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Richard Smith b. 1931
Ten vacuum-formed screen prints, each 23¿ x 19¿ x (60 x 50 x4).
Purchased from the Waddington Galleries (Winifred Evans Fund and Gytha Trust) 1972.
P07225 F. Blue-Orange
Inscribed ‘32/75 R. Smith 71’ b.l.
The following information is based on a conversation with the artist in July 1972.
The formal ideas for the LOGO vacuum-formed prints originated in 1969, although they were not published until 1971. The artist did three paintings on the same lines, but with a total of eight in mind, in Italy in the summer of 1969 for the Galleria dell Ariete, Milan. (Two of them still remain in its collection). Three of the prints repeat the same format as the original paintings.
Smith used the device of two or more basically rectangular units butted together frequently in 1968 and 1969. In the winter of 1968–9 he made a series of paintings also for the Galleria dell’Ariete (exhibited there in February 1969) entitled ‘True North’, ‘East Gate’, ‘Southern Limit’, ‘Western Stile’, about which he has said (Pre-occupations, XXXV, Venice Biennale, 1970): ‘There was this opening in the centre, a kind of a gate, a primitive gate structure. One was thinking of ways of putting two things together and three things together, making an arch or some kind of structure with an entrance in if, a very low entrance... ‘And there are formal connections too with the bigger five-panel pictures from 1969 such as ‘Riverfall’ (T01161) and ‘Amazone’ (coll. the Hon. James Dugdale).
For the present series six half-shapes were made and differently juxtaposed. Two of the prints are somewhat isolated in the sequence of ten by being mirror images, with the units aligned symmetrically, whereas all the others are different and asymmetrical in conjunction.
The grid which Smith uses here in an all-over way for the first time, except in the two symmetrical prints ‘where it covers the entire area of the print’, is confined chiefly to the central projecting area. The prints were conceived first of all without the grid; it came in later as a purely practical consideration.
One of the reasons why the series took such a long time to produce was because of the technical problems involved. Roughly speaking the procedure was that first the artist made the pairs of shapes, which were to be vacuum-formed, in canvas: ‘sort of mini paintings’. These were then filled in at the back with resin. A trial run of the shape was then made on a gridded piece of plastic to see how it would distort a flat surface in 3D.
The colour is printed on both sides of clear plastic which successfully destroys any unpleasant quality of ‘plasticness’ about the material. It also gives the artist considerable play with illusory depth and actual depth, the scribbled and hatched lines of drawing being sometimes on the surface and sometimes behind it.
Apparently Smith had wanted to make vacuum-formed prints since he started making 3D paintings (and had found his earlier 3D ‘Sphinx’ prints technically unsatisfactory). But he had always thought that in order to get the mould for vacuum-forming, the shape would have to be made, even carved, in plaster, which would falsify the whole idea of the taut curved surface he was using in the paintings. However when he started using very thick polyurethane paint it seemed that the surface of the pictures was becoming so tough that it might be possible to make a direct cast after all. And although doing this directly turned out not to be feasible, the firm he approached came up with the alternative idea of strengthening the canvas shapes by filling them with resin.
The series is lettered through from A-K simply for purposes of identification. The order in which the prints are listed is arbitrary, and not the order in which they were conceived. The letter I is omitted from the sequence in order to avoid confusion with the first Roman numeral.
The prints were published by the Waddington Galleries Ltd. The printing was done with Christopher Prater at Kelpra Press and the vacuum forming by Rutherford Plastics Ltd, Hayes, Middlesex.
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.