Jeremy Moon 1934–73
T01842 No.5/73 1973
Inscribed ‘JM / No5/73 60 x28 in /-/2–73’ on the back, t.r., with arrows indicating the top, and ‘JM TOP Jeremy Moon19/2/73’ on the upper turnover of canvas.
Canvas, 6o¼ x 28 (153 x 71).
Purchased through the Rowan Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1974.
Exh: Rowan Gallery, May 1973 (unnumbered); Contemporary British Art, Rochdale Art Gallery, August1973 (35, as ‘White Painting’); Jeremy Moon Memorial Exhibition, Rowan Gallery, January1974 (unnumbered).
The painting is included in the artist’s illustrated record of his paintings on a sheet entitled ‘small works72/3’. A companion picture in blue and orange is listed beside it: ‘No.6/73’ (60 x 36 in.) exhibited with the Tate painting in Moon’s 1973 exhibition at the Rowan Gallery. Both works also feature on a sheet of sketches made by the artist to show the works to be included in that exhibition.
Alex Gregory-Hood told the compiler (letter of 25 April 1974) that the painting ‘was done... at a time when he [Moon] was thinking in sculptural terms of a feeling of cutting into a surface, whether as paint on canvas or three-dimensionally as sculpture. In fact in 1972 he produced a sculpture which was a floor piece made of hardboard sections… This was shown in the same exhibition as“5/73” [May1973]and the two were quite clearly related visually.’
The sculpture is ‘No.3 D2/72’ (oil on hardboard, 2¾ x 96 x 122 in.). During the early sixties the artist made several pieces of sculpture, but this was only Moon’s second work in that medium since1964. (The first was made from a corrugated piece of asbestos.) Nevertheless his paintings generally involved a sense of space, of balanced tensions, of displacement of colour areas, which was conceptually three dimensional. And colour, shape and line were always treated as having physical existence.
The artist’s use of a grid also goes back to his earliest mature work (see T01841),although in the early stages the grid is concealed or only partly evident. Most of his paintings on the theme up to 1973 were concerned with regular (albeit sometimes disrupted) grids of various, kinds, but Moon also experimented, particularly in drawings with all-over irregular, organic divisions of the canvas.
Dozens of drawings, on innumerable sheets of typing paper or scrap material, exist to show the development of the artist’s ideas in relation to the theme of the Tate painting. They range from rough linear pen and pencil sketches, several to a sheet, to a couple of larger coloured drawings in pastel. Both of these are signed and dated ‘4/9/72’ and one of them, of two drawings with yellow lines on white, incorporates ideas very close to the Tate picture, although the latter was not completed until five or six months later.
The basis of the drawings is a single, double or occasionally triple diagonal, or at least off-vertical linear division of the rectangular picture surface along its entire length, forming shifting rectangularish planes. The horizontal dividing lines which run out like branches from the basic root/s form irregular rhomboid and triangular shapes in many different configurations. Together they form a continuously changing web constructed from the simplest possible means—line and space. Among related preliminary sketches are a number based on the concept of the spider’s web; one of them supporting a large triangle in the centre is entitled ‘spyder’. Another has the caption ‘joints’. However we can be sure that no external reference was intended in the painting, and from the late sixties the artist generally avoided titles which could mean one thing to the spectator and quite another to himself.
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.