Boyd Webb

Scott’s Tent


Not on display

Boyd Webb born 1947
Photograph, colour, on paper
Image: 1220 × 1523 mm
Purchased 1985

Catalogue entry

Boyd Webb born 1947

T04120 Scott's Tent 1984

Laminated colour photograph 1220 x 1523 (48 x 60)
Inscribed ‘cat no 0142.0 ‘Scotts Tent' Boyd Webb 1984' on back bottom centre
Purchased from Anthony d'Offay Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1985
Prov: Purchased from the artist by Anthony d'Offay Gallery by 1985
Exh: Forty Years of Modern Art 1945-1985, Tate Gallery, Feb.-April 1986 (not in cat.); Boyd Webb, Whitechapel Art Gallery, May-June 1987 (no number, repr. p.108)

‘Scott's Tent' was photographed at the artist's studio in Spitalfields in East London. The scene was constructed from materials made or bought by the artist, and a model dressed by him hung upside down from a trapeze. The artist took a 5 x 4 inch colour transparency, which he had printed professionally as a unique cibachrome.

The foam rubber that makes up the four sheets (which the artist described as looking like pack-ice) were cut for him at the thickness he had found would hang correctly when supported in the middle, and were pure white as newly cut. These were supported on thick wooden dowelling, which he painted blue, and which was propped up vertically from the floor. These sheets hide the division between the two backdrops, each curved forwards at the sides, painted to represent sky and water. The cloth representing the tent of the title was an old canvas for painting, frayed and coloured to look ‘green and rotting', with metal eyelets put in.

The model was an athlete who worked with Webb for only the one session when this photograph was made. He was dressed in sports clothes supplied by the artist, intended to suggest a diving outfit, and was posed with his left hand, as well as his feet, hanging on to the trapeze.

As with all his works, Webb sketched the design as a diagram before beginning to make it, and took a number of polaroid photographs before making the transparency. Since in this case he was using a model and not friends he posed himself from the trapeze to test the composition, taking the polaroids with a cable release.

Webb intended when first planning this to make a work about Captain Scott, the Antarctic explorer who died in 1912. Memorials and mementoes of Scott abound in Christchurch, New Zealand, where Webb was born and went to school, and these came to seem to him ironic, since the expedition had been unsuccessful. The title is unusual in Webb's work in referring to an historical figure, and to what might have been an historical event, although the scene is no more literal than his other photographs of this time.

‘Provisions' 1984 (Anthony d'Offay Gallery, repr. Whitechapel Art Gallery exh. cat. p.39 in col.) was made soon after ‘Scott's tent', and reused three of the pieces of foam on dowelling. In this, three rotting vegetables look as if they had fallen through the foam, each leaving a hole.

This entry is based on conversation with the artist on 25 January 1988, and has been approved by him.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.289-90

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