Derrick Greaves

Falling I

1984–5,1992–3

Medium
Oil paint, acrylic paint and paper on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1588 x 1593 x 42 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with funds provided by Janet McIntyre 1998
Reference
T07470

Display caption

In the 1950s Greaves was considered to be one of the so-called Kitchen Sink artists whose work dealt with mundane aspects of everyday life. is one of a number of later works which show his progression away from realistic depictions towards abstraction. Made out of fragments of torn paper, it shows a figure falling forward, his head and shoulders obscured by an area of black. The jagged red lines, like wounds or scars, suggest Greaves is referring to the biblical of mankind.

Gallery label, September 2004

Technique and condition

Derek Greaves’ Falling I has a support of a single piece of thick cotton duck canvas, stapled to a softwood strainer, probably made in the artist’s studio. Thick, off-white paper, torn into irregular shaped pieces is stuck over the whole of the front of the canvas. Most of the pieces overlap but some appear to be fitted together like the pieces of a jigsaw. The paper then forms part of the support for the paint, with the texture and shapes of the jagged, torn edges playing an important part in the final image.


The white priming (possibly acrylic) was brushed over the whole of the canvas after stretching and probably before the application of the paper pieces. Where it is visible on the excess turnover edges at the back the priming is very thin. It appears to have been diluted considerably and has soaked into the fibres of the canvas.

The artist’s inscription on the reverse of the canvas states that oil and acrylic have been used for the paint layers. No analysis has been carried out to confirm this. A range of pigments have been used but these have not been analysed either. Paint is brushed onto the whole of the front of the canvas/paper support and the tacking edges. Some of the paint may have been applied before the paper collage was glued on, but it difficult to confirm this without analysis of the layer structure. There are numerous layers of paint of varying thickness and contrasting colour, probably due to repeated reworking as the artist tried out different forms and colour relations.

There is a great variation in texture, thickness and gloss across the finished painting. For example the blue and green background areas are painted with flat, opaque and glossy paint (apparently oil) to cover the texture of the paper beneath. In contrast, in the area of the figure thinner paint has been applied in such a way as to soak unevenly into the fibres of the paper and emphasise the paper texture. This effect may have been achieved by rubbing excess paint off the paper. A different effect again is achieved in the area at the top right. Here a coarse textured material with irregular particle size such as sand has been added to create a matte black paint (possibly acrylic).

A varnish (not analysed) has been applied locally. It was brushed fairly thinly on to the figure and the blue and green backgrounds, apparently in order to even out the gloss. It does not extend right to the edges of the painting. Extra varnish has been applied around the red and black painted torn paper edges, which are glossier than the rest of the painting. In contrast the matte black, coarse textured paint at the top right, does not appear to have been varnished.

The painting has an original wooden frame painted black with dark red on the sight edge.

The condition of the painting is good at present. The strainer is fairly strong and rigid and the beading on the forward edge keeps the fairly taut canvas from contacting the sharp inner edges of the strainer bars, although it is not expandable. The canvas and paper support is in good condition with the layers well adhered at present, although the differential movement of the thick layers of paper/adhesive and paint on the front may cause further distortion and possibly delamination in the future.

The priming, paint and varnish are in good condition. There is some abrasion and a few small losses on the front edges where the painting has been in contact with the frame. There is one raised crack where cleavage is starting to occur. A network of small contraction cracks are present in the blue and green paint and in some areas these reveal the brownish yellow paint beneath. They may still be forming as the paint continues to dry and may become more obvious in time.

The reverse of the support is soiled with dirt and the front has a layer of grey dust.

Sam Hodge
December 1998