Victor Newsome

Two Craters (Two Blind Holes)

1963

Not on display
Artist
Victor Newsome born 1935
Medium
Fibreglass, resin, wood and metal
Dimensions
Object: 1460 x 1450 x 320 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 2013
Reference
T13879

Summary

Two Craters (Two Blind Holes) 1963 is an almost square canvas and fibreglass structure built up over a wooden armature, all held within a carved and studded wooden frame. From a fleshily smooth yet patinated surface two protruding holes push forward, as described by the title. When the work was first exhibited at the Grabowski Gallery, London in 1964, it was under the title Two Blind Holes, suggestive of body parts and a troubling loss of sense. More recently, however, it has assumed the title Two Craters, which is more abstract and geological in connotation, followed by the original title in brackets. The ambiguity of reading that this suggests was very much a concern of Newsome’s, something the critic William Packer has explained with regard to his sculptures of this period: ‘His clear preoccupation … was not so much with form and mass modelled and established for themselves, but rather with the definition and encapsulation of space as itself an entity, if only ideally so, with all its innate physical contradictions, ambiguities and problematical illusions’ (William Packer, ‘Victor Newsome’, in Victor Newsome: Paintings and Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Marlborough Fine Art, London 1987, p.6).

Between 1962 and 1963 Newsome taught at Leicester School of Art under Tom Hudson, then Head of Foundation Studies, alongside a number of artists who became known as the Leicester Group – notably Christina Bertoni, Laurence Burt, Michael Chilton, Michael Sandle and Terry Setch. They exhibited together as a group in 1963 in an exhibition at Leicester Museum and then the following year in an exhibition curated by the critic Jasia Reichardt at the Grabowski Gallery in London, under the title The Inner Image. Making objects rather than sculptures, these artists, Reichardt argued, produce work that is ‘abstract to a degree … not directly evocative of any definite subject, but they often make oblique allusions to something quite specific’, noting how Newsome in particular creates ‘effigies representing the personal responses to very diverse themes which are often simultaneously socio-philosophical comments on the world at large’ (Jasia Reichardt, ‘The Leicester Group’, in Grabowski Gallery 1964, unpaginated).

Reichardt explained how removed the artists of the Leicester Group were from the prevailing trends of contemporary art found in London – action painting, large-scale non-tactile abstraction, hard-edge painting, new figuration, optical painting and kinetic art – allying them solely to broad categories of ‘object-making and assemblage’ (Reichardt 1964, unpaginated). Even though they were involved in popular culture and the stuff of the urban environment, they did not approach such sources in a celebratory way but instead in terms of ‘cryptic hints and symbolic references’ (Reichardt 1964, unpaginated). Newsome’s transformations of body and machine echo similar explorations found within pop art, but the fetishistic sensuality of Two Craters (Two Blind Holes) or the totemic power of the slightly later work Broken Cross 1964 (Tate T13880) – a road sign fragment acting as a head – also bridge the gap between pop and the personal obsessions previously unlocked through surrealism.

Two Craters (Two Blind Holes) was exhibited in The Inner Image at the Grabowski Gallery in 1964.

Further reading
The Inner Image, exhibition catalogue, Grabowski Gallery, London 1964, no.22.
Victor Newsome, exhibition catalogue, Grabowski Gallery, London 1966.
Transition: The Inner Image Revisited, exhibition catalogue, Art Space Gallery, London 2011.

Andrew Wilson
December 2012

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