Michael Sandle



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Not on display

Michael Sandle born 1936
Resin, brass and plastic
Object: 921 × 1264 × 40 mm
Lent by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of David and Maggi Gordon, 2011, in memory of Max Gordon
On long term loan


Bridgehead 1967 is a polished brass and resin wall-hung relief that in technique reflects the influence of Japanese lacquer work on Michael Sandle’s work (other examples are Crocus 1963, private collection, and Succubus 1965–6, Museum Sztuki, Lodz). Cream, black and red resin, alongside brass, provide the work’s dominant colours, and the technique lends itself to a fragmented composition that incorporates diagrammatic plan and elevation as well as perspectival view. Bordered by an integral frame, a cloud-shaped line (which may also be read as a geo-political border or a coastal or river line) roughly divides the composition horizontally. The lower half is dominated by grid and intersecting lattice structured decoration and in the left half of the relief is an ambiguously described building – a blockhouse in an art deco style – the Bridgehead of the title, both military fortification and an invader’s foothold in enemy territory. The shape of the building also calls to mind the handle and hilt of a sword. At the bottom right of the relief can be seen a white flag, of surrender rather than possession. A schematised rainbow shape dominates the upper, cream, half of the composition. Between 1961 and 1963 Sandle taught design at Leicester College of Art alongside the influential teacher Tom Hudson (1922–1997), and the fragmentation of imagery in Bridgehead recalls the impact of Hudson’s ‘idea sheet’, in which a composition was developed without any consistency of style, point of view or conventional image being maintained.

Bridgehead dates from a period when Sandle was teaching full time at Coventry School of Art (1964–8) and reflects the moves he was making in his work of the mid to late 1960s, especially in its incipient relationship both to art deco forms and pop art, and an implicitly militaristic subject that is signaled here by the work’s title. In using warfare and its effects on humanity as his subject, Sandle was not alone. He had, for instance, known Terry Atkinson (born 1942) since the early 1960s at the Slade School of Art, Atkinson having long made work that used imagery from the First World War as the subject for work that highlighted the political and moral codes such imagery could convey. Similarly Colin Self (born 1941) used the pop art idiom in part to address the subject of Cold War politics. For Sandle, it was through his interest in Japanese lacquer, pop art and art deco that he was able to moderate his earlier expressionist work to a harder and more angular sculpture, with a more rigorous formal language that was itself closer to the brutal machinery of industrialised militaristic violence that his work would come to portray in the form of memorials such as A Twentieth Century Memorial 1971–8 (Tate T06896). This, and much of Sandle’s other work, deals with the moral, political, social and psychological implications of mechanised warfare, largely using the language of public monumental memorial sculpture.

Further reading
Michael Sandle: Sculpture & Drawings 1957–88, exhibition catalogue, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 1988.

Andrew Wilson
October 2011

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