Brice Marden

Couplet III

1988–9

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 2740 x 1520 x 65 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with assistance from an anonymous donor 1990
Reference
T05723

Display caption

At the beginning of the 1980s, Marden adopted a fluid and expressive style that was influenced by Eastern mysticism and calligraphy. He painted loose serpentine curves and made marks resembling hieroglyphs, that he joined into vertical columns. The resulting webs evoke crystal structures or a mesh of roots and branches. Marden's paintings are often the result of a studied contemplation of nature: 'You are observing nature and yet you are just trying to respond to it. When you draw a tree you get a certain kind of energy¿ just by drawing the way it grows.'

Gallery label, August 2004

Technique and condition

The following entry is based on an interview with the artist held on 24 February 1992.

Marden prepared his canvas by stretching double oil primed Berge's linen canvas onto a foldable stretcher manufactured by Quali-T-Creations of Long Island City, New York. The folding stretcher was necessary to allow the canvas to pass down the staircase leading to his studio. The priming was lightly sanded with a fine grit sandpaper before painting, producing a smooth, hard surface suited to the linear, calligraphic application of thinned, translucent oil paint.

Marden uses several makes of artists' oil colours. In this work he probably painted with Winsor and Newton's and Grumbacher's vine black and terre verte. He particularly valued the pale apple green of Grumbacher's terre verte which is a purified earth pigment. The oil colours are thinned with turpineol, a viscous fraction of turpentine, and applied with long handled brushes and painting knives. Alterations were made by erasing wet paint with paper towels or scraping down dried paint with knives, leaving feint traces behind. One of a series, the painting was developed over many months. All the decisions Marden made, from the first mark to the last, remain visible on the canvas whether as positive applications of paint or the ghosts of erased lines.

The painting is neither varnished or framed.