View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
This work, from a portfolio called Set of Ten, is one of ten etchings based on the paintings Winters was working on concurrently. Winters often revisits ideas in different bodies of work, creating sets and subsets of works that interact with and inform each other. The images in these prints relate to Winters’ various interests in communications technology, social structures and microbiology.
Each print, printed from a single plate, is composed as a central form framed by dark borders at each of the upper and lower edges. The number that identifies each print’s position in the series is included in the work, etched into the plate, and appears on the lower left hand side of each work, in reverse. The text that features in two prints in the series, Tate P11912 and Tate P11914, is also printed in reverse. The forms described by Winters’ heavy, layered marks are almost architectural in structure, but also organic or cellular. Winters refers to these forms in his work as characters or signs, like calligraphy. In this series of prints, many of the forms resemble cages, for example Tate P11913. Others seem to depict a cross-section of a crystalline structure, as in Tate P11917.
Winters is influenced by science and technology, poetry, philosophy and sources imagery from technological tools – microscopes, telescopes, x-rays – but ideas also emerge for Winters from the process of creating the prints themselves. Indeed, subject and technique are tightly bound together in all of Winters’ work. While his work starts from an idea sparked by a found image or theoretical text, the way it develops is largely process-based, with the image and medium and manner in which he makes the work both contributing to the meaning of the work. Winters responds to patterns as they evolve, layering gestures and marks to create his images. He sees his image making as ‘a way of thinking’. He explains: ‘Ideas are created through the manipulation of materials and images – new assemblages of sensations are constructed. Intuition is a method, indeterminate but exacting.’ (Terry Winters quoted in Terry Winters: Paintings, Drawings, Prints: 1994-2004, p.13.)
Like all Winters’ work, the forms in these etchings are intentionally ambiguous. He regards his works as objects of contemplation, without fixed meaning, which are completed by the viewer’s experience of the work. He is concerned with the unseen and unknowable, and sees his structures as mapping virtual dimensions, opening up possibilities to visualise other worlds beyond the patterns. Winters says:
‘I see the painting process as a combination of the technical and the magical – invisible forces are generated by the images, and they’re moving. At some point there’s a recognition, an acceptance that the image has a life of its own, that the image itself is an organism.’ (Terry Winters quoted in Terry Winters: Computation of Chains, 1997, p.9.)
Each work in this edition, the third of three hors commerce editions, is printed in a mixture of black and blue ink, while the numbered editions were printed in black alone.
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.
Terry Winters: Computation of Chains, exhibition catalogue, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, 1997.