- Brian Wall born 1931
- Steel, paint
- Object: 750 × 600 × 510 mm
- Bequeathed by Anne Christopherson in memory of her husband John Christopherson 2013, accessioned 2017
Brian Wall’s Untitled c.1958 is a sculpture made up of black painted steel bars – four of these describe the line of a wave form held together by two additional bars, welded together to provide stability. Brian Wall was the only one of the sculptor Barbara Hepworth’s (1903–1975) assistants to have developed a style of sculpture distinctly his own (he worked as Hepworth’s part-time studio assistant between 1956 and 1960). Wall’s earlier works – made between 1955 and 1957 – were constructions indebted to the neo-plasticism of Piet Mondrian (1872–1944), whose work he had been introduced to both by Ben Nicholson (1894–1982) and the critic David Lewis. In 1957 he began to make sculpture of welded steel, inspired by the ideas of Naum Gabo (1890–1977) and the practice of Julio Gonzalez (1890–1977) more than by Hepworth herself. The earliest of these welded sculptures were rectilinear arrangements of steel rods (sometimes embellished by small sheets of steel as planes of colour).
The following year the underlying structure of these sculptures was exchanged for arrangements that more closely described the forces of nature – the wave form, the fan – as well as more random groupings of steel rods. Thus Wall was, in his sculptures – like Untitled c.1958 – reflecting ideas that were commonly held by the abstract painters who were his contemporaries, such as Paul Feiler (1918–2013) or Peter Lanyon (1918–1964). These sculptures were increasingly the result of a quick and gestural process; they also revealed both an attachment to the immediacy of the Cornish landscape as well as to the power of the unconscious (Wall was both an advocate of Zen thinking and also an explorer, with Bryan Wynter,[1915–1975] of the hallucinogenic drug mescaline). By exchanging rectilinear structure for a more organic ordering of the welded rods, the forms of his sculpture ceased to contain space, but instead defined and articulated it by reaching out into landscape. In 1959 Wall wrote about his work that, ‘I feel that successful pieces of sculpture should be an integral part of the landscape and should not overpower, or be overpowered, by natural environments.’ (Quoted in Chris Stephens, Brian Wall, London 2006, p.45.)
Untitled was acquired directly from the artist by the painter John Christopherson (1921–1996) and remained in his collection until being acquired by Tate. Christopherson was well-known as a collector of work by his contemporaries, particularly of artists in St Ives in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The collection consisted largely of minor pieces by British artists, such as Walter Sickert, Anthony Caro and Henry Moore, as well as major works by other artists.
Chris Stephens, April 2006
Updated by Andrew Wilson, August 2017
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