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with prints as a student at Wimbledon School of Art, London during his foundation course (1979-80) and made a few unpublished etchings in the early 1990s.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.
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 contrast between geometrically organised brick and concrete structures and the organic chaos of Canada’s lush jungle vegetation provided a rich source of imagery for Doig’s paintings of the early to mid 1990s. In the print Rosedale House (P11472) the wintry trees remain at a safe distance from the house, but its darkened windows and the low angle of viewing convey a sinister atmosphere. Red House (P11473) has a more cheerful aspect. It depicts a winter landscape with leafless trees in the foreground, behind which a bright red house sits in a large bank of snow. Red human figures are partly visible in the foreground walking along a path and huddled in a group. They are silhouetted and no detail is shown. Two prints titled Concrete Cabin (P11475 and P11479) and the print Border House depict buildings in a more overgrown rendition of nature. Border House is a delicately drawn version of an image more roughly treated in a painting of the same title made in 1994 (Fruchter Collection, Antwerp). It depicts a concrete bunker-like building in a sunlit forest. Tall black trunks interrupt the image vertically while a fallen trunk creates a dark horizontal line in the foreground. Dappling effects and fine scratchy lines create the sense of sunlight passing through leaves.
Doig has made several paintings based on photographs taken of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’habitation building in Briey, north-eastern France, of which Concrete Cabin, 1994 (Saatchi Collection, London) is one. The two Concrete Cabin prints depict aspects of this modernist architecture being engulfed by trees. In P11475 finely delineated foliage and thick, dark tree trunks create dramatic organic patterning in front of the geometric lines of Corbusier’s multi-storeyed construction. In P11479 a similar scene is viewed from a different angle portrayed with much less definition, resulting in the disintegration of the image into semi-abstraction.
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.51 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