Judy Clark

Catalogue [female symbol] 3 Skin


Not on display

Judy Clark born 1949
Graphite, plastic, glass, ink, card, transfer lettering, tape and clay
Unconfirmed: 387 × 464 mm
Purchased 1973

Display caption

Clark made these 'body maps' by taking prints of her own skin and that of a close male friend. She rubbed graphite powder over an area of skin and then peeled it off using Fablon (adhesive plastic). The patches of Fablon were organised into a grid and held between sheets of glass as if prepared for scientific analysis. Clark has said that she was interested in 'forensic science and the potential for power that residual body matter can acquire'. The drawings in the centre of each work mark the sites from which the skin samples were taken.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Judy Clark b.1949

T01826 Catalogue ¿ 3 Skin 1973

Not inscribed.

The following note is mostly based on a letter to the compiler from the artist received 26 February 1974. Punctuation and paragraphs have occasionally been slightly edited in the direct quotations.

T01826 was originally envisaged as the first of a series of six ‘catalogues’, three each for male and female subjects, comprising hairs, fluids and skin. However, by the time T01827 was made, the artist had changed her mind, which accounts for the difference in the composition of the titles of both works.

The prints were probably taken in June or July but were not compiled until September (T01826) and November (T01827) during which time the idea for the work was germinating. Graphite powder is ‘rubbed over the skin and then white “Fablon” put over the area sticky side down, rubbed over and then peeled off and covered with a piece of glass—there is enough stick left to be sufficient to keep the graphite-covered surface stuck to the glass—then it is trimmed. The squares were stuck onto a back-board with double-sided tape (glue attacks Fablon) [and] in the female piece there is Plasticine between the gaps in the glass.’ (T01827 utilises Plasticine around the image area, though not between the individual glass squares).

‘The drawings were pen on card then covered with a Letratone grid; around the body is a white Letratone screen, with pink Letrafilm on the specific sites—the numbers on drawing and glass were also Letraset’. The slides, 3 x 3 in., and the perspex covers, were obtained from commercial sources, but the case was constructed by the artist.

For T01826 the artist took prints from herself ‘by trial and error mostly’, taking ‘more than 28 and selecting the best; sites were selected for different surface texture’. The prints for T01827 were taken by the artist from the body of a friend, Malcolm Carder; ‘There weren’t really any differences in site as far as I can remember, when taking prints from Malcolm I followed the sites I’d chosen... from myself’. The apparent difference in sites in the two catalogues ‘comes from the different distribution of the grid due to change in scale of the bodies—when marking the sites on the drawing I chose the closest approximate square to the site in order for it to be more readable—the variations are not really very important.

‘The arrangement was basically to go in columns of arm, abdomen and leg, with both an inner and outer surface on arm and leg and back and front on the abdomen, it just worked out that there was a gap in the middle so I decided to put the drawing in there. I had intended to write the site on each square but the wording was difficult so I decided to do a drawing when I found there would be a gap. I was going to put in some prints of the face but they weren’t very successful and were difficult to place. I don’t usually deliberate so long on the arrangement of a work but these particular ones took a long time to evolve and it’s a bit difficult to give reasons for the decisions. I try not to make “aesthetic” decisions but obviously I make them all the time.’ The distribution is ‘basically’ as follows in vertical columns reading from left to right:
arm   outer
arm   inner
abdomen   front
abdomen   back
leg   inner
leg   outer

The reason for making the catalogues was that the artist ‘wanted a sort of total body image—really wanted hair, fluids and skin in one work, but it wouldn’t work out like that so I separated them’; objectives were curiosity mostly; I wanted all the skin patterns laid out in comparison to see how they changed. Their relationship with the rest of my work is indirect really—they were a sort of offshoot that I had to do before I could proceed... [there are] no earlier versions—the only related work is ‘Hairs and Fluids’ which hung beside the two Catalogues in the Garage. I meant to do a male version of hairs and fluids but the degree of co-operation necessary has made me put it off so far!’

Since the bodies chosen were that of herself and a close friend the artist admits that there is ‘some sort of biographical relevance’ in the two pieces but thinks that it ‘can be over-emphasized; and the universality of skin patterns and the depersonalization of the work [is] important also.’‘Forensic science was in a sense the kick-off point for the work; I was interested in the idea of tracks and by tracking people’s lives and movements and relationships—right at the beginning I read some books on forensic methods, so I was aware of things like fingerprinting techniques.’

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.

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