Gavin Turk

Gavin Turk Right Hand and Forearm


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Gavin Turk born 1967
Part of
Screenprint on paper
Image: 861 × 676 mm
Acquired by purchase and gift from Charles Booth-Clibborn in memory of Joshua Compston 1997


London is a portfolio of eleven prints made by eleven artists based in London. It was commissioned by Charles Booth-Clibborn and published under his imprint, The Paragon Press, London. The images were printed and editioned at Coriander Studio, London. The portfolio was produced in an edition of sixty-five, the first forty of which are portfolio sets and the remainder are the artists' copies. A further fifteen sets were produced for artists and collaborators. Tate's copy is number five in the edition. The title and colophon pages were designed by Phil Baines using his own typeface. The portfolio is contained in a black buckram-covered wooden case bearing the title in yellow. London is the second group portfolio published by The Paragon Press since its inception in 1986. It was conceived as a portable group exhibition containing work by emerging artists of the same generation. There is no particular common theme. Factors linking some of them are studying art at Goldsmiths College, London in the late 80s (where they were taught by Conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin, born 1941), working with Jay Jopling (who later opened White Cube Gallery in London) and being exhibited at the Saatchi and Karsten Schubert Galleries in London. Booth-Clibborn had already collected work by a number of the participating artists, few of whom had done any printmaking before embarking on the project. Most chose to work with screenprinting, with the exception of Langlands and Bell, whose image is embossed. Screenprinting is ideally suited to reproducing appropriated and photographic images. Its adoption reflects a characteristic use by young British artists (the group to which most of the London artists belong) of objects or images appropriated from everyday life. Individual prints vary in size, the type of paper used and the orientation of the image.

Gavin Turk's image, Gavin Turk Right Hand and Forearm, is a thirteen-colour screenprint in portrait orientation. The 300gsm Somerset Satin paper is varnished resulting in a glossy surface. The image is derived from a photograph of the artist's hand and forearm submerged in a tall glass cylinder of clear liquid. The liquid, possibly water, and the glass of the cylinder have a distorting effect, magnifying the artist's forearm. The appearance of a severed medical specimen is disrupted by a short section of the artist's arm continuing above the top of the cylinder at normal size, not enlarged by the fluid. Turk had been experimenting with a series of photographs of his arm, hand, leg, torso and head in flasks of water, without any particular project in mind, some time before being invited to participate in London. Much of Turk's work in the late 1980s and early 1990s was based on a conceptual identification of the artist through his signature as a kind of relic. For his final MA exhibition at the Royal College of Art, London, Turk exhibited a circular blue ceramic wall plaque of the type erected by English Heritage to identify places once occupied by important historical figures. Turk's plaque bore the words 'Borough of Kensington Gavin Turk Sculptor worked here 1989-1991'. Installed in an empty space and titled Cave (a reference to Greek philosopher Plato's Allegory of the Cave in book VII of his seminal political text The Republic written 360 BC), the work claimed a reliquary status. Turk subsequently emphasised this reading by re-presenting the plaque in a wood, metal and glass vitrine under the title Relic (Cave) in 1993 (collection the artist). Gavin Turk Right Hand and Forearm presents the artist's signature-making right hand as a photographic pseudo-medical or museum relic. This is Turk's first print.

Further reading:
Contemporary British Art in Print: The Publications of Charles Booth-Clibborn and his Imprint The Paragon Press 1986-95, exhibition catalogue, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh 1995, pp.19 and 46-51, reproduced (colour) p.51
Gavin Turk: Collected Works 1989-1993, exhibition catalogue, Jay Jopling, London 1993, reproduced (colour) [unpaginated]
Jeremy Cooper, no FuN without U: the art of Factual Nonsense, London 2000, pp.39-41, reproduced (colour) p.41

Elizabeth Manchester
July 2002

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