David Hall b. 1937
T01210 Nine 1967
Nine elements of laminboard coated with polyurethane paint, overall dimensions, 3 x 204 x 216 (7.5 x 518 x 549).
Purchased from the artist (Gytha Trust) 1970.
Exh: Cinquième Biennale de Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne dc la Ville de Paris, 1967 (Hall, 2); Hall, Hemsworth, Peskell, Dunlop, Royal Institute Galleries, January 1968 (no catalogue). This work consists of nine pieces of laminboard of irregular shape raised a few inches above the ground and placed on the floor with small spaces between them. Though actually parallel to the floor, they appear to curl upwards or twist downwards.
The artist wrote (letter of 24 April 1972): ‘This sculpture was one of a series of ground-plane pieces which I first started to make in 1966. Most of them were made of wood or some form of plastic.
‘Works before this time had been more complex welded steel structures, and I had introduced colour into them as early as 1960. However, I fairly soon discontinued the use of colour considering it to be purely additive: an impingement on the sense of physicality. Consequently white, or near-neutral hues were favoured as being least obtrusive in this respect.
‘I also began to reconsider the assumed validity of “internality” and the single identity of object-sculpture. There had been for instance the thoughts that, either sculpture possessed mysterious indefinable properties which detached it from the effect of its immediate surroundings; or that our perceptual control is such that visual comprehension can be isolated to the work alone. These became no longer acceptable, unless one were to continue to hold the notions of a totally extraneous Art context.
‘Consequently, consideration was given to the specific relationship of the work and its surrounds (wherever it might be). A direct “perceptual dialogue” seemed necessary between the two.
‘In particular, “physical/spatial improbabilities” were induced through the work so as to effect an interaction with the normal perceptual coordinates we subconsciously use to measure the nature of any given situation (in this case the sculpture’s context).
‘The art became the conceptual attempt to reappraise the opposing perceptual conditions. It was no longer confined to the bounds of the work itself.
‘Around’ 1966 the actual physical state of the work was restricted to the ground- plane. Visual cues of extent (distance) were considered to be essentially related by the common surface (the ground). The manipulation of space (i.e. sculpture) is the delineation of distance. Vertical, or angled parts, were discarded as being secondary, functioning only to punctuate the eye’s “travel” across space.
‘These ground plane pieces (e.g. NINE) were usually “simple” configurations, and were fairly large somewhere between fourteen and twenty feet square. It was important to set up a perceptual interaction between the expected and the unexpected. Mostly the configurations were based on a square. Not for any “aesthetic” reasons, but because the perimeters of a square (two sets of parallels) are “easily” identified as straight lines defining an extent when set obliquely to the eye. Added to this, an oblique “square-like” configuration is more readily assumed to be a square tilted than an odd shape being like any other odd shape. This assumption is manipulated in these pieces. There is disparity between the notions of perspective in a stable order (the room in which the work’s seen), and the “distorted” perspective of the tilted square’s “parallels”.
‘Size was also important. A small square set on the ground can be looked down upon like a square hanging on a wall. It is seen at right angles to the eye, and any changes to its basic configuration arc easily reconciled. A square too large simply becomes a plane, the perimeters have a lesser function to the eye. The area between was the one that most interested me; the area where a paradox exists between assumed perceptual values, and actuality.
‘(The components in Nine are in fact “small” square-like figures, but seen set out together with their “parallel” perimeters visually linking they merge as one. The floor spaces between each then function directly as part of the sculpture).’
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.