Carlos Martins (1946 - )

Siena (1977)

Aquatint on paper
height: 50cm
width: 35cm

Donated by Carlos Martins 1998


Martins had received a British Academy grant to study architecture at Edinburgh University between 1973 and 1975, and in his final year he studied etching at the Slade, London, where he went on to take a specialised course in printmaking techniques (1975-77). In 1976, while enrolled at the Slade, Martins went to Urbino in Umbria, Italy and perfected his engraving skills at the Accademia Raffaelo. It is likely therefore that Siena relates to his experience of the city of Siena, situated close to the border between Tuscany and Umbria. Given the date of this work, the final image produced would be a combination of direct observation and later recollection. Contrast between what appears to be a precise pictorial depiction and personal memory of place is a constant motif in Martins' work. In a manner that is typical of Martins' precise engraving, this image of a façade is built into three dimensions in the process of picking out both elemental and linear contrasts of light. The detailed façade is sharply delineated by the empty ground above and to the left of the building. Very subtle cropping and use of perspective recreates a sense of intimacy at the human scale of looking upwards. In relation to the precision of his technique Martins has commented that strict and rational composition is a means of containing memory and emotion, particularly as connected with place; reduction and refinement are not emotionally cold then, but are an intensified, almost Proustian process of evocation, closely contained with the tiny bounds of print on paper.

Isobel Whitelegg, 2008

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