Behind the print: "Terra Lunar"

Christina France explains how her father's wartime log book, Royal Greenwich Observatory, and the fragility of the planet inspired her to create "Terra Lunar", an etching with 23-carat gold dust, which has been selected for the National Original Print Exhibition.


Terra Lunar, etching with 23-carat gold dust, by Christina France

What’s the story behind “Terra Lunar”?

I developed “Terra Lunar” for Greenwich Printmakers’ 40th anniversary exhibition at the Watts Contemporary Gallery. This print was inspired by both the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and the Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village’s Moonscape exhibition. The way in which artists were captivated by the painterly challenge of depicting nocturnal landscapes, and how they saw the moon as a symbol of nature's enormity, resonated with me.


My journey to the ‘firmament’ began with research into my father’s wartime log book, from when he was a pilot in the Second World War. This led to the series ‘Ghostlines', in which I explore repetition, sequence and chance within the narrative of D-Day and the Liberation.


Christina's father was a pilot in the Second World War. This is his pilot's log book, which helped inspire some of Christina's recent work, including "Terra Lunar"

When I was looking at his log book, I was most interested in the physical nature of the skies, meteorology, and the significant part that conditions beyond the control of the sophisticated machinery played in the outcomes of many of the events recorded in the sparse, sometimes poetic lines, all written in his controlled, considered handwriting.


This idea shifted slightly towards our planet and a series of work reflecting on its fragility. My work is non-scientific, hopefully poetic – possibly akin to a musical interpretation of something that can't be captured physically.


“Terra Lunar” is an etching with 23-carat gold dust. How did you make this print?

“Terra Lunar” was made using soft ground and aquatint on two circular zinc plates. I use layers of transparent ink to build up a surface that is nebulous. After printing a number of proofs, I eventually achieved the colours I wanted. The plates were rotated and I used a fine scrim to ‘burnish’ the surface.

Christina initially used gold leaf but she eventually opted for 23-carat gold dust, as she prefers the softer reflection

I originally trained in Fine Art and I have a painterly approach to printmaking, using unconventional methods in order to achieve the layering and translucency I strive for. After struggling with gilding gold leaf in certain areas, I opted for gold dust, preferring the softer reflection, creating an image that is ever-changing, shifting and subtle.


Do you often use circular plates in your work?

I love using circular plates. They have no beginning or end, no sharp corners and are the most democratic of forms. I had my first ones made in 2010. I think I’ve always been a little obsessed by circles, looking back at my work in etching and other media.


What lessons did you learn when you were making this print?

I learnt about the importance of not being afraid of shaping traditional methods for one’s own particular desired results. “Terra Lunar” is a Varied Edition of 15 – usually, for me, a work of this nature would be unique. I will be less afraid of making editions of 10-15 prints in the future.


Christina France at the launch of the 2019 National Original Print Exhibition in Bankside Gallery, London

What does being in the National Original Print Exhibition mean to you?

I am truly delighted to have been selected for a printmakers’ printmaking exhibition on a national scale. The best thing about it will be taking my place among the many artists whose practice I admire – including, of course, our own Greenwich Printmakers!


The National Original Print Exhibition runs at Bankside Gallery, London, until September 29.