Phillip King



Not on display

Phillip King 1934 – 2021
Plastic laminate and glass reinforced plastic
Object: 1829 × 5639 × 3048 mm
Presented by Mr and Mrs Jack Steinberg through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1968

Display caption

'Nile' reflects King's concern with the expressive possibilities of abstract forms, particularly in regular or rhythmic progressions. A sequence of rectangular planes traverses the spectator's field of vision. This evokes a sense of flow proceeding from warm, advancing red to cool, receding blue. The allusion to river-like movement (hence the title) is continued in the crossed diagonals on the ground. These set up a counter-rhythm, suggesting a river's undertow. Despite these associations, King's principal aim is one of confrontation rather than representation. Thus the work's imposing scale relates to human proportions so that the spectator senses its dynamic presence.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Phillip King b. 1934

T01030 Nile 1967

Not inscribed.
Arborite and plastic, approx. 72 x 222 x 120 (183 x 564 x 305).
Purchased from the artist through the Rowan Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1968.
Exh: Opening Show of Gallery Artists, Rowan Gallery, December 1967–January 1968 (no numbers); Venice Biennale, 1968 (British Pavilion, no number, repr. in illustrated catalogue).
Lit: ‘Phillip King Talks about his Sculpture’, in Studio International, CLXXV, June 1968, p. 305 (repr. in colour, p. 303); Edward Lucie-Smith, Two for Venice’, in Art and Artists, III, No. 3, June 1968, p. 30 (repr. p. 31); Norbert Lynton, ‘The British Representation at the 34th Biennale’, in Art International, XII, Summer 1968, p. 74 (repr.).

‘Nile’ is closely related to two earlier works by King -’Slant’ and ‘Slit’, both of 1966. ‘Slant’ comprises six elements of the kind that make up the left-hand part of ‘Nile’, all painted the same colour, while ‘Slit’ comprises four in alternating colours. The artist wrote (15 July 1968): ‘In “Nile” I was interested in extending further an earlier work “Slant”. At first I thought I could go on adding elements like adding another wagon to a trailer. Well it just didn’t work. I felt I had to break the wall up and the symmetry. Colour came in at an early stage. The idea of a diagonal flow across, from a warm advancing red to a cool receding blue led me to put a front vertical to act as a kind of pivot and anchor at the same time as drawing one more into the work. The slow sweep of the blue and the way the colours interweave made me think of the title.’

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1967–1968, London 1968.


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