Victor Willing

Rien

1980

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 2000 x 1829 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1980
Reference
T03187

Display caption

Willing wrote that the title 'Rien'(nothing) derives from an entry which a King of France wrote in his diary when he could not hunt due to bad weather. In Willing's case, 'tiresome business affairs prevented my enjoying a day on the beach. Holiday weather did nothing to alleviate a feeling of anxiety and claustrophobia...'Rien' was the result of feeling accompanied by an uncomfortable presence, a jangly burden which I eventually unloaded in this picture. I think the way this happens is an experience common to most artists.'

Gallery label, June 1999

Catalogue entry

T03187 RIEN 1980

Not inscribed
Oil on canvas, 78 3/4×72 (200×183)
Purchased from the artist through House (Grant-in-Aid) 1980
Exh: Victor Willing: Paintings and Drawings, House, September–October 1980 (4); Victor Willing: Paintings since 1978, Kettle's Yard Gallery, Cambridge, January–February 1983 (7)

A drawing for this painting, also entitled ‘Rien’, was reproduced in colour in the 1982 Calendar published by the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, with a note stating that ‘The title derives from the entry “Rien” which a King of France is supposed to have made in his diary on a day on which he was prevented from going hunting by bad weather. “In my case”, comments Willing, “tiresome business affairs prevented my enjoying a day on the beach. Holiday weather did nothing to alleviate a feeling of anxiety and claustrophobia”’

He later explained that these remarks were made in response to a request from the Arnolfini Gallery to tell them something about the image. ‘One tries to oblige on these occasions but the result is so incomplete as to be not entirely honest. The painting was done about 7 years after the events described - done here in my studio in Clerkenwell. Memories of how it felt to be in Lisbon then - my own feeling of incompetence and loss of style which occurs when we are struggling unsuccessfully to cope with events produced a nightmarish feeling. This image emerged in response to that distraught and very awkward sense of not being able to cope. But it did not emerge because I wanted to “illustrate” that feeling or because I knew that I wanted to make an image “specifically” about that subject. It came because I had been forced to remember that time, how I felt then began to oppress me again and this was therefore always at the back of my mind. Not surprisingly I thought of the image as being about that’. (Letter of 7 October 1982.)

It therefore, he says, originated in quite a different way from ‘Place with a Red Thing’. ‘“Rien” was not seen through the wall. It was not a hallucination clearly visible and ready-made-unlike “Place with a red thing”. However, all the images I make are apparitions not appearances. Visionary not visual. Between 1975 and 1980 I saw them through the wall. Call that hallucination. “Rien” was the result of feeling accompanied by an uncomfortable presence, a jangly burden which I eventually unloaded in this picture. I think the way this happens is an experience common to most artists. Though I don't know what to call it - it is still an apparition. Between the two situations are various degrees of “distance”. Place was a thing quite outside myself - a confrontation. Rien was inside, behind, on my back and had to be resolved into a scene from which I could stand back.’ (Letter of 9 January 1983).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984

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