Elizabeth Magill talks about her new lithograph, ‘March’

Q: Tell us about the title of the work, March. The word ‘march’ brings to mind ‘border’, but also the springtime. What does the title mean to you? And does it refer at all to the landscape represented in the print?

A: March is a term used to describe a boundary between two sides of land ownership – like a march hedge or fence. It is also an activity, a demonstration and the beginning of spring. However in Latin where the word comes from it’s the first month of the Roman calendar named for Mars, the Roman god of war, who was also regarded as a guardian of agriculture.

Q: You have mentioned in the past that the landscapes represented in your paintings and prints do not necessarily come from just one place, but rather an amalgamation of imagery from photographs, drawings and memory. Is this the case with ‘March’?

A: This lithograph is an amalgamation of my photographs from various locations. I mock up these layers of images using acetate or lithographic film to see in advance how the composition of the print may eventually look. It’s a loose configuration open to alteration during the printing process at the workshop.

Q: Your method of painting has been likened to the lithographic process in the past, due to the method of building up a final image through the layering of paint. How many plates did it take to create the final image of March?

A: ‘March’ has 11 layers of plates/colours. The first few layers are almost abstract and light toned as the image below shows and subsequent layers add denser colour and form too. For the last plate I usually return to my studio and look at the image for a few days and then often draw on another sheet of film to create the final layer.



Q: March includes some beautiful bright tones of colour, particularly the different shades of blue. Is there a particular process that you go through to select the colours for a print?

A: The colour choices are instinctual, a kind of reaction to what’s been previously laid down. With the blues in ‘March’ I wanted a turquoise tone and then ultramarine with its hidden reds placed on top to offset the greens in the turquoise compound.


Elizabeth Magill, Hinter, lithograph, 2016, published in an edition of 75

Q: Hinter, which you published with us earlier this year, seems to be stylistically quite different from March, almost abstract in its representation of the trees and the earth. Was it a conscious decision to represent the landscape in March in a more detailed way?
A:  ‘Hinter’, as you say, is less photographic – I was trying to manage a sense of chaos in that work, the marks suggesting some kind of agitation. With ‘March’ I deliberately moved away from the hands-on approach, preferring a more digital source to create a hybrid between the photographic and painterly qualities.
It is also one of several works in a series I was playing around with; attached below are the prototypes that I printed off on A4-size acetate. I really enjoy being able to create multiple versions by changing and placing different image combinations on top of each other.



Q: This summer you have been an invited exhibitor at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, which is a huge achievement. Was this year the first year that you have exhibited a lithograph, rather than a painting?

A: A few years ago I exhibited my print with Manifold Editions, ‘Blue Hold’, in the Summer RA show. I’m happy to add that I’m also going to be showing ‘March’ in the RUA annual show at the Ulster Museum this year.

Elizabeth Magill, Blue Hold, lithograph, 2012, published in an edition of 75

Elizabeth Magill, Blue Hold, lithograph, 2012, published in an edition of 75

Q: You are currently exhibiting in ‘High Treason: Roger Casement’ in Dublin, which reflects the tragic aftermath of historic events just a century ago. You also have a touring exhibition coming up in 2017, which will travel from Limerick to Belfast by way of Dublin. How does the population of Ireland respond to your work?A: I’m really looking forward to touring recent works in Ireland next year for it’s been a while since I’ve had a one-person show there. I’ll have to wait and see how the audience responds to my current work.

Q: Born in Canada, educated in Ireland and now based in London: where do you feel most at home? And has your experience of living in different countries had a specific impact on the style of your work?A: I moved from Canada to the North of Ireland when I was very young and then to London to complete my art education at the Slade in the 80s. So I’ve been part of a London art community for several decades now.
However, I’ve constantly and continually travelled back and forth to and from London to Antrim. I think of myself as both an urban and rural person. Both are part of me. Currently I’m managing a farm on the Antrim coast where we have planted five thousand trees.  I try to manage both places because for me it’s an inspirational combination for my work.
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