Glasgow Print Studio First Floor Gallery
Ken Currie: Chunnacas na mairbh beo (The Dead Have Been Seen Alive)
Exhibition runs: 07 October - 26 November 2022
The title of the exhibition is taken from Sorley MacLean's 'Hallaig', which is a poetic response to the Clearances on the Isle of Raasay. It is a mysterious and haunting line which is open to speculation and has a certain poetic evocation.
Seven years since his last solo exhibition at Glasgow Print Studio, Ken Currie has been developing this new body of work ever since. Inspired and propelled by the printmaking techniques which Currie studied and began to master in 2015, this exhibition is composed of a series of figures influenced by Egyptian funerary portraits from AD 40-250 .
Frozen in time like photographs, these ancient and remarkable images are unique, extraordinarily beautiful artefacts which have, for many years, fascinated and haunted Currie. Created as portraits of the deceased, funerary portraits provide us with various socio-economic details about the individual depicted, whilst helping to uncover facets of early Egyptian culture, especially in relation to the empire’s trade, economic, and social structure.
Here, Currie invites the viewer to draw their own conclusions about who the figures in his monoprints might be, what their backgrounds are, and how they came to be depicted here.
Like the funerary portraits of 50 AD, the heads and figures in Currie’s monoprints appear ghostly and distressed. Currie attempts to achieve this through the particular technique he has employed. Currie paints quickly and broadly onto a copper plate, building up layers onto his paper, with each layer taking several weeks to dry. The first print (or ‘pull’ in printmaking terms) is usually disregarded or scrapped, it is the second or third in which he achieves the desired effect, these are known as ‘ghosts’.
“I allow a maximum of three imprints from one plate - an initial imprint, a ghost, or cognate, and a second ghost. These are usually imprinted on grounds that have been built up over a period of weeks in different layers. Each imprint can be worked on and manipulated after printing but only up to a point as too much of this will make it cease to be a monotype and more like a painting.
Knowing when to stop can be difficult. The important thing is that after the three imprints are taken the painted image on the plate is wiped away with turps so it ceases to exist except as a series of unique imprints on paper. The failure rate is very high but when it all comes together the results can be wonderful."