Ian Breakwell

Six Phototext Sequences


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Ian Breakwell 1943–2005
Screenprint on paper
Support: 297 × 973 mm
Purchased 2001


Six Phototext Sequences by Ian Breakwell is one of the eight printed works in Tetrad Pamphlets Vol.II. Tetrad Pamphlets consists of eight fold-out paper pamphlets in a grey cardboard box. They were printed in an edition of one hundred and twenty five and the Tate copy is unnumbered and unsigned. The pamphlets occupy the middle ground between artist's book and free-standing print work. The box also includes work by Ian Tyson (born 1933), Jerome Rothenberg (born 1931), Richard Johnny John (dates unknown), Tom Phillips (born 1937), Richard Pinkney (born 1938), Donato Cinicolo (dates unknown), Christian Wolff (born 1934) and Valerie Large (dates unknown). They were published by the small London based Tetrad Press, from which they took their name. Tetrad Press also published a number of artist's books and collaborations, as well as an earlier volume of Tetrad Pamphlets. Volume I (Tate P01688-P01697) appeared in 1971, featuring ten works in pamphlet format by Derrick Greaves (born 1927), Tom Phillips, Richard Pinkney and Ian Tyson.

Tetrad Press was founded in 1969 by the artist and publisher Ian Tyson for the purposes of developing a new relationship between contemporary art and literature. To begin with Tetrad concentrated on collaborations between visual artists and poets. The first work published was a five page folio, The 17 Horse Songs of Frank Mitchell X-X111 1969-70 (Tate P05258-P05261), a collaboration between Tyson and his close friend the American experimental poet Jerome Rothenberg. The press gradually broadened its scope to include musical scores, books, prose texts, and concrete poetry, as well as works by individual artists. The 1960s had seen a growing interest in the possibilities offered by printmaking techniques, and artists were keen to explore connections between word and image, literature and art. The artist's book offered another medium through which to explore these relationships. As Ian Tyson commented: 'it is partly the sequential nature of the book that interests me, the conception of the pages being each one a facet of the whole and that of the work being slowly revealed as one moves from one to the other.' (Quoted in unpublished Tate manuscript.)

Six Phototext Sequences consists of a beige folded card inside which is a four page grey fold-out. The fold-out is printed with six strips of small black and white photographs above which a hand written text by Breakwell is reproduced. The strip photographs show details of everyday environments and the texts describe activities that could be taking place, but which cannot be seen. Breakwell contrasts the banality of the photographed scene with the strangeness of the event described. For instance, above a series of images of the top of an open window Breakwell has written: 'as he listened to the furniture.' Another photographic strip shows walls and roof tops, above which are the words: 'of a man rubbing his throat against the corner of an outside wall.' Like much of Breakwell's work at the time, Six Phototext Sequences investigates 'the relationship between word and image' and 'the surreality of mundane "reality".' (Breakwell quoted in Adams, p.2.) Breakwell was also exploring concepts of personal time and memory and the relationship between private and public experience. He experimented with a wide variety of media, writing fictional texts and diaries, making collages, drawings, tapes and films, and staging events and theatre performances. He exhibited both in Britain and abroad and had retrospective exhibitions at the Third Eye Centre, Glasgow in 1975 and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London in 1977. Breakwell produced one other publication for Tetrad in 1973.

Further Reading:
Cathy Courtney, Speaking of Book Art: Interviews with British and American Book Artists, California 1999, pp.23-37
Some Enquiries and Observations: Ian Granger, Derrick Greaves, Tetrad Press, exhibition brochure, Sunderland Arts Centre, Sunderland 1974
Clive Adams, Ian Breakwell: Continuous Diary 1965-1977, exhibition brochure, Institute of Contemporary Art, London 1977

Imogen Cornwall-Jones
January 2002

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