CONTEMPORARY PAINTERS Artist Interview : Gillian Carnegie

"In contemporary painting Gillian Carnegie's work stands apart, quietly, calmly and insistently uncanny, with an emotional tenor unlike anything else in art today."
Artist Gillian Carnegie takes a pause from work in the studio to talk to Meris Ryan-Goff about the process of preparing for, and creating the Contemporary Painters Series monograph on her paintings... 


MRG: Was there anything surprising to you about the process of producing this wonderful book?

GC: Barry, the author, contacted me in July 2015 about doing a book, so the conversation and development lasted quite some time. The discourse with Barry was great. I felt an absence when the book was finally complete, a little similar to the feeling I get when I have been working on one painting for many months and I finish it... the intense period of focus and being fully immersed in something, ending.
The task of getting my archive organised surprised me: it was a huge amount of work as I have never done this before.


Girl On Swing, 2002, Oil on canvas, 68.5x63.5cm, private collection. 
Untitled II, 2002, Oil on canvas, 25.4x25.4cm, private collection.

MRG: Was the process of making the Contemporary Painters book at all similar to the implementation of an exhibition of your work?

GC: No, not really, it was difficult to know how it would look until I read the text and at that point decisions had to be made relatively quickly regarding image selection and layout, which was a direct response to the text. Planning an exhibition and making the works is a very different and much slower process to designing the book. 



Odelisk, 2002, Oil on board, 22.8x33cm, private collection.
Kalvin, 2004, Oil on paper, 53.3x40.6cm, private collection.


MRG: What can you tell us about the importance of order or chronology for your work? And how do you see the development and stages of your oeuvre?

GC: It was important for the paintings to be laid out in a broadly chronological order, according to the evolution of my historical practice.
The work is an ongoing process.



Interior, 2016, Oil on canvas, 203.2x124.6cm, private collection.
Interior Underpainting, 2016, Oil on canvas, 203.2x124.6cm, private collection. 


"Carnegie does not exactly paint in series, but she has returned again and again
to a few motifs over the years, painting them often in similar ways and
sometimes in ways that are blatantly distinct."
Barry Schwabsky writing in 'Gillian Carnegie' 2020 p.35

"[...] for each large tree painting, Carnegie normally makes a small version first,
which she copies without referring to anything else
. For the paintings of flowers,
she's kept the same still life in her studio - in her various studios - for 20 years." 

Barry Schwabsky writing in 'Gillian Carnegie' 2020 p.38

"Why the cat? The cat is the uncanny animal. Or I should say, rather, the 'unheimlich' animal"...
"The cat entered Carnegie's image repertoire stealthily. At home, she began
to notice a black cat, one of a brother-sister pair belonging to a downstairs neighbour." 
Barry Schwabsky writing in 'Gillian Carnegie' 2020 pp.73-4


"The black cat continues to appear and reappear in subsequent paintings,
prowling through the territory of Carnegie's art."

"In one of the paintings entitled 'Prince', this one dated 2011-12, he seems
to have made his way up from the landing where we'd previously seen him
and onto the next flight of steps where we catch sight of him between
the balusters looking determinedly upward. A few years later, in 'Interior' 2016,
he pads back down the stairs."

Barry Schwabsky writing in 'Gillian Carnegie' 2020 p.77



MRG: Do you see the book medium as an effective way to represent your work, and to make your artistic practice accessible to the viewer/reader?

GC: Most art books work well in giving a general sense of an artist's practice. A reproduction is never entirely true to the formal attributes of a painting's colour, tone, texture - and certainly not the live experience of one - but I think the text and the images work congruently to give the reader a vivid insight into my practice.



Interior, 2016, Oil on canvas, 83.8x58.4cm, private collection.
S, 2016, Oil on canvas, 78.7x58.4cm, private collection. 

You can order our book on Gillian Carnegie, by Barry Schwabsky, HERE

Hardcover • 144 Pages • Size: 280 × 240 mm
100 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781848222694 • Publication: September 03, 2020
Series: Contemporary Painters Series

And you can find more from our Contemporary Painters Series here … including Ding YiGuillermo KuitcaMary Weatherford and Thomas Nozkowski and many more!