DARK WAS THE NIGHT was produced during Laith McGregor’s time as the Australian Print Workshop Collie Print Trust Printmaking Fellow. Enormous in scale, the etching presents a bearded figure, a man seated by a lake: Jesus by the Sea of Galilee. As with many of McGregor’s works, the title also offers a link to music, in this case the song ‘Dark was the night, cold was the ground’ by gospel blues singer Blind Willie Johnson. At 2.4 x 1.8 metres in scale, the artist has pushed the technical limits of the etching process. Printed in black, the tonal variations of the print are produced via a distinctive ‘cross hatch’ technique developed by the artist in his drawings.
Self portraits have been an ongoing theme in Laith McGregor’s practice as has the beard. He was told by many people that he looked like Jesus at the time this work was made, so here he contemplates Jesus as a social figure and his general status throughout history. The artist considers the fact that he was just a man, just like himself. He decided to render the work in dark hatched lines to emphasize the dark place that this figure was sitting in, a dark world that he had helped to create.
At the time the work was produced, it was a pretty bleak time generally in the world. This character, reminiscent of the artist in mood and physical appearance, sits by himself and contemplates his surroundings and inner mind.