It was hoped that working on a group of monoprints in Venice would give rise to an editioned series of etchings. Two months later, in November 2008, Magill selected six motifs from an initial shortlist of eight, to be editioned by Michael Taylor at Paupers Press. Apart from the photographic plates, all plates for the edition had to be re-made. Placing acetate sheets on top of the monoprints with the selected motifs, Magill re-drew the images, which were then used to make the plates. In over eight sessions and a period of almost a year, Magill would visit the printer’s workshop to work on the plates and leave them to be proofed until she was happy with the resulting print. The long gestation period seems appropriate for etchings that seduce through their richness and depth of colour.
Using several plates but with varying colours for different prints, is a method Magill had already introduced and used to great effect in her Parlous Land lithographs. Some plates for Venice are also used for more than one print. The same plate, with a liquid wash, has been incorporated into Waterways, Rooftops and St Mark’s Square – but with very different outcomes. In Rooftops Magill has slipped a watery veil over a glowing morning scene, whereas in Waterways a noxious purple haze masks buildings underneath a dark sky laden with foreboding. The figure of Gondolier makes reference to the eponymous ‘landmark’ with its powerful romantic connotations. Magill diffuses any danger of slipping into sentimentality by a restrained use of colour, instead creating an image of unfamiliar and perilous beauty. Her etchings bring to mind lines from Thomas Mann’s novella Death in Venice: ‘This was Venice, the flattering and ominous beauty, this city, half fairy tale, half tourist trap, in whose putrid air the arts once voluptuously proliferated...’.