View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Terry Winters began making prints in 1982 after working as a painter for more than ten years. Engaging in the printmaking process, he found a way to extend his interest in drawing, which already underpinned his painting practice, and further his ideas within a structured method. The many stages of revision and proofing that lead to a final editioned print provided Winters with a vehicle to explore and elaborate ideas in keeping with his preferred method of developing artworks during their making.
The portfolio Fourteen Etchings, from which this work is taken, marked Winters’ first use of photographic printing techniques. Each print, with the exception of the first (Tate P11896), features two images made from separate plates. The smaller image on each sheet, printed in the lower right-hand corner of the paper, are photogravures of skeletal parts, made from photographs of X-rays of a human body sourced from a late nineteenth-century German anatomy book. The larger images, which were printed on a separate sheet and attached to the prints as a chine collé element, refer to organic and cellular forms Winters had explored in earlier works, but also take on the appearance of crystalline and floral shapes. Winters drew these images on transparent polyester film, which were then transferred to copper plate and aquatinted.
This print, like most of the works in the portfolio, is printed from two plates. The main image, from an aquatint plate, shows hand-drawn concentric circles, like a cross section of a tree-trunk. The lower image is from an x-ray of a human skull. The two images that make up each print seem to be set in opposition each other – abstract against figurative, non-human against human – though similarities can be seen between the forms.
Winters drew on many sources for this series, alluding to things microscopic, human and cosmic. The series initially developed from an idea to illustrate a prose poem by Edgar Allan Poe, Eureka, in which he describes the universe in terms of nineteenth-century scientific truths. As Winters incorporated his other discoveries into the project, diagrams from the book of X-rays and a list of constellations in a Roget’s International Thesaurus which he reproduced on the inner cover of the editioned prints’ folder, the work became a reflection of the spirit of Poe’s poem rather than a specific illustration. The ideas Winters developed in this portfolio were later used on a larger scale in his painting Eureka 1989 (Collection of Fukuoka City Bank, Ltd., Japan), which takes it title from Poe’s poem.
Terry Winters: Painting, Drawings, Prints 1994-2004, exhibition catalogue, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, 2004.
Nancy Sojka et al, Terry Winters Prints 1982-1998: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1999, reproduced p.21 and p.79.
David Shapiro, Terry Winters: Fourteen Drawings/Fourteen Etchings, exhibition catalogue, Verlag Fred Jahn, Munich, 1990, reproduced, unpaginated.