Sandro Chia To the Tower 1981

Artwork details

Artist
Sandro Chia born 1946
Title
To the Tower
Alla torre
Date 1981
Medium Etching and drypoint on paper
Dimensions Image: 282 x 300 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased 1982
Reference
P07633
Not on display

Catalogue entry

P07633 [from] April Manual 1981 [P07632-P07636; complete]

Five etchings with drypoint each approx. 11 5/8 × 12 1/4 (295 × 312) on buff Velin Arches paper 29 3/4 × 22 1/8 (757 × 563), printed by Sarah Feigenbaum at Aeropress, New York and published by Peter Blum Editions, New York and Zurich
Each inscribed ‘Sandro Chia 1981’ b.r. and ‘30/50’; each impressed with the printer's stamp
Purchased from Anthony d'Offay Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
Lit: Bice Curiger, Looks et Tenebrae, New York and Zurich 1984, pp.123–9, repr.pp.197–202; Danny Berger, ‘Sandro Chia in his Studio: an Interview by Danny Berger’, Print Collector's Newsletter, xii, January–February, 1982, pp.168–9; Also repr: An Exhibition and Sale. Sandra Chia Prints 1973–1984, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, September–October 1984 pp.36–8

The title of the portfolio implies the notion of a manual, or book of instructions, and the notion of hand craftsmanship. Chia has stated:

Craftsmanship is very important in etching. The metal is treated for the purpose of expressing forms imprisoned in the metal. I chose the title ‘April Manual’, because it was April when I made it, and also because April stands for Spring, when the plants shoot up from the ground, precisely as in my work the pictures emerge from the metal. The general topic of the portfolio, though, is etching as such (quoted in Bice Curiger, p.126).


The portfolio consists of five etchings as follows: i ‘The Artifice’ (etching, drypoint, open bite and mezzotint); ii ‘To the Tower’ (etching and drypoint); iii ‘About the Unseizable’ (etching, drypoint and open bite); iv ‘A Good Soul’ (etching, drypoint, soft ground and aquatint); v ‘And the Heroes at the Window’ (etching, drypoint and aquatint). Although each print is an independent image, the titles of which in some cases were the starting point for the images, according to the artist the sequence of titles make up the story (from the written answer to questions posed by the compiler in a letter of 11 March 1985). Chia had made a number of etchings prior to the ‘April Manual’ and had printed them in small editions (approximately to impressions each). In an interview with Danny Berger he stated that etching ‘is the technique I know best. Etching, aquatint, drypoint. In the editions I did recently I used all of these techniques, using several plates. Often using several techniques on the same image’.

The first print in the series depicts a young man hunting a hare with a knife. In his right hand he holds a torch. ‘L'artificio’ or ‘the artifice’ may also be translated as ‘strategem’, ‘device’ or ‘deceit’. All these concepts are implied by the title. The image is closely related to a painting entitled ‘Rabbit for Dinner’ 1981 (repr. Sandro Chia, exhibition catalogue, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, April–May 1983, n.p.) which was executed at the same time. In the interview with Danny Berger Chia stated:

I have a studio in Ronciglione (outside Rome) which is set up for etching and where I do my etchings. It relaxes me from my painting. It is a communicative channel with painting. Sometimes something from my painting transfers to my prints, and sometimes it is the opposite. When I am in my studio, I have at my disposal the press, canvas, and pigments. I like to pass between the two disciplines.

According to Bice Curiger the young man stands for the artist in pursuit of a possible prey, presumably a subject. The hare represents emotion and instinct, the torch represents reason and intellect. Around the edge of the image Chia has drawn a margin because he ‘needed to have a certain boundary in order to make the light on the inside spill out onto the page’ (written answers).

The second image, ‘To the Tower’, depicts a medieval man plunging a knife into his fallen victim. Above the victim's upturned head is drawn a red question mark which the artist intends both literally to express surprise and as a pictorial device. The red, which complements the general green hue of the print, may be associated with blood which is otherwise not depicted in this print. The pose is one which might be associated with melodrama, although Chia maintains that the sources for all the images ‘are found in the repertoire of art’ (written answers). The image has a sculptural quality.

‘About the Unseizable’, the third in the series, loosely mirrors the image of the man in ‘The Artifice’ and relates to a painting of 1981 entitled ‘Everything is Going Well’ (repr. Sandra Chia, exhibition catalogue, n.p.). In this print Chia uses a large repertoire of etching techniques such as cross hatching, parallel hatching, hooks, points and wavy lines. It is the least imagistic work in the series.

The fourth work, ‘A Good Soul’ ‘shows a boy as the emblem of (rediscovered) innocence and purification’ (Curiger, p.128) and may serve as the complement to the final image in the series, ‘And the Heroes at the Window’, which according to Chia represents ‘a group of rebels with somewhat stupid faces’ (quoted in Curiger, p.129). ‘A Good Soul’ relates to the painting ‘Idiots’ 1981 (repr. Sandro Chia, exhibition catalogue, n.p.) and depicts a seated youth in a slightly contorted pose.

‘And the Heroes at the Window’ portrays a rather medieval looking group of warriors floating in the heavens. (Chia greatly admires the work of Chagall.)

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

About this artwork