Phillip King b. 1934
T01361 Dunstable Reel 1970
Painted steel, 77½ x 199½ x 162¼ (197 x 507 x 413).
Presented by Alistair McAlpine 1971.
Exh: Rowan Gallery, July 1970; The Alistair McAlpine Gift, 1971 (24, repr. in colour and black-and-white).
Lit: Anne Seymour, in catalogue of The Alistair McAlpine Gift, 1971, pp.65–71.
The sculpture is in an edition of three, plus one artist’s copy. The second version belongs to the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the third to Leicestershire Education Authority. King’s conception of Dunstable Reel’ arose from seeing his sculptures ‘Call’ and ‘Blue Blaze’ on exhibition at his one-man show at the White-chapel Gallery 1968. He had already seen ‘environmental’ sculpture at the Primary Structures exhibition, Jewish Museum, New York, 1966. King said he wanted to make more ‘flexible open’ sculptures; however he thought that if his open sculptures each comprised a group of arranged forms, he might be distracted by mere visual arrangement. The artist is concerned that his sculptures should be appreciated as more than the relationship and articulation of certain forms. He decided to introduce more space into his sculptures, but in the case of T01361 continued to append the forms together. He also wanted to make sculpture which could be set up either indoors or in the open air. He was interested that the sculpture would be subject to light changes in the open air, and thus the effects of the sculpture would be dependent upon external conditions. The artist made two ‘Reels’, ‘Reel I’ 1969, and ‘Dunstable Reel’ 1970. ‘Reel I’ is painted green and red: ‘Dunstable Reel’ yellow and red-violet. Both sculptures comprise a set of forms cut from thin sheet steel, which arc placed and welded together to form a cubic shape. The group of forms seem to unfold from each other, establishing, ‘an infinite set of changes, akin to a dance’. ‘Dunstable Reel’ differs from ‘Reel I’ in that the elements appear to confront each other more massively, at least one of the pieces seems to be ballast, and the warm yellow and deep violet contrast forcibly. The artist said (conversation 1971): ‘It is a much more heavy thing, a slow lift and movement of one thing against another rather than a tip-toe jumpy thing’.
The artist first made a model in hardboard and wood, and a steel version was made for King by a factory: but he participated in its construction at all times.
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.