Stephen Willats

Drawing for a Project No. 12


Not on display

Stephen Willats born 1943
Graphite and gouache on paper
Support: 492 × 558 mm
Purchased 1985

Catalogue entry

Stephen Willats born 1943

T04108 Drawing For A Project No.12 1965

Pencil and gouache on paper 492 x 558 (19 3/8 x 22)
Inscribed ‘Willats 1965' b.r. and ‘Willats 1965' on back
Purchased from Lisson Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1985
Prov: Purchased from the artist by Lisson Gallery 1985
Exh: Stephen Willats: Concerning Our Present Way of Living, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Jan.-Feb. 1979, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, May-June 1980 ( no number, listed p.15); Stephen Willats, Models and Concepts Since 1959, ICA, Jan.-March 1986, Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield, March-April 1986, Städtische Galerie, Regensburg, June-July 1986, Hedendaagse Kunst, Utrecht, Nov.1986-Jan.1987 (no cat. but accompanying publication, see Lit.)
Lit: ‘Alpha rhythm applied to art', New Scientist, vol.25, no. 426, January 1965, pp.75-6; Stephen Willats, untitled article, Control Magazine, no.2, 1966; Stephen Willats, ‘S. Willats', Kunstlichtkunst, exh. cat., Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven 1966, pp.112-13; ‘Stephen Willats', artist's statement, Stephen Willats, Visual Automatics and Visual Transmitters, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, Oxford 1968, loose leaf folder; ‘Catalogue', Stephen Willats: Concerning Our Present Way of Living, exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1979, p.15; Richard Francis, ‘Stephen Willats', Stephen Willats, Three Essays, London and Sheffield 1986, pp.7-8

According to Willats, this is the twelfth of ‘a series of eighteen drawings concerned with concepts of systems related to behavioural sculptures and reliefs'. It was included in Willats's Whitechapel exhibition in 1979, together with ‘Drawing for a Project' nos. 5, 6, (repr.) 8, and 13, (listed p.15) and 18 (listed p.16). A catalogue note relates the drawings to Willats's development of ‘machine works, mainly those in the "Visual Automatic" group. While the drawings were seen as systems in their own right, they were also functional conceptualisations tied to the workings of various Automatics. They show, amongst other things, light paths and the direction of movement of the rotors in those works' (p.15).

The ‘Visual Automatic' sculptures, a number of which were first exhibited in 1968 in a one-man exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, Visual Automatics and Visual Transmitters, in the main date from the time when Willats was teaching at Ipswich School of Art (1965-1967), although he began this series in 1963. These sculptures, constructed out of various materials, including wood and perspex, were programmed with lights which flashed on and off at random:

The controlled triggering of creative behaviour within an area of randomness, the subsequent directions of behaviour within the area being self-determined by the receiver, has been an important factor in the development of my work. This has required that the audience become, not just an after thought but the prime reason for the provision of triggers ... the audience becomes an integral part of the work ... an examination of audience behaviour is essential in order to obtain a practical level of performance (Willats, ‘ Stephen Willats', Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1968 [3]).

In these works, Willats had moved away from ’arbitrary' hand altered constructions (see T04107) towards works that transmitted a programme.

The drawings, such as T04108, while representing hermetic systems and therefore operating independently from Willats's work in three dimensions, were also conceptualisations of the sculptures: ‘they show, amongst other things, light paths and the direction of movement of the rotors in these works' (Willats, Whitechapel Art Gallery exh. cat. 1979, p.15). Willats relates T04108 to his sculpture ‘Visual Automatic No.4', (repr. ibid., p.16) made in May 1965, a month later than the drawing. This consisted of a wood and metal statue supporting two rotating cubes and two flashing lights.

The unco-ordinated relationship between the flashing light of the two side discs and the constant repeated flashing created by the rotors, generates after images which fill the space' (Willats, Whitechapel Gallery catalogue, p.16)

At this point, Willats's drawings were becoming increasingly diagrammatic and employed brighter colours.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.299-300

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