William Turnbull



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Not on display
William Turnbull 1922–2012
Painted steel
Object: 1655 x 765 x 560 mm
Presented by Alistair McAlpine (later Lord McAlpine of West Green) 1970

Catalogue entry

William Turnbull b. 1922

T01385 Two 1965

Not inscribed.
Steel, painted white, 65¿ x 30 x 22 (166.5 x 76 x 56).
Presented by Alistair McAlpine 1971.
Exh: Newport Harbor Pavilion Gallery, Balboa, California, March–April 1966 (unpainted; 19, repr.); The Alistair McAlpine Gift, Tate Gallery, June–August 1971 (50, repr.).
Lit: Richard Morphet, in catalogue of The Alistair McAlpine Gift, Tate Gallery, 1971, pp. 106–21.

From an early date, Turnbull had always produced several works on any given theme. Just as each element in a single sculpture had to work by itself as well as being part of the whole, so Turnbull conceived each sculpture as right both on its own and when seen as part of its class of sculptures. Together, two or three sculptures of a given group afford an experience stronger than that of the same two or three seen on isolated occasions. ‘Two’ and ‘3/4/5’ (T01388) embody this concept in single works, and look ahead to works like ‘5 x 1’ (T01390). Immediately after making ‘No. 3’, Turnbull was influenced by a Dogon figure carving he owned, which combined a schematic zig-zag profile with taut stillness, to make a cricked version of his cylindrical theme. Struck by the forceful frontal aspect of the Dogon figure and by the ‘cut-out’ aspect of his painted cylinders seen from a distance, he then treated the zig-zag theme in the flat in a series of works which began with ‘Two’ and ended with ‘3/4/5’. Their intense frontality looked back to the ‘Masks’ and in particular to ‘Woman’, 1956, in which Turnbull had stretched an archetypal image to its extremes making it exceptionally wide frontally and unnaturally thin, a slender column, in profile. Flattening also met Turnbull’s need for a direct gestalt image. In ‘Two’ the space enclosed by the uprights becomes a positive shape itself. The uprights contrast the residual anthropomorphism of the caryatid-like one surmounted by a disc with the sense of potentially infinite extension implied by any upright which simply ends in space. Turnbull greatly developed this last implication in the following years.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.

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