David Troostwyk

Wood X Square


Not on display

David Troostwyk 1929–2009
5 photographs, black and white, on paper on board
Image: 914 × 914 mm
Purchased 1975

Catalogue entry

P07237 WOOD×SQUARE 1974

Inscribed on a typed label on the back of each panel ‘David Troostwyk’; also artist's name embossed in a circular stamp
Five photographs mounted on block board, each 36×36 (91.5×91.5)
Acquired from the artist as a replacement for T.1709, 1975

The artist wrote the following statement after he had conceived and started to make the work in August, 1974. He completed the work in April, 1975.

‘ “Wood×Square” is one of a number of works about physical time. All produced by originating a mark, recording it-usually by tracing, and displaying the result elsewhere. In this case I have used, not a drawn mark, but a wood square recorded by camera and chosen because of its inherent demonstration of lapsed time. This work, in common with all my recent work, employs the square, as a standard form regulated by idea.’

The works Troostwyk was making at the same time have common themes, but had developed through the use of different materials and different formats. The standard forms of square, circle, cross or horizontal line had at first been marked on the walls of his studio and overlaid with sheets of transparent flexible P.V.C.. In the case of the cross or register mark, the image had been transferred from the studio wall to the material on which it was subsequently exhibited-away from the originating mark on the wall. The same standard forms were used in works on tracing paper, where the marks were transferred by pencil tracing and the paper annotated with a short text descriptive of the process that had taken place. At the same time as his work on ‘Wood×Square’, in the year after making the paper works, the artist had developed the series of ‘nominated squares’ where a single word was printed in the centre of each of four adjacent squares, three of the words being the same and all of them having some reference to the passing of time. These same properties of repetition and demonstration of time are present in the repeated photograph of a piece of wood which makes up ‘Wood×Square’. The strong grain pattern of the wood indicates a slice through the growth of the wood. The artist acknowledged a connection between this work and the series of floor works, ‘Chalk Circle’ and ‘Iron Circle’-large circles of powdered chalk and powdered iron made soon afterwards. They were all ‘organic’ and had more physical substance than the traced works or the ‘nominated squares’.

The transfer of image rather than object is emphasised by the smoothness of the surface of the photographic paper, in contrast to the apparent roughness of the wood surface which it shows. The image of the piece of wood was simply moved and multiplied, confined by the same square shape. Troostwyk wrote in March 1975, in an entry for a dictionary of contemporary artists, ‘More recently my work has come to be modified by my assumption that the square, being absolute, cannot be re-created. It can only re-appear. The mechanics of this proposition are regulated, not by process, conceptual or otherwise, but by a simple desire to establish the idea of the square’.

‘Wood×Square’ was made soon after the artist had seen an installation work by Donald Judd at the Lisson Gallery, London, in January 1974. Judd had used large sheets of plain wood to cut across a gallery. Troostwyk found a piece of wood, normally used as shuttering in concrete construction work, which was suitable because of its prominently grained surface. He had originally intended to hang the actual piece of wood next to the photographs on the wall, but this became impossible because of a warp which developed in the sheet of wood. This process would have been similar to some of the traced paper works where the mark (square, circle or cross) was inscribed on the wall with the tracing of the mark displayed alongside it.

This catalogue entry is based on an interview with the artist (25 March 1977) and has been approved by him.

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

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