View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Gapscape is a portfolio consisting of thirteen prints, produced by the artist in an edition of sixty. Tate owns the artist’s proofs of five of the prints from the suite. Meyer lived in New York and London for seven years during the 1970s. Gapscape was made on his return to his native Melbourne, Australia in 1979.
The prints incorporate montages of photographs, the colour and focus of which the artist manipulated during the printing process. The photographs, taken in the United States and Israel in the late 1970s, depict large gaps between rocks and paving stones. In the Gapscape prints, the photographic images are overlaid with expressive abstract line drawings. Meyer made the drawings by hand in charcoal on acetate and then transferred them on to the screenprints. There is a tension in the prints between the mechanically reproduced image and the mark-making of drawing superimposed afterwards.
In the prints Meyer uses fissures in the surface of the earth to convey his experience of interstices in the creative process. He has written, ‘Gapscape is built on the exploration of the void which falls between the conception and the creation, between the emotion and the response. The Gap is the crack in the void’ (quoted in Eden, p.6). Meyer’s gaps, like the slashes in the canvases of Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), suggest points of entry into another realm.
An enlarged and distorted photograph dominates a large rectangular area near the top of Bereshit Bara. The black and white photograph is tinted so that the pale areas are rendered in light blue. The partially obscured image depicts a section of barren ground split by a wide gouge. Long grass and weeds grow up through the gap and extend on to the pavement. The image is bisected by two parallel diagonal lines in black. The serpentine shapes of the grass in the photograph are echoed by curved lines superimposed over the image. These lines, in black and khaki green, extend beyond the picture to the right and spill out below it.
The photographic image is framed by a series of dark shapes above and below it. Three slim rectangles line the top of the print. They are echoed by larger rectangles along the bottom edge. Between the photograph and the lower line of rectangles a more irregular shape appears. Its craggy shape recalls the silhouette of a mountain range. It too is dark; like the rectangles it is constructed with a wash of black over green. Over the top of these shapes a mass of short lines cluster.
Bereshit Bara are the first two words of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, in Hebrew. They translate as ‘in the beginning’. During the period when Meyer made these prints he was rediscovering and exploring his Jewish heritage.
Bill Meyer: Gapscape, exhibition catalogue, Geelong Art Gallery, Victoria; Holdsworth Galleries, Sydney, and touring, 1982, reproduced p.9.
Eva Eden, ‘Bill Meyer Survey Exhibition’, Imprint, vol.34, no.1, Autumn 1999, pp.6-7.
Jaynie Anderson and Bill Meyer, Bill Meyer: Screenprints Documentations Photography, exhibition leaflet, University of Exeter, 1973.