Barry Flanagan


1972, reprinted c.1983

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Barry Flanagan 1941–2009
Etching on paper
Image: 202 × 250 mm
Presented by Sue Flanagan, the artist's former wife 1985

Catalogue entry

This catalogue entry discusses a group of works; details of the individual work are given at the end of the introductory text.

Barry Flanagan born 1941

P02723 - P02834 Group of 112 etchings and linocuts, various sizes. Presented by the artist’s former wife Sue Flanagan 1985

This group of prints represents nearly the entire printed output of the artist up to 1983 and is one of the largest public collections of his prints. The titles were all given by the artist. Those prints bearing the stamped monogram ‘f’ were stamped by the Tate Gallery at the artist’s request.

The artist has said that print-making represents for him a ‘traditional pursuit’. Flanagan began to make prints in 1970. His prints (and drawings) often have a very personal content and can be seen as akin to private memoranda. Sometimes used as gifts for friends, they record aspects of the artist’s personal life. He first published prints with the Rowan Gallery in 1972, a year in which his print-making was prolific. Thereafter he published series of prints with Bernard Jacobson Gallery in 1976 and Waddington Graphics in 1983.

In 1981 Flanagan exhibited a comprehensive range of his prints and drawings at the Mostyn Art Gallery, Llandudno. The exhibition travelled to Mold, Cardiff, Swansea, Southampton and London and then, in 1983, toured in Italy, France and Holland. In the early 1980s Colin Dyer, working with the artist in his studio, completed archival sets of prints using cream Vélin d’Arches paper. Those etchings in the Sue Flanagan donation printed on white paper are generally those which the artist printed at Petersburg Press, at Burleighfield Press (with David Harding) or in his own studio in the early and mid 1970s.

Many of the prints have a small dark rectangle at one of their edges which results from the etching process. David Brown explains:

In the preparation of etching plates, they are ‘smoked’ in a flame to produce a fine, even covering of wax, the plate being held by a pair of tongs and therefore unaffected by the ‘smoking’ process would be waxed later, but with these prints, Flanagan chose to eliminate this final stage leaving a small area etched by acid and absorbing the ink (Barry Flanagan: Etchings and Linocuts, exh. cat., Waddington Graphics 1984, [p.3]).

So characteristic of Flanagan’s etchings is this black mark, it can almost be seen as a second ‘signature’.

These entries are based on conversations with Sue Flanagan and Colin Dyer and have been approved by the artist.

P02735 Abstract 1972, reprinted c.1983

Etching 202 x 250 (8 x 9 7/8) on cream Vélin d'Arches paper 381 x 567 (15 1/8 x 22 3/8); plate-mark 202 x 250 (8 x 9 7/8); printed by Colin Dyer c.1983; not editioned
Not inscribed; stamped with the artist's monogram ‘f' below image b.r.

The seemingly casual arrangement of curving lines in this image appears to be related to part of an installation work by the artist which was first shown in ‘Six at the Hayward', an exhibition held at the Hayward Gallery in 1969, and re-exhibited three years later in ‘The New Art' held in the same gallery. In this installation work the floor was strewn with around one hundred short lengths of rope between three and seven feet long (for photograph of the 1972 installation see Barry Flanagan Sculptures, exh. cat., Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1983, p.17). However, the artist has denied that there is any connection between the sculptural work and P02735. The inspiration for this print image, the artist says, lies in his reading at the time of two books. One was ‘A Million and One Knots' by an author whose name he cannot now remember, which included reference to the Gordion knot of classical literature. The second was R.D. Laing's Knots, published in 1970. In this the psychologist Laing presented a collection of statements regarding personal relationships set in the form of blank verse. Drawing on Laing's clinical experience, these sets of statements expressed in simple, often circular and contradictory form the impasses commonly found in human relationships. Flanagan says that he profoundly disagreed with Laing's analysis of the family and its relationships.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.333 and 337

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