve further into the process.

Matrix and making

The recent direction of my practise was inspired by my exploration into the work of Milton Becerra. He is recognised most notably for his immersive, site-specific installations made up of heavy boulders, crystals or pre-Columbian materials that are wrapped and suspended by nylon threads. The installation creates an illusion of weightlessness yet remains grounded by the earthly presence at its nucleus. By combining history, scientific theory and mathematical structures, Becerra’s installations become blueprints to visualise the multi-dimensional and flow of energy in the world we live in, stretching across time (Biennale of Sydney 2022). I noticed that one thing Becerra and I had in common was that at the centre of our respective practises these great vectors of energy hovered in the form of stone. Stone is linked to deep time and is often used as a symbol of displaced landscapes unknown to us. On reflection it struck me how larger than life the limestone resting on the studio bench truly is. All the landscapes it has been silent witness to. From its earliest beginnings which could stretch back approximately ‘150 million years ago [to] the Tithonian Stage of the Late Jurassic, [when] the Tethys Ocean flooded much of Europe and cut it into a massive archipelago’ (Pteros n.d).        Witness to

  rocks shifting,

                                                                                          lands drifting,

                                                                                                                                                        continents clashing,

                                                                                                                                                                                                     a dinosaur                                                                                                           extinction here,

                                                                                                                                          and then there,

continents drifting again,

                                                mountains forming,

                        evolution of primates,   
                                                                                      and emergence of homo sapiens,

Resting dormant in a Bavarian quarry until its extraction. It was then subject to another series of events that landed it in the RMIT University Print Studio.

Trying to wrap my head around this mass of time that takes the form of this matrix, caused me to re-evaluate my relationship to my materials and what we were bringing to the process. As Ingold (2013, p.19) argues, ‘to think of a feather as material is to recognise that it has grown along with a body of a bird of which it was an integral part, mingling with the air in flight’. How could I continue in my practise without somehow acknowledging this vast past? And how do I even express all this in a manner that relates to the themes and concepts of my practise, that up until now have dealt with my personal cultural identity and connection to place?

My first attempt at articulating these ideas was through an abstract landscape. First, I mapped the natural pattern moving through the stone in a light watery tusche as a way to acknowledge the limestone as the foundation this landscape will be built upon. The image I came up with included a culmination of place markers from my country of birth and the Merri Creek which I live by and walk my dog along multiple times a week. Testing the idea that the landscape I belonged to could be a hybrid – one that stretched from San Salvador, El Salvador to Melbourne, Australia. Yet, it felt too crowded, and the limestone reduced to a footnote as I became more concerned about the landscape I was creating. I began to lose sight of what had inspired this line of thinking in the first place. So, I grained the stone and started again.

In the second attempt I once again mapped those lines with water tusche, made them more pronounced so that it would be clear they were the focal point of the image. Introduced bitchumen for robustness and a contrast that highlights the organic flow and reticulation of the tusche. Then added the face of a volcano to insert my place in all this. Again, this didn’t feel right. I was forced to realise that to understand the limestone and its vastness, that of which I was trying to process through visual imagery, meant that I had to remove myself from the image. As Ingold (2013, p.22) explains, ‘even if the maker has a form in mind, it is not this form that creates the work. It is the engagement with materials’. I didn’t need to mould the limestone to fit into the narrative I was constructing. I had to work symbiotically with the matrix.

In the third attempt I mapped those lines upon its surface. Understood them to be a characterisation unique to this earthly matter, like a human thumb print or the rings of a tree. Lines like scars memorialising a long-ago Earth, not unlike the way the ancient Egyptian Ramesseum survives an ancient king and civilisation (Halliday 2022, p.3) and I was transcribing them. It became an organic and mediative process. A sort of communication between two different forms of matter across two different points in time was taking place.

I process the matrix. I etch the stone once. Then twice.


Then print.

Ready to print, I roll up my ink, set the pressure on the printing press according to the stone and line up water bowls and sponges like ducks in a row. I wash out and roll up the stone evenly in ink, eagerly building up the image until it’s enough to print. Once the paper is placed atop it is rolled through the press and under pressure. The formation of a print is a private and intimate exchange between the matrix and the paper, communing through ink in the quiet dark of this unobservable place (Roberts 2021). A sense of déjà vu falls over the limestone as the circumstance of its printing mimics its time before it was quarried. Forming still, dark and under pressure. The first pull of the print is like the first-time sunlight hit the stone but this time I was the quarry man.


Installing place

As a printmaker my primary interaction is with the matrix; through graining, mark making and printing there is an intimate contact with material. Once signed and installed in a frame that is hung on the wall the artwork becomes still in time. The dynamicity between artist and material, artist and process becomes a silent past life withheld from the viewer. Understandably the finished work takes precedence over the details of how it was made but there is a desire to share with an audience the experience of making (Waters 2012). Installation offers the viewer an opportunity to become a part of the artwork and walk their body through and around the space. As they measure themselves against it and reflect on themselves within it, they re-awaken the steps I took to create the work in the studio. Moreover, the limestone that is at the nucleus of this project is so imbued with place and time. As we traverse through the installation space this activates a new landscape to come forth, and a fresh stratum is laid in the stone.


Closing the stone

This exercise in material thinking has allowed me the opportunity to gain a deeper perspective on place and time, in relation to myself – by attending to the stone. I was forced to consider its place in my practise and in a larger perspective, the greater landscape of time, space, and Earth. I am now imbued with a sort of melancholy for all the landscapes that no longer exists, lost to time. This has allowed me to accept and understand that the landscape I long for in the memory of a seven-year-old version of me, beneath the volcanoes of El Salvador has also irrevocably changed and in some way no longer exists either. And I grieve.

Installation image of two large-scale lithographs
Installation view of In Motion by Maria Martinez, 2022.



Biennale of Sydney 2022, Milton Becerra, Biennale of Sydney, viewed 4 May 2022, < >.

Bolt, B 2007, ‘Material Thinking and the Agency of Matter’, Studies in Material Thinking, No.1, Vol.4, pp. 1-4.

Halliday T 2022, ‘Introduction’ in, Otherlands: A World in the Making, Allen Lane, Great Britain, pp. 1-11.

Ingold T 2013, ‘The materials of life’ in, Making: Anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture, Routledge, London, pp. 17-24.

Pteros n.d, Solnhofen Limestone Formation, Pteros, viewed 31 May 2022, <>.

Roberts J.L 2021, Contact: Art and the Pull of Print, Part 1: Pressure, streaming video, 25 April, National Gallery of Art, viewed 4 May, <>.

Waters, S 2012, “Repetitive Crafting: The Shared Aesthetic of Time in Australian Contemporary Art”, Craft + design enquiry, vol. 4, pp. 69-87.


[1] Matrix, or matrices, is a printmaking term used to refer to the physical surface on which the printmaker imbeds their marks. E.g., copper plates, linoleum sheets, woodblocks, limestone.  These marks are then transferred onto another surface, most commonly paper.

Essay – In Motion (Stone 61): a conversation between stone and body