John Dugger

Sports Banner


Not on display

John Dugger born 1948
Oil paint on 6 canvases and nylon rope on aluminium rod
Support: 1220 × 2005 mm
displayed: 1610 × 2000 x (80) mm
Presented by E.J. Power through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1980

Catalogue entry


Inscribed ‘Sports Banner/Dugger 1980’ on back of end panels
6 industrially dyed cotton canvas strips with appliqué, oil fabric paint and nylon rope supported on aluminium rod, individual elements each approx. 46 5/8 × 11 1/4 (118.5 × 28.5); overall dimensions including rod but not cords, 48 × 78 7/8 (122 × 200.5)
Presented by E.J. Power 1980
Exh: Air and Space Appeal Fund Exhibition, Air Gallery, October 1980 (40)

John Dugger has made banner art since 1974 when his monumental strip banner ‘Chile Vencera’ was displayed in Trafalgar Square during a Chilean Resistance demonstration. Since then he has produced numerous banners of varying scales but usually large, for the theatre and political gatherings, gymnasiums and other places of recreation and, more recently, commercial and industrial sites. The first sports banner was made in 1975 as a preliminary for his gigantic ‘Wu Shu Kuan’ banner which decorates the Flaxman Sports Centre in South London.

In his catalogue foreword for his exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Sports Banners, June–July 1980, Dugger likened the large-scale strip banner to ‘a portable-mural-without walls’. He regards banners as an eminently practical way of bringing art to public places, cheaper and faster to produce than conventional murals, easily stored and transported, quickly installed and simple to maintain. The great advantage of the artist's method of working with strips of fabric is that this allows for machine manufacture and finishing, an essential element of his theory of the “new” banner. Dugger's ideas for a banner art form evolved out of his first-hand study of public art in the many countries to which he has travelled. As a native of California, he is familiar with the large-scale outdoor murals of the West Coast and he is particularly interested in the British Trades Union banner tradition.

He has visited Africa and South East Asia to research popular art forms, and a trip to China in 1972 to study the influence of the Cultural Revolution on traditional art forms introduced him to Chinese scroll paintings. Dugger has also drawn a connection with the banner form in Tibetan religious culture.

In 1976 John Dugger set up the Banner Arts Project which operates from a large studio workshop in North London. Here banners are planned from the design stage-the artist making blueprints from working drawings and collages, which are themselves based on drawings or photographs or a combination of both. After this the design elements are cut from canvas, or, recently, from more hardwearing materials and these are laid out on the base of the banner, which at this stage, is cut into strips, allowing Dugger or his assistants to machine finish the artwork, using commercial garment sewing machines and industrial thread. The finished banners are suspended from metal rods by nylon rope, using special self-tightening mountaineer's knots. Dugger generally creates banners with a specific site in mind, but following his exhibition of Sports Banners in 1980 (loc.cit.) he was approached by a buyer for the Contemporary Art Society who asked him to produce drawings for smaller banners on a general sports theme from which the CAS would select a banner to be made up.

Dugger produced three drawings (all now in a private collection) and from these the CAS selected an eight-strip banner, slightly larger in format than T03166, showing a tumbling male gymnast (against a terracotta ground) in the centre, flanked by two others exercising on horizontal bars. The work was presented by the CAS to the City University in 1983

One of the three drawings made for the CAS commission was never made into a banner and shows a sequence of views of a somersaulting gymnast. The last drawing in the set is a blueprint for T03166.

The Tate's work was made by the artist for donation to the auction held in 1980 to raise money for the Air Gallery.

It is intended to be hung above eye level, so that the right-hand figure on the black ground, which is an anamorphic projection (a device Dugger used in two of the drawings) appears in proportion.

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984

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