Memorial Retrospective Exhibitions
29 August – 11 September 2010
In His Own Time
Printed Works on Paper 1982 - 2005
Curator: Noreen Grahame
grahame galleries + editions
1 Fernberg Road Milton Qld 4064
Noreen Grahame, Director, grahame galleries + editions and curator of this exhbition contributed the following review for the Memorial Catalogue: –
• deeply etched
Iain Turnbull was a vibrant person. Always ready to discuss his interests in art, books, collecting ‘things’, philosophy and making art, but, being an intensely private person, it was usually other artists’ work we discussed. Iain was not so much concerned with the exhibiting as with the making, and in documenting and selecting prints from the years 1982-2005 for this exhibition, I have had the opportunity of re-acquainting myself with his prints and with meeting Iain Turnbull, the printmaker.
I had already met ‘the printmaker’ in 1988. I was putting together an exhibition of mini-prints and included two of Iain’s etchings, Pit-Head II (1985) and Untitled (1986) (Exhibition #4 and #6). Both were influenced by the family’s time living in the north of England. The first one is a photo-etching of a section of headgear from a mine pit-head. This section of machinery is contained in an image just 10.5 x 3.0 cm. One can feel its power and weight threatening the plate’s containment lines. Untitled captures the mood of a darkening sky in a scene looking across the moors of Yorkshire.
Pit-Head II (1985) Museum View (1982) Etching
Etching 10.5cm x 3 cm 26cm x 6.8cm
The earliest work in this exhibition Museum View (Exhibition # 1) is an etching of the Queensland Museum. It is dated 1982 and was made when Iain was just 17. This was not Iain’s first print. His brother Matthew recounts a tale of Iain’s first printmaking venture,
'We had set up a studio in the family garage and were making monoprints. Two things are important to me in this memory. Firstly, the younger brother was teaching the older brother what to do – not through force of will, or coercion, or bullying – but by simple and quiet example. He was the leader and I was the follower. Secondly, I had a very early resolution to that perennial debate about abstract art – the notion amongst those too ignorant to understand, that ‘surely anybody could do that’ – because, quite simply, Iain could and I couldn’t. Right from the start, and all through Iain’s early work, you just knew that he had it, and pretty much the rest of us don’t.'
The bottom half of the Museum View depicts a ‘view’ through a deeply recessed window from inside the museum looking out over trees and a roof to a ‘high rise’ in the background. The shutters to the left and right of this window are deeply etched and printed in solid black, giving the impression of weight and, when the museum closed for the day, of impregnability. Here they serve to anchor the image. The top half is intriguing. In contrast to the weight of the solidly etched lines in the bottom half, the almost straight lines running from ceiling to window level are lightly etched. These lines could be a representation of the high walls in the museum or a device by the artist to lift
our view heavenward.
His first tentative move away from representation came with Tree (1985) (Exhibition # 3), made in the same year as Pit-Head II. We know it is a tree not only because the title tells us this but because a tree form is evident. The plate size of both works is similar and both images deal with power. In Pit- Head II power is represented by machinery barely being held within the plate. With Tree it is the power of nature breaking through constrictions. The girth of a massive tree trunk almost fills the narrow image area. It appears to be growing through the top of the plate with only the lower section of foliage still visible. This may be the first tentative abstract work but the etched lines are made with confidence.
A stunning little etching, Untitled (Exhibition # 13), was made in 1989 some four years after Tree . Although not totally abandoning representation it is approaching the abstractness of his later work. The feeling that this is a view from a window is quite strong. The remnants of what could be a window is on the right of the image and is made up of number of straight etched lines running from the top to the bottom of the plate. From this ‘window’ delicately etched lines meander across the space. They may depict fields or tracts leading to a mountain at the top left. Some small more deeply etched areas may indicate habitation. But all this is not clear. What especially is not clear is the box like form floating above this ‘landscape’. What it is and what its purpose, does not matter, and does not deter us from seeking our own references.
Untitled (1989) Etching 8 cm x 13cm
Untitled (2003) (Exhibition #24) Etching 28cm x 44cm
Another untitled etching from 2003 (Exhibition # 24) again seems to be a landscape or cityscape. This etching plate is larger (28 x 44 cm) than those discussed so far. Deeply etched outlines of what are perhaps buildings dominate the border areas and are connected by deeply etched, almost tortuous lines. In the background fragile lines sometimes connect with the deeply etched areas and sometimes work alone. All these drawn lines appear static. Movement comes from a deeply etched figure placed centre stage. This figure strides purposefully towards what appears to be a sign. It is followed at a distance by a more sedately moving figure. Above and to the right of the figures two or three birds, somewhat larger than the two figures, sit on what
looks to be a telegraph pole.
Untitled (2004) (Exhibition #38) Etching 28cm x 44cm
The etching is a State Proof, and is the only impression from the plate in this form. Iain reworked the plate in 2004 and again in 2005. In 2004 he made a number of colour proofs (Exhibition # 38). First he printed the plate in black as he had done for the state proof, then he seems to have wanted to place even more emphasis on the border areas and printed over these with ochre
ink. He has also partly covered the figures and birds with the ochre ink. At first impression the colour is more like trying to obliterate the image.
Black Walk (2005) Bleed Print 25cm x 35cm
He returned to the plate in 2005 cutting it down to measure 25 x 35 cm and printing it as a bleed print Black Walk (Exhibition # 40). He again used two colours, the black main plate and a dark green/grey. This time he printed the colour first, and then the black on top. His use of colour is more controlled than in the 2004 etching. Here he has carefully selected the areas he wants to emphasise and the colour is contained in the outlines. Two of the birds are in colour which makes all three stand out. In the centre the two figures remain black, which also makes them more evident. This version, printed on a warm cream paper, is the more successful, but I still have a soft spot for the first state proof.
A voracious reader, delving into poetry, literature and philosophy, Iain was also an avid ‘studier’ of life and art. Rarely attending openings at grahame galleries, he preferred instead to visit on quieter days, when he could take time with each image and study techniques. This was time well spent. Influences point to some of this country’s leading printmakers/artists, from Fred Williams to Ken Whisson. But Iain had his own voice, a voice that, in this body of etchings, shows the maturity of his quiet reflections.
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