Bernard Cohen Matter of Identity III - The Trace 1977–9

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Artwork details

Artist
Bernard Cohen born 1933
Title
Matter of Identity III - The Trace
Date 1977–9
Medium Acrylic paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 1835 x 1835 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1981
Reference
T03284
Not on display

Display caption

This painting's six principal images are an aeroplane, a paw mark, a paddle, a meal table, an explosion and a window. From corner to corner Cohen painted an aeroplane in one set of colours which, while wet, he scraped in numerous directions. He painted the rest of the canvas in a contrasting set of scraped colours. Within the aeroplane's boundaries he then painted an image using the second set of colours, and repeated it (a different size, sometimes inverted, dismembered or as if projected) in the non-aeroplane space, but in the aeroplane colours. This process continued until all spaces were full. Colours were intended to clash as much as possible. The orientation of each image was determined by its having to rest on a scraped line. Here, as in many of Cohen's works, an unpredictable scatter of forms grows as the painting develops. Cohen sees this progression as akin to that of a meal. As a Jew, his experience of the Passover meal gave him a heightened sense, from an early age, that shared meals can have complex meanings. As he has observed, one Passover meal, the Last Supper, was eaten on 'the eve of Chaos'. Here, as in Sienese painting, smaller 'predella' panels amplify a picture's principal image. Cohen was also concerned with the notion of the traces left by the passage of anything across space, land or time. The marks here are literally traces of the delicate stencils, cut by him, through which they were painted. Paddles have no top or bottom; their irregular arrangement here accords with Cohen's decision that the painting may be hung any way up.

September 2004

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