Barry Flanagan

aaing j gni aa


Barry Flanagan 1941–2009
Fabric and plaster
Object: 1700 x 1450 x 1450 mm
Purchased 1969

Not on display

Display caption

Flanagan’s work of this period was highly innovative and departed from the sculptural practice of his tutors, notably in his choice of ‘un-sculptural’ materials. He filled pre-stitched cloth ‘skins’ with amorphous matter (often sand and wet plaster) to produce bulging, organic forms. As Flanagan explains: ‘I liked the idea that the shapes virtually made themselves’. The title is a palindrome. Not only does it undermine any single meaning but it reiterates Flanagan’s interest in the experimental possibilities for sculpture. This work enjoyed swift acclaim and appeared in his first solo show at the Rowan Gallery in 1966, the summer after he graduated.

Gallery label, May 2007

Technique and condition

The sculpture consists of five units; four assembled units and one single unit. Each unit was originally made as a separate piece and then brought together to form a compatible group.

The first assembled unit is made up of four parts: A large hollow, plaster filled, grey-fabric form and a solid plaster form, encased in purple felt. This purple element is inserted into a cavity in the top of the grey element. Two red mail-bags are rolled-up and placed around the base of the grey element. The second assembled unit is made up of three parts: A large solid plaster form, encased in multi-coloured cotton fabric with two fluorescent pink Perspex shapes inserted into the top through an incision in the fabric and into the plaster. The third assembled unit is made up of two parts: A solid plaster form encased in green velvet-like fabric. This form is displayed horizontally, supported by a double-wedge shaped fibre-board element covered in brown patterned fabric. The final assembled unit consists of two parts: A solid plaster form encased in orange fabric. A hole has been drilled into the top of the form into which a dried flower is inserted. The single unit consists of a solid plaster form encased in green felt and brown cotton fabric. The five units are enclosed within a circle of white tape: Paragon Non-Stretch Adhesive Cotton Strapping.

Each of the five units was made by stitching or stapling cloth into certain shapes. These shapes were filled with wet plaster, the weight and pressure of the plaster from within creating the full form and giving tension to the surface. Different effects were achieved by allowing the plaster to harden then reversing the form as with the brown single unit, or by resting the form on the floor before the plaster was fully hardened, creating bends and folds as it sagged, as with the patterned grayish unit. The only hollow form, the large central element, was made by flicking wet plaster onto the inside of an open bag shape. As noted by Charles Harrison in 1969, for Flanagan the process formed the material.

By June 2000 the original wedge support in the third assembled element had completely collapsed and no longer had adequate strength to support the horizontal green plaster form. The plaster, which had been poured into the fibre-board structure, had broken and disintegrated into many small pieces. With the artists’ consent, the internal structure of this element was remade by Sculpture Conservator, Stella Willcocks. The structural condition of the second assembled unit remains vulnerable where this element was previously broken. The remaining elements are structurally stable however there are several small losses and tears in the fabric coverings. Damage to the edges around the cavity in the central hollow element has also been consolidated and strengthened.

Bryony Bery
May 2004

Catalogue entry

Barry Flanagan b. 1941
T01120 AAING I GUI AA 1965
Not inscribed.
Plaster, cloth and found objects in five pieces:
(a) 66×27×23 (168×68.5×58.5).
(b) 42×22×9½ (107×56×24).
(c) 36½×14×9½ (93×35.5×24).
(d) 15½×33×11 (39.5×84×28).
(e) 20×7½×6½ (61×19×16½).
within painted or adhesive bandage circle approximately 54 (137) in diameter.
Purchased from the artist through the Rowan Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1969.
Exh: Group H, Better Books Basement, July 1965; Rowan Gallery, August–September 1966 (1).
Repr: Arts Magazine, XL, December 1965, p. 16; Studio International, CLXXII, 1966, p. 150.

According to the artist (information communicated by the Rowan Gallery 16 January 1970), the pieces were made as separate sculptures in the early summer of 1965 and were grouped together in June that year, shortly before they were first exhibited.

The circle, which surrounds the pieces, is freshly painted or laid down on the floor for each presentation of the sculpture.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1968-70, London 1970