This work by the British artist Keith Tyson is a very large diagrammatic drawing executed on six sheets of paper that are placed individually inside black, Perspex-glazed frames and joined together in a rectangular arrangement. The work illustrates the installation Large Field Array that was first produced by Tyson in 2006 and consists of three hundred sculptural objects placed on the walls and floor of a gallery space in a grid formation. The diagram in this drawing has a wide, diamond-like shape and it includes small illustrations of most of the objects in Large Field Array, accompanied by their names and a number between one and three hundred, as well as many other annotations. There are objects of various kinds, including a ‘mug of coffee’, a ‘levitating woman’ and a ‘cyclone’, and many of these components are cube-shaped, drawn in cubic boxes, or simply depicted as blank cubes. Most are connected with others in the grid by arrows and dotted lines, which are sometimes annotated. Despite the presence of these descriptive labels, as well as others such as ‘Autobiography’, ‘Recursive Patterns’ and ‘Vectors’ that are written along the bottom edges of the drawing, much of the information is difficult to interpret and some cannot be deciphered. Across the top of the composition, the title of the work is written in thick black letters.
This drawing was made by Tyson on 5 June 2006 in his studio in Shoreham near Brighton in the United Kingdom. He produced it for the exhibition Large Field Array that opened in October 2006 at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark. The artist began by drawing a grid structure in graphite onto white medium-weight wove paper and then executed most of the diagram and writing in black ink, although some characters and lines were also added using red paint.
The precise relationship between this work and the installation Large Field Array is not clear. For instance, it not known whether it is a diagram for constructing the installation or a depiction of it, since although the date of the execution of this drawing is given in its title, it is unclear precisely what stage this equated to in the production of the installation. Tyson has made other drawings relating to Large Field Array (see, for example, Large Field Array 2006, Louisiana of Modern Art, Humlebæk) but many of these show individual fragments of the installation and seem to have been produced quickly, whereas this one owned by Tate is fuller and far more detailed, which may account for the inclusion of the phrase ‘high resolution’ in its title.
As well as being connected to the installation, this work is part of an extensive series entitled Studio Wall Drawings that Tyson began to produce in 1997 and which consists of more than five hundred works. Each of the Studio Wall Drawings features the date on which it was produced in its title and they are executed on identically sized sheets of paper that bear the same overall dimensions as one of the walls in Tyson’s studio. The Studio Wall Drawings are documents of Tyson’s studio practice and he has explained that they range from loose sketches of ongoing thought processes to drawings that can be considered discrete, finished works (see Tyson 2007, pp.24–5).
In the case of this work and its corresponding installation, Tyson stated in 2006 that it has a definite logic but that viewers will not be able to understand it without guidance (see Dominic van den Boogerd, ‘The Wu Way’, in Louisiana Museum of Modern Art 2006, p.19). Describing his process of constructing it, Tyson has explained that he produced a number of categories, such as ‘the signs of the zodiac’ and ‘chemical elements’, and allocated them to certain rows or areas of the diagram. He then looked at which categories would converge where the rows crossed over each other and decided which objects would be placed there based on how they reflected the two combined ideas. For example, regarding a sculpture of two black Siamese twins playing basketball in LA Lakers shirts, Tyson has said that ‘In the line of zodiac signs this position has to be Gemini; according to another line it has to relate to Los Angeles and sports. The numerical values on their shirts are reflected in one angle; the political situation in black America is reflected in another angle’ (quoted in Louisiana Museum of Modern Art 2006, p.19).
Tyson has suggested that since the drawing and installation include a multitude of overlapping categories, leading to the creation of sculptures with a range of very different reference points, they question the idea that artworks have single, unified meanings. Instead, he suggests, here he presents the artwork as ‘the sum of all possible forces acting upon it’ (quoted in Louisiana Museum of Modern Art 2006, p.18).
Large Field Array: Keith Tyson, exhibition catalogue, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk 2006, reproduced pp.33–5, 88–9, 91.
Keith Tyson, Keith Tyson: Studio Wall Drawings, 1997–2007, London 2007, pp.12, 26, reproduced pp.271–81.
Keith Tyson: Cloud Choreography and other Emergent Systems, exhibition catalogue, Parasol Unit, London 2009, p.114.
Supported by Christie’s.