Not on display
- Paul Neagu 1938–2004
- Gesso, ink and graphite on canvas
- Image: 560 × 530 mm
- Presented by the Estate of Paul Neagu 2019
Horizontal Rain: Concept Costume with 103 Pockets 1971 is a drawing in ink and pencil with gesso on canvas. It depicts a performance costume made by the artist in 1971, entitled Jumpsuit; the costume is also in Tate’s collection (Tate T15466). It is an all-in-one garment constructed out of dark textile and leather, with elbow-length sleeves and knee-length lower sections. Attached to the surface of the suit are 103 small, rectangular Perspex pockets arranged in a grid formation, containing a range of messages, notes and sayings written by Neagu. In the drawing, the structure of the garment is depicted clearly, almost diagrammatically, and it also shows the position of the fourteen leather straps used to fasten it to the body.
Jumpsuit was initially made for ‘ART SPECTRUM’, an exhibition at Alexandra Palace in August 1971, which had been organised by the Greater London Arts Association and the Arts Council of Great Britain. However, between the years 1971 and 1976 Neagu used the costume in several performances, including Horizontal Rain, the piece for which Jumpsuit was originally intended. Performances that took place in Edinburgh and Oxford involved Neagu standing on stilts or ladders while wearing the suit. Subsequent performances in Modern Art Oxford and the Arnolfini in Bristol saw Neagu wearing the suit while moving around the space at speed on roller-skates.
The grid-like arrangement of the plastic pockets covering Jumpsuit is a typical feature of Neagu’s sculptural work in the early 1970s. It has echoes of a piece made by Neagu a year before, The Great Tactile Table 1970 (Tate T07750), which was a continuation of his ‘tactile object’ sculptures. These were works that were originally intended to be manipulated by the spectator, constituting a multi-sensory experience and extending beyond the purely visual. The Great Tactile Table incorporated individual boxes into which visitors could originally dip their fingers and feel various substances and textures. As well as engaging the viewer’s physical involvement, the formal structure of the work also carried metaphorical significance, combining the grid with the human form. For Neagu, the grid structure provides a visual analogy for the unconscious process of compartmentalising sensory or intellectual information. It functions as a metaphor for interrelated parts of the human body and by extension parts of society and the natural world which remain separate yet linked. Neagu’s philosophy stressed the simultaneous interconnectedness between the cellular nature of the individual and of larger human structures, notably society, which is similarly composed of discrete parts. The implication is that both the individual and society as a whole are continuously striving for unity and equilibrium.
Mel Gooding, Lisa Le Feuvre, Ileana Pintilie, Magda Radu and Jon Wood, Paul Neagu: Palpable Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds 2015.
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