Nicholas Pope

Stacked Lead


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Not on display
Nicholas Pope born 1949
Lead, stone and wood
Object: 1219 x 356 x 286 mm
Purchased 1976

Catalogue entry

T02029 STACKED LEAD 1976

Not inscribed
Lead, apple wood and Bath stone, 48×14×11 1/4 (122×35.5×28.5)
Purchased from Garage Gallery Ltd (Grant-in-Aid) 1976
Exh: Nicholas Pope, Garage Gallery, March 1976 (no catalogue)
Lit: Fenella Crichton, ‘London Letter’ in Art International, XX/6, 1976, pp.14–15, repr.
Repr. Artscribe, 2, Spring 1976; Studio International, CXC1, 1976, p.299; Exh. Catalogue, Nicholas Pope Sculpture, 1973–76, City of Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery, September 1976

Nicholas Pope made ‘Stacked Lead’ in the week before the opening of his exhibition at the Garage Gallery, in March 1976. It was constructed after ‘Stacked Clay’, a tall column of stacked flat pieces of clay propped up by three wooden poles, which was later destroyed. The clay had shrunk after construction as it dried, and this prompted Pope to use lead, which would not change in this way, but had similar properties of density and malleability. The pieces of lead for the stack were cut from a roll of builder's lead, used for the repair of roof flashings, which was purchased by the gallery. The roll, laid out flat, was divided lengthways and each half cut into squares with metal cutting scissors. There are three hundred and fifteen pieces in the stack, cut from two rolls. The cutting of the sides of each square forced the edges to be shaped in different directions, so the scissors forced one left-hand side up and the next right-hand side down. The curvature in each square segment was deliberately preserved in the stack, and the whole given two wooden supports and placed on a plinth. The artist decided that it needed a more sympathetic base, and during the next week cut the two blocks from separate pieces of Bath stone which he had at his house at Liphook in Hampshire. Each block was sawn by hand with a wood saw to make the two adjoining surfaces, and then the composite block was cut down on four sides and top to fit the area described by the stack with props. The curves were cut to complement the curvature of the lead stack placed on them.

‘Stacked Lead’ is one of a loose series of works using stacked or piled segments of material. Pope told the compiler that the first use of props occurred in the construction of the large oak arch which he made for the Portsmouth City Art Project in 1974, when the partially completed semi-circular arch was supported with wooden staves to prevent collapse before both sides were joined. The stacks were continued after the artist's return from a period of study in Romania in 1974 and 1975, when he became interested in using balance and precariousness in the sculptures. ‘Small Chalk’, ‘Large Chalk’, ‘Leaning Chalk’, and ‘Stacked Clay’ all elaborated this theme in his work. ‘Stacked Lead’ was the first sculpture in which the artist was able to use lead; its expense having previously proved prohibitive. He completed this series with ‘Two Stacks’ and ‘Curved Stack’, both made of Bath stone and lead squares but without wooden props, which were exhibited at the Serpentine Gallery, in August 1976. At this time he decided that this type of work was showing a tendency towards stylization, and returned to rougher cut and more stable stones.

The artist told the compiler that it was important that each work should demonstrate the process of its own making, but without forcing this as a prescriptive method of working. In ‘Stacked Lead’ the stone surfaces were left as the hand saw had cut them, and the lead as the scissors had cut it. The precariousness of the stack was intended to be seen immediately by the viewer, and all the works in this series are only correctly exhibited if they appear to be about to fall over. The artist made a few drawn sketches for the work at the time of its construction, several of which were kept in his sketch-book. He did not feel in this case that the sketches were an important contribution to the making of the sculpture. The follow-on from one work to the next was a more significant starting point for a work.

This entry is based on a conversation with the artist (14 February 1977) and has been approved by him.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978

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