Richard Pinkney

A Bridge


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Richard Pinkney born 1938
Lithograph on paper
Purchased 2001


A Bridge by Richard Pinkney is one of the eight printed works in Tetrad Pamphlets Vol.II. Tetrad Pamphlets consists of eight fold-out paper pamphlets in a grey cardboard box. The pamphlets occupy the middle ground between artist's book and free-standing print work. They were printed in an edition of one hundred and twenty five and the Tate copy is unnumbered and unsigned. The box also included work by Ian Tyson (born 1933), Jerome Rothenberg (born 1931) and Richard Johnny John (dates unknown), Tom Phillips (born 1937), Richard Pinkney (born 1938), Donato Cinicolo (dates unknown), Christian Wolff (born 1934) and Valerie Large (dates unknown). They were published by the small London based Tetrad Press from which they took their name. Tetrad Press also published a number of artist's books and collaborations, as well as an earlier volume of Tetrad Pamphlets. Volume I (Tate P01688-P01697) appeared in 1971, featuring ten works in pamphlet format by Derrick Greaves (born 1927), Tom Phillips, Richard Pinkney and Ian Tyson.

Tetrad Press was founded in 1969 by the artist and publisher Ian Tyson for the purposes of developing a new relationship between contemporary art and literature. To begin with Tetrad concentrated on collaborations between visual artists and poets. The first work published was a five page folio, The 17 Horse Songs of Frank Mitchell X-X111 1969-70 (Tate P05258-P05261), a collaboration between Tyson and his close friend the American experimental poet Jerome Rothenberg. The press gradually broadened its scope to include musical scores, books, prose texts, and concrete poetry, as well as works by individual artists. The 1960s had seen a growing interest in the possibilities offered by printmaking techniques, and artists were keen to explore connections between word and image, literature and art. The artist's book offered another medium through which to explore these relationships. As Ian Tyson commented: 'it is partly the sequential nature of the book that interests me, the conception of the pages being each one a facet of the whole and that of the work being slowly revealed as one moves from one to the other.' (Quoted in unpublished Tate manuscript.)

A Bridge, like The Alphabet Twice, Pinkney's contribution to Tetrad Pamphlets Vol.I 1971 (Tate P01693), juxtaposes text and image. The work consists of a blue folded card containing a seven page white fold-out. On each of the first six pages there is a bold, flat semi-abstract black and white image that is subdivided into smaller areas by heavy black lines. The images can be read as pure pattern or geometric form, but they also evoke fragments of simplified windows and curtains, or views of cities and cross sections of ships. Each image is numbered and accompanied by a single word which, when read with the others, forms a poem-like sentence. However, the relationship between text and image is unclear. Pinkney contrasts the clarity and precision of the visual style with the ambiguity of the relationship between text and image. On the last page there is a separate poem that refers to 'enigma', 'vanishing forms' and 'a festival of the imperceived', thus linking A Bridge to ideas Pinkney had explored since the 1960s. Discussing his artistic motivation Pinkney stated: 'Doubt is the foundation of my thinking. I am concerned in my method of working to discuss and clarify the nature of my doubts, sometimes to dispel them but often to involve myself in the richness of their ambiguity.' (Quoted in Pinkney, p.2.)

Further Reading:
Richard Pinkney, Richard Pinkney, exhibition brochure, A.I.A. Gallery, London 1966
Cathy Courtney, Speaking of Book Art: Interviews with British and American Book Artists, California 1999, pp.23-37
Some Enquiries and Observations: Ian Granger, Derrick Greaves, Tetrad Press, exhibition brochure, Sunderland Arts Centre, Sunderland 1974

Imogen Cornwall-Jones
January 2002

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