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Derrick Woodham b. 1940
T01491 Assume, Concede 1964–65
Painted fibreglass and wood, 29 x 53 x 23 (73.5 x 134.5 x 58.5).
Purchased from the Richard Feigen Gallery, New York (Knapping Fund) 1971.
Repr: exh. cat. New Generation, Whitechapel Art Gallery, March–April 1965 (33, first version repr. in colour); Bryan Robertson, John Russell, Lord Snowdon, Private View, 1965, p. 262; Art Forum, III, No. 8, May 1965, p. 34 in colour.
This is the second of an edition of two. The first version is owned by the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation.
Derrick Woodham used both wood and fibreglass as materials for this sculpture, at a time when other sculptors of his generation were using only fibreglass. He told the compiler (letter of 25 April 1972): ‘Fibreglass was used as a final material whenever casting was necessary for the production of a part of the work. Where direct fabrication was possible wood was used. I was impressed by the idea of these materials being representative of the different production experiences, and felt that they heightened my awareness of the different formal interests involved while working on the piece. They provided me with the basis from which I developed the colours. I had been working with fibreglass for about nine months before this, using it exclusively as a casting material.’
‘The use of colour has relatively independent places within the scheme of development (of the idea of sculpture): I think that the points of these decisions and then application should remain evident, to be seen within the context of the completed rather than the conceived work... Colour and surface have always seemed to be mutually dependent phenomena, and some experience with material has always been a prerequisite for the colour surface presentations I have been trying to achieve. In “Assume, Concede”, qualitative differences in the performance of the various elements on the piece, as I was impressed with the nature of their appearance, encouraged subjective biases towards the use of particular colours, compatible with my developing appreciation of the effect of the piece.’
Woodham says that he gave the work the title ‘Assume, Concede’ for semantic reasons: ‘Juxtaposed words inspired by Keirkegaard’s presentation of the story of Abraham as a revelation of faith, and concerned with the qualified entities in a common material context. ‘The effects of the forms, the contrast of expansion and withdrawal were part of this mutual condition. ‘The nature of the twisting tube is a main part of the subject of “Assume, Concede”, this particular form being one of a series of spiralling forms which had developed in my earlier work through attempts to formalise ideas of appearance. These ideas covered general aspects of the disposition of form, such as gesture, posture, and attitude.
‘None of these earlier pieces were titled, as they represented products of a continuing formal theme, rather than studies of special subject material. The twisting form... was in fact modelled in clay in an armature, finished as a plaster cast, and then re-cast in resin. At this stage I was just becoming aware of the more synthetic nature of my mental pictures of the forms I was using. As this awareness developed, it led me to accept contemporary professional handling of materials as an environment which naturally produced the kind of geometric performance (bland and un-animated) which best followed my feelings for the disposition of material in sculpture. In “Assume, Concede” the question of the technical context for producing the twist is a part of the subject material, though at this point I had not introduced commercial techniques into my studio procedure.’
‘The piece marks a special phase in my experience with form, when the nature of my awareness of a form through its appearance required that I exploit the special accessibility of its surface through colour, to more explicitly place the contribution of each area to the whole. From here onwards titles became necessary to isolate experiences which inspired the production of particular sculptures.’
‘From “First Acquaintance” and “Stage” through to “Vantage”, the titles became progressively more involved in the dispositions of the sculptures themselves, and as this “self awareness” became stronger, so the use of colour changed to become less manipulative and anecdotal, more structural and complementary.’
The artist made models and drawings for the sculpture, but they were either lost or discarded when the sculpture was completed.
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.