Michael Kidner

Red and Olive Wave


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Michael Kidner 1917–2009
Graphite and oil pastel on paper
Support: 290 × 90 mm
Presented by the artist 2001


With Red and Olive Wave, circa 1965, Michael Kidner attempts to create abstract optical illusions through the repetition of vertical wave shapes in contrasting colours which overlap each other.

Towards the end of the 1950s Kidner became concerned with making abstract paintings that employed the repetition of simple forms and colour in order to achieve optical illusions, such as vibrating effects, moiré patterns, an exaggerated sense of depth, foreground-background confusion and impression of movement. Over the next decade he would further refine his investigations into this field. He explored the effects of different colour combinations and the use of flat, uniformly applied, hard-edged pattern. The purpose was to obtain the most intense optical effects. Colour relations on the flat surface became his main concern and in 1964 he stated that, ‘Optics present the challenge that was once offered by perspective.’ (Quoted in Michael Kidner, London 1984, p.6.) This and five other 1960s works on paper presented to Tate by the artist in 2001 (Tate T07785, T07787-T07790) illustrate some of the developments in his exploration of optical illusions. In 1965 Kidner participated in The Responsive Eye at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, a major op art exhibition that also included work by artists such as Ellsworth Kelly (born 1923), Morris Louis (1912-1962) and Bridget Riley (born 1931).

By 1964 the artist had started to cross two flat horizontal bands of colour with a third, thus creating wave-like secondary images. He developed an enduring interest in the reproduction of the wave in different ways, using arrangements of colour as form. This eventually led to his experimenting with three dimensions and producing works such as Tate’s Column in Front of Its Own Image II, 1971 (Tate T07791).

Further reading
Michael Kidner: Painting, Drawing, Sculpture 1959-84, exhibition catalogue, Serpentine Gallery, London 1984
Michael Kidner: At-tension to the Wave, exhibition catalogue, Center for International Contemporary Art, New York 1990

Giorgia Bottinelli
March 2003

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