Summary

One of Michael Kidner’s earliest attempts at working in three dimensions, Column in Front of its Own Image II consists of a painting and a fibreglass column on a small, square wooden base. The column is related to the painting and the artist has said that the column is to be shown on a plinth in proximity to the painting.

Towards the end of the 1950s Kidner became concerned with making abstract paintings that employed the repetition of simple forms and colour in order to achieve optical illusions, such as vibrating effects, moiré patterns, an exaggerated sense of depth, foreground-background confusion and impression of movement. A number of 1960s works on paper presented to Tate by the artist in 2001 (Tate T07785-Tate T07790) illustrate some of the developments in his exploration of optical illusions. In 1965 Kidner participated in The Responsive Eye at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, a major optical art exhibition that also included work by artists such as Ellsworth Kelly (born 1923), Morris Louis (1912-1962) and Bridget Riley (born 1931).

By 1964 Kidner had started to cross two flat horizontal bands of colour with a third, thus creating wave-like secondary images. He developed an enduring interest in the reproduction of the wave in different ways, using arrangements of colour as form. This eventually led to his experimenting with sculpture.

Kidner started to make sculptures of wave forms in London in 1969. Column in Front of its Own Image II belongs to this period. These early wave sculptures, soon to become a trademark shape, were snaking columns with four facets. As a result of reproducing the wave in three dimensions, at least two profiles and faces of the column were visible from any angle. This meant that different wave surfaces were brought into relation with each other and opened up a whole new set of possibilities for the artist, who started to explore these relationships in paint.

Critic Peter Brades has explained that the painting in Column in Front of its Own Image II ‘shows the faces and, more importantly, the curves between the faces as the column is rotated clockwise. Three of the four faces are shown, with the vertical stripes recording six turns of 15 degrees from face to face, reading the canvas from left to right. The colours are coded from the spectrum, with red representing the curve on the edge nearest the spectators and blue the farthest, the valleys.’ (Michael Kidner, London 1984, p.42.) Kidner placed the column in front of its two-dimensional development on canvas in order to explore the further relationships created by their proximity. He has said: ‘It is the area between the second and third dimension which interests me – the order which lies between imagination and reality.’ (Kidner 1994, p.11.)

Further reading
Michael Kidner: Painting, Drawing, Sculpture 1959-84, exhibition catalogue, Serpentine Gallery, London 1984, reproduced p.43 in colour.
Michael Kidner: At-tension to the Wave, exhibition catalogue, Center for International Contemporary Art, New York 1990
Michael Kidner, The Kidner Column: A Collection of Writings, 1994-1970, Forest Row, East Sussex 1994

Giorgia Bottinelli
March 2003