Piranesi at the British Museum

Spent the morning at the British Museum's study room, looking at the first edition of Piranesi's Carceri prints.  Why?  I felt that the moody vague-ness of the recent prints I've been working on at Hotbed Press, in particular the ones with buildings and people in, might also been seen in these works. Perhaps I would understand more of what I am trying to achieve by seeing someone else do it very well.  First of all, what an amazing place the study room is.  I was a trifle intimidated by the rules and all that wood and glass, but just gobsmacked that I could turn up and ask to see a real life print and have it brought for me.  Nice white gloves too.  The prints are exceptional.  They are much bigger than I expected - not huge, about A2 size - but nonetheless not tiny little things either.  The sense of mutlilayered space is strong, as you'd expect, but it's not so much Hogwarts (as I thought before when seeing smaller images online), as Hammer House of Horror.  Nothing is really spelt out in terms of torture and imprisonment, but it is less ambiguous than an online picture allows you to see.  There's a definite play on the 'pretty' - garlands and cupids formed from massive chains and a hollow-eyed prisoner.  There are people in the prints - some prisoners, some who might be looking in on the situation, and some guards (presumably by the spear like things they hold).  It's not that clear who they are, but you can make a guess on the whole.
Sometimes you look in on a huge, vaulted, stone build space with tiny figures almost lost in the the wide dreary space.  The viewer looks down on the people in this case as if they are in a goldfish bowl.  Sometimes the scene in more intimate in a not very cosy kind of way.  To early really, to say what it means for my own prints, but very moving to see the real things.

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Image: Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Plate 14, second edition: the Gothic arch. 1761
Etching with engraving

2nd Image: Errwood Reservoir Screen print, Victoria Scholes 2010


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