Gillian Carnegie’s first venture into printmaking was the portfolio of Ponoka, published by Paragon in 2004. She enjoyed the process and the experience of working in etching, and planned to explore the technique further. The opportunity arose in 2007 with two motifs that Carnegie thought were well suited to be translated into etchings. Statue and Overlook are both based on paintings by Carnegie with the same subjects.
The mock-Tudor façades of the Holly Lodge Estate in Highgate, North London, have been the subject of a large body of paintings by the artist, often in series. The print Overlook is based on an early version painted in 2007, which is in the Government Art Collection. The buildings, with their geometrical grid-like structure of timber, form a motif that has clearly intrigued Carnegie over the years, with variants painted as recently as 2009. For the print, a photo-etching plate was made, using a digital photograph of the painting in the GAC. A second, soft-ground plate was also used, onto which s the artist pressed sandpaper in order to achieve a fissured surface texture. Carnegie enjoys experimenting with different materials. For the original painting she worked the white priming of the canvas with a wire brush, traces of which technique are also visible in the print. Instead of the monumental scale of the painting, which measures just less than two metres square, the print is on a more intimate and domestic scale. Carnegie has also altered the tonal range: instead of the painting’s cool grey and faded yellow, she has chosen a different, though still muted, palette for the print. The bleak winter scene has been infused with warmer tones, as if the final glow of winter’s sun is emanating from the building.
The statue, at Holly Lodge, of a female figure reading has been the subject of several paintings from 2007 up to 2010. The basis for the print, published in 2008, is again an early painted version of the motif, which was used to make the photo-etching plate. To get an open-weave, textile-textured surface, Carnegie pressed scrim into the second soft-ground plate. The original painting was painted on coarse linen and only marginally larger in size than the print. In the print, however, Carnegie has changed the colours. Here the alteration is even more dramatic than in Overlook – a total inversion of the painting, in which the outlines of the statue and windows in yellow were set against a charcoal background. This makes the print appear like the positive of the painted negative image. As with Overlook, the setting is the Holly Lodge Estate, the buildings, grounds and interiors of which have been a rich source of inspiration for Carnegie. Examining her own surroundings at home, Carnegie has painted the façades, staircases as well as its floor tiles of the estate. Its mansion blocks, lovingly referred to as ‘Tudor cliffs’, were built in the 1920s by the Ladies Workers’ Homes Limited to provide accommodation for single women working as clerks or secretaries in the city. Both Overlook and Statue were proofed and editioned by Peter Kosowicz at Thumbprints Editions. They were published as a pair in 2008.