T03835 Check 1973
Acrylic on cotton canvas, 84 × 108 (2134 × 2743)
Inscribed ‘ALAN GREEN 73/CHECK’ on reverse
Purchased from Juda Rowan Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1984
Prov: Mr Gert and Mrs Rosi Diefenthal, Freimersdorf, 1973–83, Juda Rowan Gallery 1983–4
Exh: Prospekt 73, Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, September–October 1973 (6, slide No.6); Alan Green, Paintings 1969–1979, Kunsthalle, Bielefeld, September–October 1979 (6, repr. p.46)
Lit: ‘Alan Green on his paintings’, Studio International CLXXXVI, No.959, 1973, pp.144–5 (repr. as ‘Chek’ p.144); Martine Lignon ‘Alan Green’, Alan Green, Paintings 1969–1979, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle, Bielefeld, 1979, pp.12–13; Catherine Lacey in Alan Green, Recent Paintings and Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Juda Rowan Gallery, August 1985, p.9, repr. in col. p.8
Green's earliest mature paintings (c.1967–9) operate within a rigid grid format but around 1972 he began to make what he refers to as ‘block’ paintings, much more loosely painted works which nevertheless retain (though more informally) the blocked-out division of the earlier grids. In the block paintings, Green first began to experiment with achieving unity of surface predominantly through paint rather than through underlying geometric structure. Around 1972–3 he began to emphasise what had been the upright divisions in the original grid lay-outs, in a series of vertical columnar compositions which contrasted hard-edged with more informal passages of paint but which, like the ‘blocks’ were made by contrasting near transparent washes with built up areas - usually opaque bands of paint in near monochrome blues or blacks. ‘Check’, which is an early example of these ‘column’ works, is closely related in size, treatment and composition to a number of Green's paintings of the same year, in particular to the following, all illustrated in the catalogue for Green's exhibition at the Kunsthalle, Bielefeld in 1979; ‘Side by Side’ (62); ‘Towards Grey’ (7); ‘Status Quo’ (10); ‘Limbo’ (9) and the slightly earlier ‘Four in the Morning’ 1972 (5).
In 1973 Green wrote (Studio International, loc.cit.) that the works of 1973 and the ‘block’ paintings before them came about through ‘a need to use more of myself, having felt completely hemmed in by the grid paintings’. He started working in a freer way around the summer of 1971 when he first laid a piece of unstretched canvas over a small table and ran a paint roller over it, then moved the canvas and repeated the operation. In the same article, written in the year when most of the ‘column’ paintings were produced, Green wrote, ‘I think what I like about columns is that they have a different kind of speed from blocks. I did try to go straight into columns. But it doesn't really work, because they end up like stripes. The best paintings with columns happen because they merge together, and I find this merging a very difficult situation to force.’ He also noted that at this stage, he liked his paintings to ‘declare their history’ and how the progress of a painting might be conditioned by certain painterly occurrences (for example dripping paint), which were originally accidents.
He admitted to being wary of the intrusion of too many chance elements but ‘I find you've got to have a few bonuses in a painting. For instance, how it dries. I put in more cobalt in a painting illustrated here (T03835) and when it dried the violet took over more than I thought it would. I think this one came a bit early, it put me off my stride.’
By 1974, paintings like ‘Four Greys Don't Make Black’ (Bielefeld, 1979, 12) with its more regular vertical banding, signalled the advent of simpler monochrome compositions and hint at Green's later polyptych arrangements, which the strong vertical emphasis in paintings like ‘Check’ also appears to anticipate.
The artist has written (letter to the compiler, 18 May 1986):
‘Check’ was one of the first attempts to move from block paintings to a less divided field. I remember at the time I felt slightly ‘expressionist’ because of the large colour washes eventually covered by black. It must also be the first time I really used details like taped lines to slow some areas down against the free washes of acrylic.
This entry has been approved by the artist.
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986