Catalogue entry



Not inscribed
(a) Wall tracing, plastic tape on wall, variable size
(b) Original drawing, plastic tape on plastic film, 30 × 30 (76.2 × 76.2)
Purchased from the Rowan Gallery (Gytha Trust) 1980
Exh: Michael Craig-Martin, Rowan Gallery,March–April 1980 (no catalogue)
Repr: Michael Craig-Martin (exh. catalogue), Fifth Triennale India, New Delhi, March–April 1982, p.11 (the 1980 Rowan Gallery installation) and p.15 (a 1981 installation at the Tate Gallery)

'Reading with Globe’ is a drawing made straight onto the wall of the gallery with self-adhesive black tape. It is intended to exist as a temporary but precisely repeatable installation. The owner retains the secondary material necessary for the execution of the work: the original compositional drawing, a 35mm. slide of this drawing, and a contractual document setting out the rights of the owner to make the work itself (it can be executed by anyone the owner nominates).

The work is made by projecting the 35mm. slide on a wall to any size desired. Craig-Martin decided when making the first installation in the Tate to enlarge the image to the maximum size that could be accomodated on the chosen wall, approximately 18 feet in height. He prefers the work to be shown alone on whatever wall it is installed, even if the projection is only four or five feet high.

The special tape, which can be obtained in a range of widths, is chosen to match the projected line as closely as possible. It is applied over the projected image tracing it precisely. This tape has a crêpe backing allowing it to stretch, and can be bent to match the curvatures of the projected image. To execute the drawing with tape to the scale of the original Tate installation takes two to three days.

The 35mm. slide is made from what the artist refers to as the compositional drawing, i.e. the complete image drawn in 1/32in. tape on a sheet of translucent drawing film. This compositional drawing is created from a ‘dictionary’ of images made by the artist over several years.

Craig-Martin makes drawings from life of individual man-made objects. Each of these pencil drawings is on a sheet of tracing paper of the same size (A4), and each object is drawn to fill the sheet. He chooses a viewpoint which provides a dramatic and characteristic rendering of the object, emphasizing its three-dimensional qualities. He sees these simple drawings as picturing objects in a way that is equivalent to naming them. The pencil drawings are overlaid with sheets of clear acetate and tracings are then made with narrow ( 7/8in.) adhesive tape. The tape lines are precise and inflectionless, and give the drawings a detached and mechanical character like that of the objects they represent. The artist has completed more than a hundred of these individual drawings on clear acetate, creating a dictionary of images.

Craig-Martin combines a group of these drawings to make the compositional drawing, literally constructing a drawing from drawings. He plays with these transparent images until their disposition one to the other is established and a specific spatial relationship created. All the dictionary images are approximately the same size, and are not altered in making the composition. However the size difference between the objects pictured (e.g. the light bulb and the ladder) suggests great scale changes, when seen together. Identical individual images can be used in different object groupings and compositions. Once a composition has been determined a tracing is made on translucent drawing film. This compositional drawing and the slide made from it are essential and unique constituents of the final work.

For ‘Reading with Globe’ Craig-Martin chose to combine images ranging from the smallest to the largest objects in his dictionary, and assemble them to create a unified and coherently receding space. The objects grade from the smallest in the foreground to the largest at the rear, but, because of the similarity of size of the images, the small objects appear enormous, as though in close-up, and the space between the objects appears to have contracted, forcing these disparate objects into unfamiliar proximity. The result is a collapsed and claustrophobic perspective.

Craig-Martin has used commonplace objects (both actual and as images) in his art for many years. He views simple objects of use as the most basic internally coherent and expressive man-made objects. As such they seem to him to underlie and act as models for the more complex, sophisticated and self-conscious material objects of expression, i.e. works of art.

In the wall drawing, these images of the material world are themselves practically immaterial, consisting only of tape and wall surface. Nothing in the images alludes directly to the size, materials, colours, function, and associations of the original objects, yet, because they are commonplace and instantly recognizable, the viewer brings this knowledge through experience to the work.

Though no narrative is intended, narrative relationships between the objects abound.

The wall drawing conjures the physical presence of the simple objects it pictures and transforms them to create a new and heroic presence, not a representation of the physical world but a metaphor for it. This is the subject of the work. On the wall, the drawing becomes part of the room, its implied space entangled with and inseparable from the actual space of the room, more sculpture than a painting. The mystery of the work is the mystery of image making.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984