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Not on display
Dadamaino 1930–2004
Tempera on canvas
Support: 500 x 400 mm
Purchased 2012


Volume 1960 by Dadamaino consists of a stretched canvas, painted in white tempera, into which two large ovoid holes have been cut. While the top shape is smaller and rounder, the lower one is bigger and more elongated. Dadamaino made a series of such objects from 1958 to 1960, after which she shifted to creating works using sheets of plastic with grids of smaller holes punched into them and stretched across frames, titled Volumes of Displaced Modules (see Volume of Displaced Modules 1960, Tate T13288).

Dadamaino’s work of the late 1950s was characterised by this ‘Volumes’ series. For the most part these works were executed either in black – which are the most numerous – or white, although some coloured canvases were also made. Several of these Volumes featured only one rectangular hole, which takes up the greater part of the canvas, although most have two or three apertures that are either ovoid or elliptical and placed at angles to each other. Others have four or six holes that are more or less circular and spaced more regularly on the canvas. While she sometimes used rough hessian for these works rather than canvas, Dadamaino’s aim was not to emphasise the material presence of the work but rather the opposite – its absence. Such explorations relate to the contemporary experimentations with the surface of the work and its penetration by fellow Italian artist Lucio Fontana, as Dadamaino openly acknowledged:

I always hated matter and sought immateriality. Of course, Fontana played a decisive role in the history of my painting ... if Fontana had not pierced the canvas, probably I would not have dared to do so either. It totally removed matter to the point of making visible parts of the canvas, to remove any material element, to deprive it of any such rhetoric and return to tabula rasa, in purity.
(Quoted in ‘Biografia’, no date, trans. by Tanya Barson, accessed April 2012.)

Moreover, she described how ‘behind the large holes I could see a wall full of light and shadow that vibrated and moved.’ She continued, ‘Here’s what to look for and follow. The art had so far been static except for a few pioneers, we had again become dynamic.’ (Quoted in ‘Biografia’, no date, trans. by Tanya Barson, accessed April 2012.) These explorations would lead on to the work of around 1960, made from unconventional, synthetic materials such as plastic, often in overlapping layers, with numerous, regular perforations in their surfaces, such as Volume of Displaced Modules 1960.

Further reading
‘Biografia’, Archivio Dadamaino, no date,, accessed April 2012.
Serge Lemoine, Dadamaino: Volumes 1958–1960, Mayor Gallery, London 2011, reproduced p.49, pl.14.

Tanya Barson
April 2012

Display caption

Dadamaino wanted to open up the surface of the artwork, creating a three-dimensional spatial quality and a sense of immateriality. She described how ‘behind the large holes I could see a wall full of light and shadow that vibrated and moved…[art] had again become dynamic’.

Gallery label, October 2016

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