Derek Southall b.1930
T01562 2 HWP 2 Al’Entrada del Temps Clar 1972
Acrylic and oil paint on canvas, brass eyelets, ropes, 99½ x 124(250.2 x 314).
Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1972.
Repr: Revue des Beaux Arts (Florida), February–March 1973, p.14.
Unless otherwise stated information and quotations are taken from two letters to the compiler from the artist of 7 March and 7 April 1973.
From 1960/61–68 the artist was painting shaped canvases, the images of which became ‘between 1968 and 1970... dense and mingled in response to [his] desire to get “everything” in.’ During this period he returned to the traditional rectangular format, but in May 1970 he ‘came to see the stretcher as an encumbrance—it too made a shape the firm rectangle. It gave the work spurious authority. Like a frame it was left over from picturesque, window-frame easel pictures. Doing without it liberated what John Russell referred to in Studio International (March 1968) as “an exasperated energy casting around for fuller expression”.’(Artist’s statement, catalogue of his ICA exhibition 7 October–7 November 1971).Southall painted his first unstretched painting, thereafter called HWP (hanging wall piece or ‘soft’ painting) in June 1970, the application of paint, however, developing from the previous shaped paintings. In the first group of these hanging wall pieces there were thirty-six paintings, each chronologically numbered within its group.
While working on a large commission for the Department of the Environment at the beginning of 1972 his work (in the artist’s words) ‘seemed to have opened out (becoming) less complex in a miniscule way more air in it or something’. He thereafter designated these works‘2 HWP’ (followed as in the previous group, by the number of each individual painting within the group).
T01562 was, therefore, the second work in ‘these second development paintings’, and done in March 1972.
Over the last four years (at the time of writing) the artist has been working with a mixture of water and oil paint ‘having found innumerable ways of making them dry together. Using the immiscible media together (that is at the same time) means I have literally extended the medium. I can get an unlimited variety of marks without preciosity and yet maintain a sort of “non” control’.
The artist uses untreated canvas and the paint is applied with brushes and hands only, as he feels that a spray gun is ‘not controllable enough’.
He described the painting process: ‘If the canvas has been stored there will be creases. I do not worry about them. The canvas goes on the floor not quite flat. Its buckles are the first hint. The paint—when very wet increases the tendency to buckle. I let it. The painting maintains something of the disposition of the surface from the beginning’.
When the artist feels works are completed he usually pins them up and ‘looks at them for a while.’ sometimes deciding ‘to repaint the whole damn thing or perhaps merely to invert it or leave it alone’. Rope is then glued around the edges to prevent fraying and brass eyelets (of which there are four in this work) inserted.
Not all the hanging wall pieces have titles. The artist discussed the title of T01562as follows: ‘Some of the second period HWP’s have bits of troubadour songs as titles. They are not to be taken literally, although there may well be some esoteric connections. (I enjoy myself thinking of the titles well after the event—but I try to give a clue to what I think the painting’s flavour is).’ A l’entrada del temps clar is one of the songs by an anonymous composer on the record Chansons of the Troubadours: Songs and music of the 12th century (Das AlteWerk, SAWT9567—B) and means ‘at the entrance (beginning) of the clear season—or if you like the start of clarity’, relating, therefore to the artist’s remarks above about the second group of paintings appearing ‘opened out’.
At the time of writing (March 1973) the artist is working on very large hanging wall pieces relating to ‘the colour bands of the Palindromes and Journeys’ which are shaped canvases painted in 1967 and 1968–70 respectively.
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.