Ten Etchings is Doig’s first print portfolio. As the title indicates, it is a suite of ten etchings. The portfolio was produced in an edition of thirty-five. Tate’s copy is one of six additional proof sets. Each print is individually signed and numbered ‘TC’ (Tate copy) by the artist. The portfolio is presented in a red artist’s solander box with title and colophon pages designed by Peter B. Willberg. It was printed at Hope Sufferance Press, London on 350gsm Zerkall paper and published by Charles Booth-Clibborn under his imprint, The Paragon Press.
Doig had previously experimented with prints as a student at Wimbledon School of Art, London during his foundation course (1979-80) and made a few unpublished etchings in the early 1990s. He has described the process of making the portfolio Ten Etchings as ‘a way of cataloguing some of the work I had made over the previous years’ (quoted in Elliott, p.307), referring to the paintings he made between 1992 and early 1995. The paintings were based on altered photographs, either taken himself or sourced from such media as newspapers, magazines, postcards and books. Doig may draw or paint on the photographs, cut them up, collage them and photocopy them (often repeatedly) before they reach their final state. Several versions of an image are often made in large and small paintings as well as more intimate works on paper. Printing results in a further version of the image. Doig found the layering process of colour etching sympathetic to his painting process of building up colour and image in many stages. The prints comprising Ten Etchings were made using one or two plates and a range of etching techniques. Variety in texture and tone was created with aquatint (a process for creating an even tonal field), deep bite (a process which results in very dark tones), sugarlift (a process which allows the artist to paint marks that print rather than having to outline them negatively) and chin collé (a method of attaching a thin piece of paper to the surface of a print with glue during the process of printing). The individual prints were originally untitled, but were titled by the artist on publication of Contemporary British Art in Print: The Publications of Charles Booth-Clibborn and his Imprint The Paragon Press 1995-2000 in 2001.
Most of Doig’s paintings of the 1990s were inspired by the landscapes of rural Quebec, where the artist spent his childhood and adolescence. The images in Ten Etchings depict three principal themes, all related to this history: snowscapes, woodland scenes and modernist buildings in dense vegetation. The print Ski Jacket (P11471) depicts small figures silhouetted in black against a pale pink ground. The image was derived from a detail of the photograph that Doig used as the basis for his large painting of the same title made in 1994 (Tate T06962). Their roughly delineated forms were created by the sugarlift process. A similar effect is visible in From ‘Pond Life’ (P11474), in which three silhouetted black figures stand with their backs toward the viewer on a creamy pink surface in front of part of a building and some trees. In the painted version of this image, Pond Life 1993 (private collection, London), the foreground is a mass of colour and line representing the reflections of the building and vegetation in the background. The figures are standing on the frozen surface of a pond. In the print, they appear to be standing in open space. The same image is depicted in P11477, which has the same title From ‘Pond Life’. In this print the rather crude, thick dark lines of P11474 are replaced by fine black lines etched on woodgrain chin collé. Definition of the figures’ clothes, the architectural details of the log cabin at the top of the image and the slender trunks and branches of trees are all now visible. The surface on which the people stand reads as land in front of the cabin.
Doig frequently uses the device of one or more horizontal lines to break up his landscape compositions and to separate the background from the middle ground and foreground. The print Blotter depicts a man standing on ice looking downwards. In the original painted version of this image from which the print’s title is derived (1993, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), he is looking at his reflection. In the print version, concentric circles around his feet on the ice are dramatically broken up by dark lines reflected from the trees in the forest in the background. A central horizontal line, the shoreline, meets in the middle of the painting at the level of the man’s head. Doig developed this image further in the painting Reflection (What Does Your Soul Look Like?), 1996 (Mima and Cesar Reyes, Old San Juan) which led to a print of the same title in the portfolio Grasshopper, 1997 (P11544). The theme is repeated in another print in Grasshopper entitled Window Pane (P11549).
Patrick Elliott, Jeremy Lewison, Contemporary Art in Print: The Publications of Charles Booth-Clibborn and his Imprint The Paragon Press 1995-2000, London 2001, pp.46-59, 307 and 334, reproduced p.53 in colour.
Peter Doig: Blizzard seventy-seven, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Kunsthalle
Nurnberg, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 1998.
Paul Bonaventura, ‘Peter Doig: A Hunter in the Snow’, Artefactum, autumn 1994, XI, 53, pp.12-15.
October 2002/Febuary 2008