David Annesley

Swing Low


David Annesley born 1936
Painted steel
Object: 1283 x 1759 x 368 mm
Presented by Alistair McAlpine (later Lord McAlpine of West Green) 1970

Not on display

Display caption

Annesley began making abstract sculptures in welded steel in the early 1960s. These were often painted in bright colours as in the case of this work. The painted surfaces of Annesley's sculptures were a reaction against the craggy appearance of much sculpture of the 1950s. According to Annesley, using colour opened up 'a whole new way of articulating and realising feeling in sculpture'. Using more than one colour was also a way of emphasising the different parts of the work. In 'Swing Low' the fluid blue and green line is contrasted with the static yellow forms which enclose it. In this way, colour is used to give the sculpture a sense of movement, energy and direction.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

David Annesley b. 1936

T01340 Swing Low 1964

Not inscribed.
Painted steel, 50½ x 69¼ x 14¼ (128.5 x 176 x 37).
Presented by Alistair McAlpine 1971.
Exh: The New Generation: 1965, Whitechapel Gallery, March-April 1965 (1); The Alistair McAlpine Gift, Tate Gallery, June-August 1971 (2, repr.).
Lit: Anne Seymour, in catalogue of The Alistair McAlpine Gift, 1971, pp. 37-48, repr. p. 40.

The surface of these sculptures is explicitly non-tactile. The skin of paint which makes it more or less anonymous was also a reaction both to the craggy surfaces of the bronzes of the fifties and to the iron industrial flavour of Annesley’s first welded pieces. It was something comparable to the movement away from Abstract Expressionism going on in painting. Nevertheless the material was not unimportant. Annesley uses its taut qualities, as in ‘Jump’. In ‘X-Act’ and ‘Swing Low’ metal registers as both fluid and rigid at the same time, as it also does in the later rippling circular pieces (e.g. T01347, T01348). Annesley explained steel was ‘neutral— just stuft’ while at the same time ‘the most flexible, durable material you could use’. The material itself did not influence the form a sculpture took, though of course he knew what sort of pieces would be available.

The sculpture is one of an edition of three. Another copy is in the collection of the Calouste Gulbcnkian Foundation.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.