Catalogue entry

T01917 HAZARD COLLAGE, 32 ELEMENTS 1971

Inscribed ‘Jack Smith 1971’ b.r.
Ink, pencil and collage, 21 5/8×28 1/4 (55.6×75.6)
Purchased from Mrs Monika Kinley (Grant-in-Aid) 1974

The following catalogue entry is based on a discussion with the artist and is approved by him.

Since 1969 Jack Smith has made a series of collages in which he used a large accumulation of collage elements (‘a box of information’) he has gathered together. Most of the collages were executed 1969–72 and, at this period, each had the general title of ‘Hazard collage’; they were titled thus as the number and order of collage elements used was not predetermined before starting work. First a piece of collage was selected and cut into a rectangular shape of the size desired and placed on the paper in a position judged approximately; then, usually, drawn elements would be added which might complement or ‘visually fight’ with the collage element. Further collage and drawn elements would be added, usually alternately, until the work was considered to be complete. The pieces of collage were chosen for their quality of tone, density or line. Smith often worked on two or three different collages simultaneously; collage elements were sometimes moved from one position to another on the same sheet of paper or even to another work, ‘making additions and subtractions’.

Smith has written on the hazard collages in the catalogue of his exhibition of recent paintings and drawings at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, January–February 1971: 'The hazard drawings: one collage area would be established first. Then there would be an attempt to develop or suppress it.

‘It became important to establish firmly the two different worlds-the real and the unreal. For the sake of visual argument I accepted the collage sections as a kind of reality. This allowed the work to develop in a particular way, but in the final result, this hypothesis was of very little importance.’

Smith describes such collages as T01917 as ‘the trace of an activity’ and ‘the visual itinerary of a particular experience, which, though not relevant to the spectator is very relevant to the way I made it. Sometimes I have in mind a visual score, which is to be read on time but which must still have a pictorial unity as a whole.’ Smith says that what he wrote of his work in 1965 (London Magazine, March, p.68) is still relevant: ‘I think of my paintings as diagrams of an experience or sensation... The closer the painting is to a diagram or graph, the nearer it is to my intention.’

Since the early 1960s Smith has liked to use in his works a combination of pictorial elements some of which do, and others do not, suggest illusory space. Such combinations, says the artist, may suggest contradictions and cause anxiety in the spectator.

T01917 was given the title Hazard Collage 32 Elements as the total number of collage and drawn elements is 32. With the exception of that at the bottom left, which is part of a reproduction of a Picasso print and was used in the work as a printed line element, the sources of the collage elements are unknown. Smith cannot remember the position of the first piece of collage used in the work.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978