Catalogue entry

Bill Jacklin b. 1943

T01494 Catena 1970

Inscribed ‘“Catena” Jacklin 70’ b.r.
Pen and ink on paper, image size 18 x 18 (45.7 x 45.7); paper size 29 x 29 (73.6 x 73.6).
Purchased from the Nigel Greenwood Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1972.
Exh: Nigel Greenwood Gallery, December 1971–January 1972 (no catalogue). In 1970–1 Jacklin produced eight pen and ink drawings; the images were roughly 18 in. square on paper 29 in. square. They were done with ordinary Rotring drawing ink and a Rapidograph pen, and were named ‘Catena’ (T01494), ‘Duet’, ‘Berun’, ‘Anderun’, ‘Tertiary’, ‘Augustine I’, ‘Augustine II’ and ‘Vibrato’.

He told the compiler that ‘Catena’ is made up of very small ink strokes, a feature which relates it to ‘Duet’ in the Arts Council Collection. Because of the size of the marks, he spent three months on each of these drawings, in contrast to the seven or eight days spent on the other drawings in which the ink strokes arc broader and less tightly ordered. ‘Catena’ and ‘Duct’ also differ from the other six drawings in that the image is exactly 18 in. square. The marks were so small that it was necessary to contain them within a regular form. The size of the different textures and surfaces in the drawings were determined by the extent to which he could physically produce these marks by a particular hand movement. He also turned the drawing and worked on it from all four sides. The main viewpoint of the drawing is indicated by the position of the signature at the bottom, but it can also be viewed from the other sides.

Later he wrote (30 March 1972): ‘Most of my career has been an attempt to make visual my recognition of the individual effects of matter on matter. In 1968 I began a series of drawings to study the structural possibilities inherent in a non-figurative line. As the passage of light across a solid identifies that solid, so I try to identify a space on a canvas or a sheet of paper by relating one line to another.

‘“Catena” which means chain or connected series, was the first of a set of eight rapidograph drawings which I completed in 1971. This series followed an initial set of twenty 9 in. drawings executed between 1968 and 1970 and a further thirty 7 in., 8 in., and 9 in. drawings done over the same period of time. The titles of these works have a wide range of reference, however, throughout the whole body there is a recurring emphasis on order. This is the specific idea which the titles are intended to convey to the viewer.

‘“Catena’s” linear complexity could only be achieved after I had worked on many simpler pieces. It was not until 1971 that I could bring together in one work structures which had previously been developed separately.

‘I am pursuing this process because I want to parallel the rhythmic repetition of symmetrical units that is at the basis of the natural order from the micro-cosmic to the cosmic. In the living world the scale is so various that I can find units of the strictest symmetry and, at the other extreme, units that, as a group, appear to manifest themselves in asymmetry.

‘Catena’ is a drawing in which I tried to study this apparent asymmetry, this monacular complexity. By this process I occasionally know the limits of the question I am posing as I draw, but never can I know the limits of the living order from which it springs. Each of the works endeavours to be a precise statement that sums up one of the structural linear processes I have observed. Sometimes the line manifests itself in a pen-mark or a stroke of colour, and at other times in a painted surface. The line is the visual manifestation of my gesture; it is the acting link between my attitude and the physical world. Each time I make a line I hope to reach out to both the physical world and the metaphysical world. This is the duality I strive after.’

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.