View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Snowball is one of twenty works produced by contemporary artists for the Cubitt Print Box in 2000. Cubitt is an artist-run gallery and studio complex in north London. In 2001 the complex moved from King’s Cross to Islington and the prints were commissioned as part of a drive to raise funds to help finance the move, and to support future exhibitions and events at the new gallery space. All the artists who contributed to the project had previously taken part in Cubitt’s programme. The portfolio was produced in an edition of 100 with twenty artists’ proofs; Tate’s copy is number sixty-six in the series.
Wright’s contribution to the Print Box is a unique photocopy depicting a black circle on a white background. Wright produced 120 individual versions of this work, taking into account the full Cubitt edition and the twenty artists’ proofs. The circle representing a perfectly round snowball is scaled differently in each print. The artist scaled up the source circle in successive increments in each print from 101/220% to 220/220%; that is, by just under 46% to 100%. Thus the first print in the edition is just under 146% larger than the original, while the last of the artists’ proofs is twice the size of the original. Getting bigger as the edition progresses, the circles make manifest a literal snowball effect. The legend on the back of Tate’s copy reads ‘Snowball increased in size to 166/220%’, or approximately 175% the size of the original. The variations of each of the prints in the edition reflect the subject of Snowball, recalling the platitude that no two snowflakes are alike.
Wright is best known as a sculptor and her work has regularly engaged with distortions of scale. She meticulously reproduces everyday objects slightly smaller or larger than their normal size, producing slightly uncanny work which often causes a double-take in her viewers. For example, B.S.A. Tour of Britain Racer Enlarged to 135%, 1996-7 (Tate T07936) is a replica of her boyfriend’s bicycle scaled up just to the point where it becomes disquieting.
Snowball marries Wright’s signature technique with the technology of modern photocopy machines which allowed her to scale up her original image in extremely precise increments. It is unusual for Wright to rely on a machine to make calculations in this way; she usually decides on the scale of her works by trial and error and fabricates the component parts of her sculptures by eye rather than with measuring devices.
ICA Beck’s Futures, exhibition catalogue, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 2000.
Rebecca Fortnum, ‘A Slight Intervention: on the work of Elizabeth Wright and Ceal Floyer’, Make, no.83, March-May 1999, pp.26-7.
David Barrett, ‘Tipping the Scales: David Barrett on Elizabeth Wright’, Art Monthly, no.199, September 1996, pp.24-5.