White Ice 2002 is a medium-size screenprint on a reflective acrylic surface depicting a partially abstract winter scene. The upper left portion of the image features dense white patches that resemble snow or ice hanging down from the branches of a tree. In the lower part of the image, deep black tones are combined with further areas of snow and ice to suggest the recession of space, giving the scene the appearance of a rural landscape scene. The combination of the screenprinted image with the mirrored acrylic surface lends the work a blurred quality, so that while some detail is visible in the crystals of ice, the scene looks flat and somewhat abstract. Many of the white icy forms are accented with coatings of glitter that catch the light when seen in the gallery, an effect that is enhanced by the bright white tones of the work.
White Ice was created by the British artist Anya Gallaccio in her London studio in 2002 as part of a commission of two prints for Dundee Contemporary Arts, Scotland. The other print, which is also owned by Tate, is an etching on paper entitled Black Ice 2002 (Tate P78918). To make White Ice Gallaccio digitally manipulated a photograph of melting ice to create a mostly abstract image that partly resembled a rural scene. She then screenprinted this image onto a mirrored acrylic surface and added glitter to some sections, before finally coating the work with a layer of gloss varnish.
The work’s title, White Ice, suggests that the areas of white in the scene represent blocks and slivers of ice. The use of the word ‘white’ in the title sets the work aside from its companion, Black Ice, which also depicts an ambiguous scene relating to this natural material. However, the darker tones of Black Ice create a more sinister atmosphere than is seen here: where the crisp brightness of White Ice suggests an idyllic winter scene, the title Black Ice conjures associations with dangerously icy conditions on roads and paths that are often caused by the melting and refreezing of ice, the product of which is commonly known as ‘black ice’ even though it is in fact clear in appearance.
In White Ice, Gallacio’s use of a photograph of melting ice and the presence in the background of dark patches that resemble puddles suggests that the print shows the commencement of the natural thawing process that is the result of seasonal temperature change. White Ice can therefore be seen in the context of Gallaccio’s interest in natural processes and their visual effects when witnessed over time, the exploration of which has preoccupied the artist throughout her career. Gallaccio stated in 2013 that:
My work obviously reflects loss, or the fragility of life, but … the accumulative, the building up of material and of waste; the regenerative, is important and often overlooked. Within the decay there is a constant process at work; it is cyclical, durational.
(Quoted in Bryson 2013, p.243.)
In White Ice, the scene is the result of natural materials building up and then melting away, which could represent a form of accumulation and decay as described by Gallaccio. The artist has not indicated whether White Ice and Black Ice are intended to be viewed in any particular order, and as such the pair could allude to the cyclical processes by which natural materials such as ice will continue to move between these various states of solidity and liquidity.
Gallaccio is part of a generation of artists known as the Young British Artists who studied at Goldsmiths College in London between 1985 and 1988. She exhibited alongside members of this group in Damien Hirst’s landmark exhibition Freeze in London’s Dockyards in 1988, and is now well known for her installation works that feature flowers, sugar, chocolate and other perishable materials. Gallaccio created White Ice in the same year that she was commissioned to make an installation for Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries. This work, beat 2002, also focused on natural processes – it consisted of real tree trunks with their branches removed, positioned around the gallery. The commission was a critical success, receiving praise from the art critic Simon Schama for its ‘quizzical intelligence and passionate intensity’ (Simon Schama, ‘Roots’, Guardian, 14 September 2002, http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2002/sep/14/art.turnerprize2003, accessed 10 November 2014), and the following year Gallaccio was nominated for the Turner Prize.
Rebecca Fortnum, Contemporary British Women Artists: In Their Own Words, London 2007.
Jeremy Cooper, Growing Up: The Young British Artists at 50, London and New York 2012.
Norman Bryson, Anya Gallaccio, London 2013.
Supported by Christie’s.