Catalogue entry

Bryan Wynter 1915-1975

T00765 Imoos VI 1965

Not inscribed [except with instructions for wiring, etc.].
Electrically driven mobile of six gouache-coloured cards suspended on wire arms by plastic threads, in front of a 36 in. concave parabolic mirror in a chipboard box with interior lighting. Dimensions of the box, 43 x 39¾ x 46 (109 x 101 x 117), plus a smaller box on top housing the motor, 4¼ x 15 x 15 (11 x 38 x 38).
Purchased from the artist through the Waddington Galleries (Grant-in-Aid) 1965.
Exh: Waddington Galleries, July 1965 (6).

The artist wrote (March 1966) that ‘Imoos VI’ was the last to be made of six pieces shown at Waddington’s in July ‘65: ‘Many people were surprised that I should “branch out” into kinetics. In point of fact, though primarily a painter I have always been active in this other field. The correlation between my painting and kinetic work remains as it always was, a primary and secondary activity, running parallel, spilling over to some degree one into the other but not displacing one another.

‘My paintings have for some time been concerned with movement and metamorphosis - with the canvas as an arena for activities beyond itself. To quote from a catalogue note I wrote in ‘61: “the small brushmarks function as units of energy rather than as separate formal entities. A stream of such marks may enter and leave the canvas as from outside it. It may encounter another similar stream. The turbulence thus set up engenders new forces which in turn hinder or deflect the original paths.” Out of context this is altogether too mechanistic a description, but it illustrates the link between the two activities.

‘Other activities are fairly self-evident – a crowded field, a concern with space as against location and volume, a feeling of suspension, of “floatingness”, of everything about to move on (difficult to be objective about this).’

‘The painter selects his own limitations (stylistic). The kineticist has limitations thrust upon him (mechanical).’

‘All kinetic work must take effect from mechanical systems. Kineticists, like gamblers, are always looking for a system if they are not flogging an old one to death. This is the “inventive” stage. A certain effect holds your attention. You think ‘I could use that’ so you put it through its paces. If it is entirely at the mercy of its own laws and allows you no creative latitude you can’t use it but you may later combine it fruitfully with another system. Discarded systems are always waiting in the wings for the discovery that will free them and enable them to take the stage. I have several such irons in the fire.

‘The Imoos project started from observation of the images in, or rather in front of, a parabolic mirror. A mirror image exists for the eye alone. In the case of the flat mirror you cannot attempt to touch the image because you are separated from it by the glass. The parabolic reflector can project its images in front of the glass, visually very much “there” yet intangible. You are presented with the possibility of floating a pure image out into “real” space. Thus objects and their images seen simultaneously back and front can be made to interpenetrate whilst occupying the same space, a space made familiar by the Cubist painters, but in three dimensions. “Imoos I” purchased by the Whitworth Gallery was stylistically a salute to Cubism. If this seems a belated gesture it must be remembered that the cubist sculptors rendered the style in terms of volume not, as here, in terms of space, so that I found myself, in a sense, filling an historical gap.

‘This simple optical device was married to a system adapted from Calder – a way of randomising within foreseeable limits the positions of the painted elements. What I aimed at was a slow metamorphosis rather than movement as such. An orbiting permanent magnet above the wires from which the elements were suspended kept them in motion.

‘I at first tried to iron out the “zoom” effect in order to preserve the identity of object and image, but finally realised its merit and by moving the painted elements nearer to the focal centre of the mirror and lighting them from their reflecting side, I threw the emphasis heavily on to the “zooming” and “de-zooming” image which then dominated the “real” elements. Thus the spectator was forced to accept an artificial spacial context imposed by the Imoos, a context much vaster than the actual space occupied. In this way space and location became separated and the figure-ground experience could no longer apply. The figure which “zoomed” towards the spectator dissolved in coloured space to become a ground for elements behind it. Habit and expectation are disarmed and the eye gives up trying to make sense of the situation and accepts it on a level of pure experience.

‘The six pieces shown at Waddington’s differed one from another not in order to ring the changes but to explore different approaches. The elements were planned, cut out, painted, reversed and juxtaposed all together on the drawing board. They were then set free to move before the reflector. However carefully each work was planned there were always unexpected “free” developments which provided me with pointers for subsequent works. Of course there were many damp squibs try-outs and rejects.

‘Two kinds of symmetry are involved – the scrambled but sensed symmetry of object and reflection and the “up-down” symmetry caused by the inversion of the reflected image. The latter I first exploited in the smallest work shown (with a 15 inch reflector). This employed simpler elements (wedge-arrow- and chevron-like shapes) to scale down to the new size. The experience gained in this small work contributed to the design of “Imoos VI”, the simplest of the large pieces in this group.

‘Imoos stands for “images moving out onto space”. This word was chosen at the last minute in default of any other more ordinary satisfactory names.’

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1965–1966, London 1967.