John Ernest

Mosaic Relief No. 4


Not on display

John Ernest 1922–1994
Aluminium and plastic laminate on wood
Object: 1067 × 1372 × 73 mm
Presented by Sir George Labouchere through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1966

Display caption

John Ernest was born in America and came to London in 1951, where he began to exhibit with Victor Pasmore's circle. He taught at Bath Academy and Chelsea School of Art and, in addition to making art, he designed and made scientific models. Ernest started to make constructions in 1954. This is one of five related works which grew out of his interest in making visual equivalents for abstract mathematical models. The relief demonstrates the limitations of choice imposed by a grid system within which a fixed number of possibilities may be explored. Ernest presents a series of alternative groupings or permutations where similar elements are grouped in varying relationships of colour, shape, relief and surface.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

John Ernest 1922-1994

T00872 Mosaic Relief No. 4 1966

Not inscribed.
Relief of aluminium, formica, and cellulose on hardboard, 42 x 54 x 2¿ (106.7 x 137.2 x 7.3).
Presented by Sir George Labouchere through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1966.
Exh. Constructions, Axiom Gallery, April–May 1966 (8).
Repr. Art International, X, No. 6, Summer 1966, p. 106.

John Ernest started making constructions in 1954 and has worked exclusively in that medium since 1956. He wrote (20 March 1967): ‘The mosaic relief form grew directly out of my interest in devising visual analogues for abstract or conceptual structures – usually mathematical. In 1959 I discovered a method of portraying “Group” tables on which I based a number of maquettes. In these the visual structure corresponded precisely with particular mathematical structures. Later I rejected these objects (which were lost or destroyed) because of views I held at the time as to the relations between art works and models.

‘Nevertheless Mosaic Relief 1 grew directly from secondary attributes of these analogues. The two principal ideas involved in No. 1, as well as the others in the series are:

1: The limitations of choice imposed by the restriction to a fixed number of possibilities within a grid system.

2: The evocation of a hierarchy of appearances within such a severely restrictive system. The visual elements are grouped or clustered to allow for the formation of alternative assemblages. Qualities such as colour, shape, relief, surface quality, etc., accumulate variously to make different wholes. Ideally the visual structures are unpeeled one from another by shifts in the focus of the spectator’s attention.’

No. 1 in this series belongs to the Kazimir Gallery, Chicago, U.S.A.; No. 2 to the Arts Council of Great Britain; No. 3, which is closely related to No 4, to the Institute of Con temporary Arts (shortly to be sold by them, 1967); No. 5, which ‘represents a considerable change of approach within the series’, to the artist.

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

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