Barry Flanagan

Carving No. 2


Object: 622 x 609 x 609 mm
Purchased 1983

Display caption

This consists of four separate elements. It is part of the same series of carved works as 'Carving No. 13' also displayed here. The organic tongue-like shape is a scaled-up version of a small model made by the artist by rolling a cone of clay in his hands. This was then interpreted in marble by a craftsman working with the artist at Pietrasanta near Pisa in Italy, where there are many marble carving studios. Flanagan has compared the marble carvers to musicians interpreting a score. The disc supporting the abstract shape is based on the cap of a staddle stone, traditionally used to prevent rats attacking hay ricks. The three marble balls are based on cannon balls.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

T03609 Carving No.2 1981

White Arni marble and Grey Imperial marble 24 1/2 × 24 × 24 (622 × 609 × 609)
Not inscribed
Purchased from Waddington Galleries (Grant-in-Aid) 1983
Exh: Barry Flanagan, Sculptures in Bronze 1980–81, Waddington Galleries, December 1981 (not in catalogue); Barry Flanagan Stone and Bronze Sculptures, British Pavilion, XL Biennale, Venice, June–September 1982, Museum Haus Esters, Krefeld, October–December 1982, Whitechapel Art Gallery, January–February 1983 (72, repr; also repr. fig.67, p.92, pp.52–3 in col. in accompanying book; II in Venice leaflet only, no.7 in Whitechapel leaflet only); New Art at the Tate Gallery 1983, Tate Gallery, September–October 1983 (not numbered in catalogue); An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, New York, May–August 1984 (listed in accompanying brochure, repr. in catalogue p.135); Barry Flanagan Prints 1970–1983, Tate Gallery, June–August 1986 (repr. p.11)
Lit: Michael Compton, ‘A Developing Practice’, Barry Flanagan, Sculpture, published to coincide with exhibition at British Pavilion, XL Biennale, Venice, London 1982, pp.25–6; Teresa Gleadowe, ‘Stone and Bronze Sculptures’, Barry Flanagan, Stone and Bronze Sculptures, exhibition brochure, British Pavilion, XL Biennale, Venice 1982
Also repr: Barry Flanagan Sculptures, exhibition catalogue, Musée National d'art Moderne, Paris, March–May 1983, p.89

This sculpture and ‘Carving No.13’ (T03608) are from a series of thirteen closely related, abstract marble and stone carvings, produced in Italy in 1981 at the stone carving atelier of Sem Ghelardini, at Pietrasanta. The others in the series are:

‘Carving No.1’, Marble, 36 1/2 × 26 × 19 3/8 (927 × 660 × 490), Coll: Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, Utsunomiya, Japan;
‘Carving No.3’, marble, 14 × 17 × 16 (356 × 432 × 406), coll: Artist;
‘Carving Nos. 4, 5, 6’ (3 separate elements), Travertine marble, each approx. 25 × 14 × 12 (635 × 355 × 260), coll: Artist;
‘Carving No.7’, marble 12 1/2 × 24 × 9 1/2 (318 × 610 × 241), Waddington Galleries;
‘Carving No.8’, marble, 9 × 30 × 12 (229 × 762 × 305), private collection, London;
‘Carving No.9’, marble, 11 × 19 × 15 (279 × 483 × 380), coll: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum;
‘Untitled’ (Carving No.10), marble, 16 1/2 × 26 1/4 × 20 1/2 (419 × 667 × 520), Durand-Dessert, Paris;
‘Travertino Toscana’ (Carving No.11), marble, 16 × 23 × 14 (406 × 584 × 355), private collection, Ackron, Ohio;
‘Untitled’ (Carving No.12), stone, 10 1/2 × 26 1/4 × 15 (265 × 667 × 381), Waddington Galleries

For these sculptures, and a similar series in 1982 (see entry for T03608), Flanagan made small hand-sized maquettes in clay which were afterwards scaled up and re-interpreted in marble or other stone under his direction, by skilled craftsmen working at the atelier. This collaboration between artist and craftsmen extended to the choice of appropriate material to carve and as Michael Compton has pointed out (‘A Developing Practice’ in Barry Flanagan, Sculpture, op.cit., pp.24–5) the craftsman must translate from one medium into another combining in the resultant work's information given by the maquette and by the artist (who controls the production through word and gesture) with his own knowledge and technical skills. It is the craftsman who must translate models bearing all the flaws and immediacy of a pliable material that has been speedily shaped, into analogous but more monumental forms. Compton writes:

The scaling up is not mechanical. The forms have to be characterised, consciously or unconsciously, in the mind of the craftsman, so that he can recreate them in marble. He will do this partly by eliminating what is too detailed, like textures, fingerprints and sandy granules on the surface, partly by assimilating them to transformations of abstract stereotypes in the mind (triangle, spiral, etc.) as in ‘Carving No.2’ ..., partly by relating them to analogous forms... and partly by his own educated sense of what is a good or pleasing form.

In an interview with Judith Bumpus (excerpts have been published in Barry Flanagan, Sculpture, in an updated Chronology for Flanagan's Paris exhibition in 1983 and in Barry Flanagan prints 1970–1983, all cited above) Flanagan discussed the sculptures he produced with the craftsmen at Pietrasanta:

they're produced from clay maquettes which are formed in the hand - rolled, coiled, twisted, squeezed, generally formed in and by the hand. Now these shapes have no geometric skeletal interiors. Form shaped by the cupping and squeezing together of both hands, of clay, will have a very delicate and exact form ... this is a challenge, clearly, to any stone carver, to reproduce this form or even to appraise it. But of course the test is to produce another rather like it. Now, this challenge appeals to a good carver. One of these shapes, the size of a hand or formed in the hand, can easily go to stone four times its size. And the significance of four times the size is simply that the hand goes into the arm four times - approximately. Therefore, this gives the carver the continuity and the sense of the scaling up. There's a reason for how many times and there's a physical understanding immediately generated by the proximity of the maquette to the hand, the stone to the arm, which the carvers appreciate. You see, they must have an objective standard, which is perfectly understood, by which they achieve a carving. There are all sorts of mechanical aids which they bring to what's commonly known as ‘scaling up’. However, when the work is interesting, far more can be brought to the production of the final piece through the authorship of the sculptor, through the hands and skills of a carver. And before I leave that subject, all I've got to say is that I've got to be the boss.

Now it's interesting to reflect that in the sculptor's ... historically habitual working environment with the supportive facilities of bronze casting and carving, artisan and sculptor skills, supportive sculptor's skills, the place of the sculptor is actually recognised. And the authorship and interpretation and the entire environment, all these subjects are discussed and quickly come to be forming simply a part of what goes on in the studio. There are understandings which are reached. These understandings are traditional. They've always been available, if you go to the right places ... it's very nice to remember that there are places where sculpture is actually made and mutual support and interest and skills, sculptor's skills are brought to bear by all individuals as among a group of musicians, all playing different parts but with the actual understanding and willingness to interpret the work in hand objectively and exclusively for the same purpose, to produce sculpture. It can lighten the load. It makes work a little more vital and a little more significant.

The carvers are in Italy near Pisa. There's Carrara itself and at the southern end of that district, just by the sea and below the Apuan Alps there's Pietrasanta. Well, of course, it's the stone mecca. They export everything from there from architectural facades, [and] cladding down to onyx jewellery.

In another interview (Kaleidoscope, BBC Radio 4, January 1982, excerpt reproduced in Chronology section, Barry Flanagan, Sculpture, p.92) the artist said:

I have been given the opportunity to find a place as author, related to other individuals who have special carving skills. So that from the maquettes that I've produced they are able to interpret in manners one carving to the next, even from the same maquette.

According to the Chronology (op.cit.), Flanagan first learned to carve in 1958, as a student at Birmingham College of Art and first visited Pietrasanta in 1973 (where he made stone carvings at Balderi's Yard). In 1975 he worked for a stone mason in Oxford for a short time and in 1978 was in contact with Pietrasanta again; the Chronology records that he ordered three ton of stone, selected by Sem Ghelardini (p.68).

In April 1980 Flanagan showed thirty-one sculptures - the earliest dating from 1973 - at the Waddington Galleries and Catherine Lampert noted (in ‘Stone Sculptures’, Barry Flanagan, Sculptures in Stone 1973–1979, exhibition catalogue, Waddington Galleries, April–May 1980) that the bulk of his work in the period covered by the exhibition had been made in stone. Among the works shown was ‘Enlarged Marble Shape’ 1978 (27), which has strong formal and procedural links with the series of 1981. Flanagan has sometimes made the conscious decision to delegate in part the production (or in the case of earlier works, arrangement) of his work to others. As its name suggests, ‘Enlarged Marble Shape’ is a scaled up version of a smaller marble carving, made by Flanagan. In this instance, the sculptor Peter Randall-Page produced the enlarged version, setting a precedent for Flanagan's collaborative venture at Pietrasanta in 1981. While this earlier sculpture differs from T03608 in that the original model was itself marble, its smooth marble conch shape, measuring 16 × 26 × 16 (410 × 660 × 410) has both formal and textural similarities with the later work.

The final illustration in Barry Flanagan, Sculpture (op.cit., p.95) is a photograph of Sergio Benedetti and Sem Ghelardini holding two pale looking maquettes for the stone series of 1981. Because of similarities within the series, these maquettes relate in shape to all or part of all but three of the sculptures, although a number of small maquettes were made. The catalogue for Flanagan's exhibition held at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris in 1983 illustrates a number of bronze casts taken from the maquettes. Ten of these relate directly to the thirteen larger works of 1981 (Barry Flanagan, Sculptures, March–May 1983, p.63). Three of the works in the large series consist of more than one element and taken as a whole, the thirteen works are all formed from variations of one or more of the following basic components or shapes: a) carved marble supports; b) discs; c) ‘abstract’ elements either supported on discs and legs or resting on the ground. In the case of Carvings Nos. ‘1’, ‘4’, ‘5’ and ‘6’ the supports have the appearance of rather roughly cut sectioned legs.T03609 has as its supporting base, three marble ‘cannon balls’ which look like a truncated version of the longer legs of ‘Carving No.1’. Flanagan was already working with similar stone shapes in the ‘bub’ and ‘bollard’ works of 1979 (illustrated in Barry Flanagan, Sculpture, pp. 46–7) which were worked from found objects (in this case, Cornish staddle stones, used for supporting and protecting hayricks), and ‘Carving No.2’ may also be compared with ‘That Old Penny’ 1978–80 (Barry Flanagan, p.42, 4464 × 610 × 559), a hollowed out stone disc resting on three stone balls. In conversation (16 October 1985) the artist told a Tate curator that the idea for the balls came from actual cannon balls which in the past were sometimes used for decorative arrangements. The chamfered disc of ‘That Old Penny’ is the inverted mushroom top of a staddle stone (used to prevent rats from reaching the ricks) and is the formal original of the supported and supporting disc in T03609 and also in Carvings Nos. ‘1’ and ‘3’. Also related is ‘Marine Goddess’ 1978 (Barry Flanagan, p.43, Hornton stone, 550 × 460 × 460) which with its spiral form (suggesting a large fossil) resting on stacked discs resembles Carvings Nos. ‘1’ and ‘3’.

The third component, common to Carvings Nos. ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’, ‘7’, ‘9’, ‘10’ and ‘11’ (and the only element present in the case of the latter four works but with slight variations in each case), is a strange organic looking shape, rather like a rolled up tongue. This was made in its small clay original by forming a cone of clay, rolling it with a spiral at one end and forming a point at the other. The combination of ‘organic’ form and dish is found in Nos. ‘1’, ‘2’, and ‘3’ in the series. In ‘Carving No.12’, the spiral form appears in a flattened, gouged out version and in ‘No.7’ is rolled at either end to form an ‘S’. This configuration also relates to a slightly earlier marble carving, not one of the series, ‘Her Warm Tit Rolls’ 1981. The final elements (Nos. ‘8’ and ‘13’) are abstract elongated shapes (see entry for T03609).

The organic form in ‘Carving No.2’ and the other sculptures most closely related in the series is one which Compton suggests (‘A Developing Practice’, cited above p.25) is easy to project on to the sides of a block of stone. The particular shape is pre-figured in Flanagan's note books of 1978 (illustrated in Barry Flanagan, Sculpture, p.87, fig.38) where as Compton describes (p.25, op.cit.) it appears ‘as a profile extended in parallel into the third dimension, and again sitting on a heap of objects to form an “Ubu” head. The interpretation is, for this reason, rather geometric and without something of the abstract dynamics (the theology or flow pattern) of the clay.’ Flanagan's interest in Alfred Jarry's “Ubu” and the pseudo science of Pataphysics has been widely referred to and the spiral (perhaps the heraldic Pataphysical spiral) has recurred in his work in various forms; as cut out metal, in the sculptures of 1978, in a print of 1971 and in drawings, and cut into stone.

As already noted, Flanagan made maquettes in small editions for each of the thirteen sculptures and the Paris catalogue (op.cit., p.63) illustrates bronze versions of the following: ‘No.1’, ‘No.2’ (T03609); Nos. ‘4’, ‘5’, ‘6’ (each of these is a single ‘leg’ form but in the case of the original maquettes, these legs appear to support another form); No. ‘8’/‘13’ (see entry for T03608); Nos. ‘9’, ‘10’, ‘11’ (this group is also reproduced in Barry Flanagan, Sculpture, p.25, top illustration, as ‘Maquettes for Stone Sculptures’ 1981, each approx. 5 × 5 (128 × 128)) and No. ‘12’.

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986