Stephen Willats

Drawing for Construction


Not on display

Stephen Willats born 1943
Graphite and wax crayon on paper
Support: 206 × 291 mm
Purchased 1985

Catalogue entry

Stephen Willats born 1943

T04107 Drawing For Construction 1963

Pencil on paper 206 x 291 (8 1/4 x 11 1/2)
Inscribed ‘SW63' b.r., ‘Color events unfold | as observer moves | at random around | object' b.l., ‘Random direction' top centre and ‘Drawing for construction March 1963' on back
Purchased from Lisson Gallery (Grant-in Aid) 1985
Prov: Purchased from the artist by Lisson Gallery 1985
Lit: ‘Catalogue', Stephen Willats: Concerning our Present Way of Living, exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1979, p.13 repr.

This is a drawing after ‘Articulated Construction', a painted wood sculpture made in June 1962 and subsequently destroyed. The sculpture was constructed from painted wood and measured approximately 76 x 122, 29 7/8 x 48. Although T04107 was not shown in the exhibition, Willats's 1979 Whitechapel catalogue provides the following note on the original sculpture, beside a reproduction of T04107:

As the audience walked around the work, so they were presented with an unfolding sequence of colour planes. This sequence was organised specifically to be read by someone in movement, the particular way colour planes were experienced being determined by a person's behaviour. ‘Articulated Construction' consisted of a free standing oblong box that was intersected by four sheets of painted wood. The work was considered to be a model for a larger public structure. (p.13)

In the drawing, the sculpture is seen in plan and the ‘observer's' route is indicated, qualified by the inscription, ‘color [sic.] events unfold as observer moves at random around the object'. The artist has provided photographs of two more ‘Articulated Constructions' also dating from 1962, showing clearly the articulated planes (which appear as heavier lines in T04107). The ‘Articulated Constructions' were made the same year as, and are related to, a number of ‘Light Modulator' works, models for constructions to be set up in public places. ‘All the vertical planes are moveable, so that their position and relationship to each other could be changed by people passing through'. (Whitechapel Art Gallery exh. cat. 1979, p.13). These works proposed an interactive relationship, whereby the audience would participate in and determine aspects of the sculpture and T04107 is one of the first of Willats's drawings to stress audience involvement. Willats acknowledges the importance of objects in our culture and these works were intended to emphasise the object-based nature of society. Willats was primarily concerned with the behavioural, rather than the aesthetic affect of these kinetic works, working with a set of random variables within an environment that was consistent and determined. In 1965, he wrote:

For me an attitude which takes into account Behaviourism etc., offers a greater degree of control in examining the feedback between the environment and myself, it becomes a means for working out my position.

Its usage in the field of Visual Communication, Art, Education, and for operation Art Works, leaves the whole field open-ended; one no longer has to hide under the guise of the producer of so called fine art objects ... If one accepts that the art work is a total of a philosophy or attitude which either has a reference frame outside the picture area, and thus acts as a motivator for it, or alternatively provides a total experience, in other words the art work becomes the reference frame, I am either directing or motivating thought or movement. The above two notions have relied on voluntary motivation, they have always proposed the thought A, and have not controlled the chain of thoughts which would arise through A; thus the communication on this level becomes haphazard. In order to achieve a more precise direction it becomes necessary to use a means which is involuntary, which not only proposes A, but controls the chain of thoughts resulting from A. Through ... Behaviourism ... I can begin to control the observer-object relation. This has led me to a position where I have become increasingly interested in voluntary behaviour produced through awareness, and the Control mechanism which enforces set patterns of behaviour in society.

(This text, which is based on a similar text dating from 1963 but not published, was subsequently published in the magazine Willats edits, Control Magazine, no.3, 1966).

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

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