Michael Craig-Martin

4 Complete Clipboard Sets: 1. Clipboard 2. Sheet of Paper 3. Pencil 4. Written Title 5. Eraser, Extended to 5 Incomplete Sets with Photograph Replacements


Michael Craig-Martin born 1941
Plastic, paper, ink and card on board
Unconfirmed: 768 x 2556 mm
Purchased 1971

Not on display

Display caption

In this work, Craig-Martin is exploring the nature of art making, in particular raising philosophical and perceptual questions about the relationship of art to the reality it represents. His intention is to use simple, familiar objects used for the making of a drawing to reveal the ambiguities, contradictions, and complexities normally unrecognised in the process of representation. The work consists of a set of 5 drawings using various graphic means to create an actual-size representation of a previous work that consisted of 5 sets of identical real objects - clipboard, paper, pencil, written title, eraser - each with one missing.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Michael Craig-Martin b. 1941

T01495 4 Complete Clipboard Sets:1. Clipboard, 2. Sheet of Paper, 3. Pencil, 4. Written Title, 5. Eraser, Extended to 5 Incomplete Sets with Photograph Replacements

Not inscribed.
Assemblage of Letrafilm, plastic tape, paper, paper clip, written text and
card, in five units each 30¼ x 20¿ (77 x 51), comprising a single work.
Purchased from the artist through the Rowan Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1971.
Exh: Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, September-October 1971 (in second part of a 2-phase exhibition).
Lit: Michael Craig-Martin, ‘A procedural proposition: selection, repetition, extension, exchange’, in Studio International, CLXXXIII, September 1971, pp.76-79.

A two-dimensional version, with variations, of an earlier work of 1971. The original work used real paper, clipboards, pencils, string, india rubbers and written titles. In T01495 the clipboards, pencils, string and india rubbers are simulated; the paper, photographs and written titles are real.

In a statement on T01495 written for the Tate Gallery on 16 July 1972, the artist wrote: ‘The set of five drawings, which constitute a single piece, is a representation of five sets of actual objects. The drawings present a situation of virtual identity between real objects and their representations. The result is confusion regarding the nature of identity itself.’

‘To understand the organisational structure of the drawings it is necessary to understand the organisational structure of the objects themselves in the original piece. The original set consisted of five real objects: clipboard, sheet of paper, pencil, written title, eraser. These objects formed a functionally rather than visually based relationship. They were real objects performing their real functions. The clipboard held the paper, the pencil wrote the title, the eraser removed the title. The title enumerated simply the elements comprising the set and their mode of presentation.

‘To further expose the nature of the functional relationships, four complete clipboard sets were used and extended to create five incomplete sets. The four sets of five things were extended to five sets of four things by removing one thing from each set, each time a different thing. Each of the five new sets was missing one thing; each of the things missing was different; each of the five sets was different.

‘The original functional procedure was carried out as far as possible in each set. The first set could be completed. Despite the missing clipboard, the title could be written and erased. The second set could not be completed. As there was no paper, the title could nor be written. The third set could not be completed. As there was no pencil, the title could not be written. The fourth set had all the things necessary for the complete procedure but it was not realised because the thing to be omitted was the written title. In the fifth set the written title remained intact. As there was no eraser, the writing could not be removed.

‘The missing objects were then replaced by a photograph (itself an object) in the position of each missing object. The first photograph shows the clipboard and goes behind the sheet of paper. The second shows the clipboard and the sheet of paper and is clipped in the clipboard. The third shows the clipboard, the sheet of paper and the pencil and hangs from the long piece of string. The fourth shows the clipboard, the sheet of paper, the pencil, and the written title and goes on the centre of the sheet of paper. The last shows the clipboard, the sheet of paper, the pencil and the eraser, and hangs from the short piece of string. The title has been written and erased. Thus the final photograph shows the original clipboard set that is no longer present in the piece.

‘It is this piece which is represented in the set of drawings. Each of the drawings shows one of the incomplete sets with the photograph replacement.

‘My intention in the original piece was to make a work, using real objects, that did not involve tampering with their essential nature as functional objects. No attempt was made to transcend their ordinary reality. I wished to respect the integrity of the objects, to use objects available to everyone, and to use relationships implied by the objects themselves as the structural basis for the whole. Although the piece is perceived visually and “read” visually, it is not primarily concerned with visual esthetics but with the use of visual perception to uncover structure and meaning.

‘My intention in the drawings was to use the findings of the original piece to create instances of interchangeable identity between object and image. The representation of the clipboard is obviously not a clipboard despite the fact that it literally holds the paper. On the other hand the sheet of paper in the drawings both represents and is identical to the sheet of paper in the set of real objects. The pencil and the eraser are clearly representations but the title is actually written on the sheet of paper, as in the real set. Its erasure is also identical. The photographs used in the drawings are the same as those used in the real sets, and show not the objects in the drawings but the real objects from the original piece. They are acting as “representations” of photographs.’

‘The clipboard, pencil and eraser are made of self-adhesive Letra-film in colours approximating the actual objects. (The original clipboards were made of palely stained wood with metal clips.) The string is made of 1/64 in. Chart-pak tape. All the images are the same size as the objects they represent. The drawings are each on a sheet of white card.’

‘There are two other similar sets of drawings in existence. The first is virtually identical except for the colours of the objects. It represents a different set of the same objects (the clipboard in green metal, etc.). The second set is in black and white and does not include photograph replacements. The marks made by pencil in this set are not the title, but drawings, illustrating the other things in the set. There is also a single drawing which is identical to the fifth drawing (missing eraser) in the green set mentioned above. However there too, instead of the “written title", there is a drawing of the objects in the set. Finally there are three identical sets of five drawings based on the clipboard sets of objects. They employ acetate and tracing paper and do not include photographs. All these sets of drawings are privately owned.’

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


Art Term

Process art

The term process art refers to where the process of its making art is not hidden but remains a prominent ...

You might like