Richard Deacon

This, That And The Other


Not on display

Richard Deacon born 1949
Hardboard, canvas and steel
Unconfirmed: 2300 × 4000 × 1900 mm
Presented by Charles Saatchi 1992


This, That And The Other combines three contrasting materials - canvas, steel and laminated hardboard. This union of such distinct elements is possibly alluded to by the work's title. This, That And The Other rests directly on the floor and comprises two physically discrete sections. The larger section deploys a characteristic Deacon process - strips of laminated wood held together with screws and glue and bent into curves of extraordinary movement and lyricism. In this work, approximately twenty-eight layers of hardboard form a single loop, and its familiar shape is one that recurs throughout Deacon's career, perhaps most notably in a work of 1987, Like a Snail B (Münster Sculpture Project). As is typical of Deacon's laminates, the amount of glue used far exceeds necessity. It oozes from the layers of wood like melting ice cream. In this work, two different adhesives are used: one is an opaque yellow, the other a cloudy, semi-translucent white. The excessive use of screws, likewise, suggests a function beyond utility. At roughly five layers into the laminated layers of hardboard, a length of black canvas has been sandwiched into place. This 'skirt' of dull cloth, about a foot deep, hangs desultorily from the energetic sweep of its wooden frame. The second, smaller element is made from ten sections of galvanised steel held together by screws and rivets. It is a shallow, scoop-like structure and is pointed at one end. This narrow tip rests on the floorbound part of the laminated strip.

Deacon refers to himself as a 'fabricator' and his sculptures always expose their own means of construction. The prodigious use of screws, rivets and glue is far in excess of structural necessity and calls attention to Deacon's role as builder. This emphasis on 'manufacture' derives from Deacon's longstanding interest in language. During his 1978-79 visit to America, he was greatly influenced by the work of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus helped Deacon to crystallize an aesthetic theory, influenced by language, which had been evolving since his days at the Royal College of Art. Deacon was interested in the way in which Rilke used ordinary language to create profoundly metaphorical poetry. Words which are in themselves quite banal are transformed by the poet's syntax into something new and lyrical. The poet uses commonplace words as building blocks to create completely new meanings and metaphors. By emphasizing the 'fabricated' aspect of his sculptures, Deacon points to their own syntactical quality and their consequent kinship with language. In a 1986 interview, he said: 'I tend to be excessive in my use of rivets and or glue or whatever, but it's to do with trying to point to making in two particular ways. One is that processes and manufacture have connotations of sense or meaning and the other is that the act of manufacture itself has a particular relationship to the world which is akin to language.' (Quoted in Entre el Objeto y la Imagen: Escultura Britanica Contemporanea, exhibition catalogue, The British Council, Madrid 1986, p.232-3.)

Further reading:
A Quiet Revolution: British Sculpture Since 1965, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago 1987.
Jon Thompson, Pier Luigi Tazzi and Peter Schjeldahl, Richard Deacon, London 1995, reproduced in colour, p.142.
Richard Deacon: Recent Sculpture 1985-1987, exhibition catalogue, Bonnefantenmuseum Maastricht, Maastricht 1987, reproduced p.16, reproduced in colour, p.17.

Helen Delaney
November 2001

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Display caption

Deacon was one of the leading British sculptors to emerge in the 1980s. The sweeping curves of his large-scale works often suggest organic forms. At the same time, many of Deacon's sculptures draw attention to their process of manufacture and use of urban and industrial materials. In this work, the laminated hardboard edges and carefully riveted surfaces contrast with the fringe-like shapelessness of the canvas.

Gallery label, August 2004

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