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The Cas­tle Gallery 43 Cas­tle Street, In­ver­ness 01463 729512 www.castle­ www.junecare­

Mon-Sat 9am-5pm

If June Carey ever in­vites you to see her etch­ings, do not refuse. Stu­dios are fas­ci­nat­ing places, partly be­cause you get to see work in progress, but also be­cause they give an in­sight into the machi­na­tions of the mind of the in­cum­bent. In Carey’s space, images jump from the walls – star­tlingly vivid pas­tel draw­ings, mono­prints, wa­ter­colours and uniquely hand-crafted dig­i­tal prints – all heav­ily and daz­zlingly in­flu­enced by a sense-as­sault­ing visit to In­dia in 2004.

There are also the highly per­sonal me­men­toes and aide mem­oires that all artists pin up to in­spire in their down­time, from end­less pho­to­graphs of In­dia, an old mag­a­zine cover by Carey’s art-school friend John Byrne, to a tiny pair of pink wings. But back to the etch­ings. Carey cre­ates th­ese in a tiny boxed-off area at the far end of her com­pact stu­dio in the gar­den of her Stir­ling home. It is sep­a­rated from other work so that the press, plates and print­ing process is not con­tam­i­nated by dust from Carey’s iri­des­cent pal­ette. It must kept cooler than the rest of the room.

Carey, who was born in 1942, seems en­thused by life it­self but be­comes par­tic­u­larly an­i­mated when talk­ing about the etch­ing process.

She came to it late, some 20 years into her artis­tic ca­reer, at the Ed­in­burgh Print­mak­ers Work­shop, and it set her imag­i­na­tion free. “Print­mak­ing was never some­thing that I re­ally con­sid­ered when I stud­ied art,” she ex­plains, “but I had come to a point when I was sort of stuck.

“What I ab­so­lutely loved about etch­ing was that it brought back the spon­tane­ity into my art, which is some­thing ev­ery­one has as a child but which you lose along the way.”

The sub­con­scious is ever-present in Carey’s work, ex­pressed as a true el­e­ment of chance. “I love that you never know what is go­ing to hap­pen un­til the last minute”.

Al­ways orig­i­nal in her think­ing, re­cently Carey has re­cently been us­ing dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate fresh and in­ter­est­ing work, with the help of Murray Robert­son at Glas­gow Print Stu­dio. Th­ese prints, which are on sale at the Cas­tle Gallery for £400, emerged from pho­to­graphs of etch­ings and draw­ings which she had sub­se­quently de­stroyed be­cause “they weren’t work­ing”. Each one has been printed dig­i­tally, then worked on by hand.

Th­ese pieces are cap­ti­vat­ing for their sheer un­bri­dled en­ergy. Carey is not an easy artist to pi­geon­hole and, as she ac­knowl­edges her­self, she will never need to pay a ther­a­pist, be­cause “it all comes out in my work”. Her vis­ual nar­ra­tives in­volve end­less per­mu­ta­tions of the same images and mo­tifs. Birds, fishes, moons and hands re­cur ev­ery­where in her prints, but as her old friend and men­tor from Ed­in­burgh Print­mak­ers, Al­fons Byau­tas, notes: “this in­tensely per­sonal art both re­veals and con­ceals its mean­ings and mes­sages.”

The di­vided self is al­ways present in June Carey’s works. Her sen­sual fig­ures may seem cool and aloof but there are in­fi­nite emo­tional quan­daries to con­sider, which beg­ging the viewer to keep com­ing back.

She lav­ishes as much care and at­ten­tion into her three-di­men­sional pieces as she does her draw­ing or print­mak­ing. One of the high­lights of her out­stand­ing solo ex­hi­bi­tion last au­tumn in the Stir­ling Smith Art Gallery and Mu­seum was a set of four Wish­ing Shoes, in­tri­cately beaded hand­made shoes in glass cases, ac­com­pa­nied by a June Carey orig­i­nal poem.

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