This is one of a group of eight drawings in Tate’s collection with the same title, Drawing for Sculpture, which date from the 1960s and early 1970s. Each one is drawn on a sheet of squared paper. Some of the sheets are headed ‘CALCULATION SHEET’ and bear the imprint of the company ‘British Hydrocarbon Chemicals Ltd’, which later merged with BP. Araeen produced most of these drawings while he was working as a civil engineering assistant in London. Ranging from precisely drawn preparatory sketches for sculptures to more immediate free-hand line drawings accompanied by the artist’s notes, the drawings collectively provide an insight into Araeen’s working processes, informed by his early training as a civil engineer. For economic reasons many of Araeen’s early proposals were never realised as finished sculptures. These eight drawings were shown in From Modernism to Postmodernism, Rasheed Araeen, A Retrospective: 1959–1987 at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham in 1987.
Along with another drawing from the same year (Tate T13385), Drawing for Sculpture 1966 is a preparatory sketch for the sculpture First Structure 1966–7 (private collection). It is executed in pencil on an unheaded sheet of graph paper and depicts twelve cubes in four rows of three. Underneath Araeen has written ‘CUBE AS SCULPTURE 1966’, and beneath this the words ‘MATERIAL = ALUMINIUM AND TRANSLUCENT GLASS’. Each cube is drawn the same size and from the same perspective, the only difference from the one that comes before it being the increasingly complex addition of diagonal lines bisecting its different faces. The structure of the open cube recurs in many of Araeen’s sculptures, such as Zero to Infinity 1968–2007 (Tate T12756) and Chaar Yaar I (Four Friends) 1968 (private collection), in which the structure is repeated in monochrome and in primary colours respectively. There are some similarities between Araeen’s open cube structures and the work of the American minimalist Sol LeWitt (1928–2007; see for example Two Open Modular Cubes/Half-Off 1972, Tate T01865). However, there are important formal differences, such as the diagonal lines with which Araeen bisects the faces of his cubes. Furthermore, unlike much minimalist sculpture, Araeen’s structures rarely have a pristine finish. They are hand assembled and at times can be moved and reconfigured (for example Lovers 1968, Tate T13389).
From Modernism to Postmodernism, Rasheed Araeen, A Retrospective: 1959–1987, exhibition catalogue, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham 1987.
Rasheed Araeen, exhibition catalogue, South London Gallery, London 1994.
Rasheed Araeen, Before and After Minimalism 1959–1974, exhibition catalogue, Aicon Gallery, London 2010.