Michael Moon



Acrylic paint, wood veneer, graphite, ink, paper tape and metal tacks on canvas
Overall: 1270 x 1700 x 80 mm
Purchased 1976

Catalogue entry

T02073 DRAWING 1976

Not inscribed
Acrylic on canvas, 48 × 66 (120.9 × 167.6)
Purchased from the Waddington Galleries (Grant-in-Aid) 1976
Exh: Michael Moon, Tate Gallery, June–July 1976 (13, repr. in colour on poster)

Drawing’ was made in the artist's studio in Addison Gardens, London, W.14, during January and February 1976. It was the eighth completed work in a rough series, of which the first surviving work was ‘Northlight’, made in 1975. These works were markedly different from the series of ‘strip paintings’ made of acrylic on plastic, the last of which had been completed in 1973. The development and construction of this earlier series is described, with reference to ‘Untitled’ 1970 (T01255), in Tate Gallery Acquisitions, 1970–72, pp.156–8. The new works all involved the painting both of a surface and a piece of canvas, placing them together, and when dry, or nearly dry, pulling the canvas away bringing with it the paint and an impression from the surface. Initially Moon used the wall of his studio as a surface, and then he made an impression from the floor, soon followed by the coating and ‘casting’ of complete objects in the studio: a ladder and trestle tables. These impressions on canvas, for which the canvas was wrapped completely around an object, were then glued together giving a soft canvas version of that object.

‘Drawing’ is made of four impressions taken from two drawing boards. The artist remembered that he had originally intended to make a single impression from an old drawing board that was lying in his studio. He hoped to make something that was in between the ‘paintings’ made of folds of canvas with impressions from the wall and floor like ‘Northlight’, and ‘objects’, the casts of studio objects which were displayed by him in plastic bags. The drawing board ‘cast’ could provide something that was both painting and object. It is taken from an imperial size drawing board, and the first impression was the top right panel of the work. The residue of old paint, stains, graining, cutting marks, and pieces of resin, are all visible on the surface of the panel. The procedure used was to coat the board on all sides with paint, then to coat the canvas, and to wrap the canvas completely around the board, leaving enough space for gluing together when removed. The paint was left to dry for about thirty six hours, the length of time depending on how hard Moon wanted it to set. The harder the paint became, the more residue would be removed from the board. The artist stressed that this was very much a matter of intuition, and that he had learnt about the adhesive qualities of paint by lengthy practice. After removal, the canvas was reversed and glued together again to give an all-round impression of the board. In the other three panels the seams between the pieces of canvas are visible, but in the first impression Moon wanted the seam to be at the back. The panels are supported on the wall by a piece of wood running under the top edge of the panel, glued in before the canvas was sealed up. There is no other stretcher inside and the works are left hanging and pliable.

The colour of paint for the first panel (top right) was selected in order to imitate the colour of the wood of the drawing board, a yellow ochre colour. By contrast, the second impression from the same drawing board was made using black paint, a reference to the black colour of pencil drawing. This second panel (bottom right) uses the same ‘board’ but upside down and back to front, with seam outward. The paint was left to dry longer, and the wood from the board has been partially torn away, giving the wood grain effect on the black paint. The third panel (top left) was made from an impression of a different drawing board, using white paint, chosen to refer to paper and to contrast with the black paint of the previous panel. Here drawings in pencil and biro have been lifted by the paint from the surface. The artist thought that they may have been done as doodles when he was a student. They include criss-cross patterning in the top right hand corner, and two outlines of hands at the top in the centre. The seam, which is to the front again, was papered over in one place with brown gummed paper, both to hold the seam, and to imitate the remnants of paper usually found on a board. The fourth panel (bottom left) was made from an impression of the same board as the third, but has been arranged hanging the other way up and was made with diagonal seams. Because seams had appeared in the previous two panels (which they would not have done if Moon had chosen what are now the backs as the outward surfaces), Moon decided to ‘cancel these out’ by making prominent seams in the last panel. In the third and fourth panels, the same green paint is visible at top left and bottom right, and the same criss-cross drawing at top right and bottom left. The two left hand panels had thinner coats of paint than the two on the right, but each panel had the same amount on back and front. The joints in the wood of the original boards are visible down the side of each panel, and the artist said that it was important that the use of the drawing board was as clear as possible. When the panels had been placed together he pinned a large sheet of paper over all four, with four drawing pins in the furthest corner of each, and then ripped the paper away.

The artist indicated that the creation of an illusion, the appearance of a painted surface, which is, in reality, only a painted background with old paint and marks attached was a strong intention of the work. This was trompe l'oeil turned about, so that, by example, the grain of wood looked similar to Braque's ‘wood-graining’ effect, which was a simulation of real wood. The drawing board was ‘half-way to being a painting already’ and was a very suitable subject for the illusion of the paint surfaces. Moon has subsequently used the drawing board as a basic element in many works, often setting off other objects against it. He had been asked to make a poster image for his exhibition at the Tate Gallery (op. cit.) and had that in mind as he was working on ‘Drawing’. He was also working on other works which were exhibited at the same time, but he had decided that this would be the most suitable for the poster. In all these works he liked the way that the paint remaining from earlier paintings should reappear in a new way.

This catalogue entry is based on a conversation with the artist (18 May 1978), and has been approved by him.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979