Technique and condition
The painting was executed on the smooth side of a single sheet of hardboard. An original hardwood strainer not only constitutes a secondary support for the thin, flexible hardboard but also forms an integral part of the artwork. The strainer is butt joined with nails and is attached to the hardboard with a proteinaceous adhesive and metal pins inserted through the front. The board is further supported by crossbars positioned diagonally on the reverse and attached using the same technique as the strainer. The crossbars do not extend into the corners and consequently, do not come in contact with the strainer.
No evidence exists of initial preparation, the bare hardboard being visible in areas of loss. Four layers of paint were applied to the entire front surface as well as the sides of the piece, these are coloured bright pink, bright purple, a violet blue and a duller darker blue at the top layer. After the painting was completed, the top of the adhered wood strips were painted with the bright pink colour. Overall the surface is smooth with only the slightest amount of texture from the long brushstrokes.
The painting has not been exhibited because of it is considered to be structurally unstable. The hardboard has become detached from the strainer at the top and the bottom and has started to warp at these points. Approximately half of the crossbars have become detached from the hardboard and the top left end of the diagonal cross bar is projecting out from the back of the painting. Across the surface, there are many drips, splatters, scratches and scuff marks. Front and back of the painting are covered with a moderate layer of dust.
The painting was treated in the Tate Conservation Studio in 2001-2002.
T00508 SIX THIN REDS 1960
Inscr. on back ‘Six Re[erased] Thin Reds’, with instructions for hanging.
Plastic emulsion paint on hardboard with wooden strips in relief, 84×52 3/4×11/16 (213×134×1·75).
Presented by E.J. Power through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962.
Coll: Purchased by Mr Power from the artist 1960.
Exh: Situation, R.B.A. Galleries, September 1960 (44), as ‘Relief Painting J1/60’.
The artist wrote (3 June 1962) that ‘the picture was painted in July 1960, and the particular form of relief painting evolved out of my previous constructivist work. The most important point about this picture I feel is that it was the break from my previous asymmetrical style - it was in fact my first symmetrical picture.’ He added a further note (10 July 1962) by saying, ‘I originally worked as a constructivist.... Eventually I was forced by the material limitations of perspex and metal to move into a... related area of activity-relief painting. This enabled me to retain an essential part of my technique (the structure making) yet use colours of my own mixing.’ The artist broke away from his purely constructivist style early in 1958. A more detailed statement by the artist about his reliefs was printed as ‘The Space Between’ in Gazette, 2, 1961, where a work similar to T00508 is reproduced.
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II