Not on display
- Gillian Carnegie born 1971
- Oil paint on canvas
- Support: 1927 × 1357 mm
- Presented by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of Andrea Rosen 2022
Voi 2004 is a portrait-format oil painting on canvas. Painted predominantly in muted tones of green, grey and cream, it depicts an almost symmetrical recession along a lane or avenue of trees ending, in the upper quarter of the canvas, with the depiction of an indistinct figure. As with much of her work (see, for example, White on White 2007 [Tate T15982] or Black Square 2008 [Tate T12935]), here Carnegie has applied her colours as a thick impasto. The texture of the paint is inescapable, the disquieting brushstrokes weighing heavy and threatening to overwhelm the avenue which they frame. The eye is drawn down this avenue to the faint image in the distance. Yet Carnegie capitalises on the tension between subject and medium, her brush strokes both affirming and contradicting what they depict. Despite her muted palette and quiet imagery, her works have a charged energy that brings attention back to the personality manipulating the paint. As curator Lizzie Carey-Thomas has described it, ‘there is something profoundly existential in her approach to painting; she asserts her subjectivity at every level.’ (In Tate Britain 2005, p.7.)
Though seeming to conform to the traditional categories of painting – be it still life, landscape, figure painting or portraiture – Carnegie adopts a carefully considered, conceptual approach throughout her practice so as, in fact, to subvert the conventions of academic figurative painting. Frequently using a palette of muted, earthy tones (see also, for example, Thirteen 2006 [Tate T12486]), she generally avoids motifs which explicitly convey narrative. Curator Clarrie Wallis has explained: ‘Carnegie’s paintings refuse meaning: the muted nature of her work has been remarked upon but, more importantly, the paintings themselves are mute. Carnegie enacts this refusal of meaning by highlighting the artificiality of representation, by denying narrative content and continually reminding the viewer that they are looking at an image constructed through paint.’ (In Tate Britain 2013, p.28.) This resistance to definitive interpretation necessitates a mercurial approach to her work and it is this rejection of a signature style which allows Carnegie to explore the act of painting, the physicality of paint itself and the subjects and meanings which her particular method of painting communicates.
Lisa Panting, ‘Profile: Gillian Carnegie’, Art Monthly, no.250, October 2001, pp.20–1.
Polly Staple, ‘The Finishing Touch’, frieze, no.64, January–February 2002, pp.72–5.
Lizzie Carey-Thomas, ‘Gillian Carnegie’, Turner Prize 2005, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2005.
Clarrie Wallis, ‘Gillian Carnegie’, Painting Now, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2013.
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