Ed Herring

Zinc-Plated Wood


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Not on display

Ed Herring 1945–2003
3 photographs, gelatin silver print on paper
Support: 189 × 246 mm (1/2 of 3)
support: 196 × 251 mm (3 of 3)
Purchased 2012


Zinc-Plated Wood 1969 comprises two black and white photographs on board and one unmounted photograph documenting a conceptual work by the British artist Ed Herring. They record an environmental action in which Herring took five hundred squares of zinc, each of which was two inches by two inches, to a woodland near Belmont, Lancashire. Within a designated area measuring half a mile long and a hundred yards wide, one zinc plate was nailed to every available tree. Herring then documented through photography how natural processes in the woodland altered the surface of the plates.

Alongside works such as Tea-bag Piece 1969 (Tate T13815), Float 1969 (Tate T13816), Tie-Up 1969 (Tate T13820) and Oiled Earth 1969 (Tate T13817), Zinc-Plated Wood 1969 is an early work which typifies Herring’s ‘environmental statements’, which were shown in two exhibitions in 1969: one at Manchester College of Art Gallery, where Herring was teaching; and in Survey 69. New Space at Camden Arts Centre, London, which can from October–November that year. His work in the late 1960s used photography and documentation to record interventions into the landscape he made in primarily unpopulated areas. Like Zinc-Plated Wood, Tea-bag Piece was made near Belmont in Lancashire; Float and Oiled Earth were made near the home of the artist Keith Arnatt in Yorkshire. The emphasis on recording and documenting his findings during these interventions preoccupied his work for decades: here, recording how the appearance of the plates, usually used by printmakers, changed with exposure to nature. Photography enabled Herring to develop new enquiries into duration: the duration of time it took for the surface of the plates to be altered; or the time it took for a strip of fabric to move around a pond and sink in Float. These subtle forms of intervention questioned consumption, creation and the cultural responsibilities involved in their making, and were deeply rooted in ecological and environmental concerns. Oiled Earth in particular was the artist’s response to discussions at the time of its making pouring oil into the San Andreas fault in California to reduce the impact of future earthquakes.

Herring studied at Manchester College of Art from 1963–6 and then at Central School of Art and Design from 1966–7. In the late 1960s Herring collaborated with Keith Arnatt, most notably as the photographer for Arnatt’s Self Burial (Television Interference Project) 1969 (Tate T01747).

Further reading
Idea Structures, exhibition catalogue, Camden Arts Centre, London 1970.
‘Ed Herring: An Interview with Alistair Mackintosh’, Art and Artists, August 1972, pp.36–41.

Helen Delaney
May 2012
Arthur Goodwin
December 2018

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