Vivian Mac Gillavry artist in residence | etching to explore mycelia networks

This spring Vivian Mac Gillavry was artist in residence at AGA LAB in the etching department. Vivian graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in 2021 at the Expanded Painting department. She often makes combinations of sculpture, drawings and paintings.

You have a background in sculpture, but here in the gym you can mainly work flat.Can you tell us what brought you here as a resident at AGA LAB?

‘I came in here with hardly any knowledge of graphic techniques. There is a graphic department at the Rietveld, but I’ve never even been inside. I was more likely to be found at the metal workshop. Despite that, my work does evoke a ‘graphic feeling’. I was curious about what these techniques could add to my practice.’

‘I started my two months here full of enthusiasm. With the intention to try out all kinds of techniques. I soon noticed that two months is far too short to really master even one technique, so I decided to focus mainly on etching (line etching and aquatint) and the occasional blind embossing.’


How did you like these techniques? And do you have a favourite?

‘I think etching is fantastic. Especially working with aquatint. You can build up so much depth and layering in the etching. I also found working directly on the plate exciting. You can’t correct easily so you have to have a pretty steady hand. I have tried different sizes of zinc plates and some of them were so detailed that making some of those plates takes several days. By working with Aquatint, the outcome of the plates often remained a surprise to me.’

‘Many of my works are very time-consuming. In that respect, etching fits in perfectly with that. From my sculpture background it was also interesting to try embossing. You make a kind of mini sculpture in 2D. I had many more plans for that, but as any artist in residence here will be able to confirm: two months fly by.’



Were you able to do what you wanted? Did it bring you anything this period? What did you encounter during your residency?

“The process of etching is very time consuming and slow. With drawing or painting it is a more direct way of working that allows you to react to the work. The process is incomparable.”

‘Because the techniques were new to me, I also spent a lot of time experimenting with the material. In the first month in particular, I focused more on technology than on themes. The main question was, what is possible and how does that work? Fortunately, there are people around AGA LAB such as Herma Deenen who knows just about everything about etching. Now that I have better control of the techniques, I can focus more on what I want to do.’

Can you tell us something about your mycelium interest?

‘I am fascinated by the different kinds of branches we encounter in everyday life. For example, splitting tree branches, in body systems such as veins, or in human-built systems such as roads. My graduation work already focused on these stories and I wanted to focus even more specifically during my residency. I have used the printing techniques to explore patterns of fungi and mycelia networks.’

‘According to scientist and author Merlin Sheldrake, the mycelium can be seen as the tissue that holds much of the world together. There are parts of these fungal networks that are easy to recognize, for example the mushrooms you encounter while walking in the forest, but most fungi spread spores without producing mushrooms.’

‘That knowledge completely captures my imagination: mushrooms that demand attention above the ground, while their mycelium grows below the ground, which has no fixed shape. The shape of mycelium can be compared, as it were, with the shape of water.’


And then at the end of the conversation, Vivian says that she still has so much to try and that she has plenty of plans so she will come back to AGA LAB. We look forward to seeing you again Vivian. We look forward to your expo in De Bouwput. We hope you keep us informed of your progress as we are very curious about your work and development. See you soon!



Instagram account:


Post by Barbara Collé


Exhibition ‘ TRACES ‘ De Bouwput
Thursday 26 May – 18.00-21.00
Vivian Mac Gillavry & Sofia Paravicini