Stage 1997 is a rectangular portrait-orientated screenprint on white wove paper featuring a photograph of the backstage area of the theatre at the Barbican Arts Centre in London. The photograph offers a perspective looking sharply upwards into the space, and the image is characterised by what appear to be an almost abstract collection of intersecting vertical, horizontal and diagonal forms. Visible throughout the image and especially prominent on the right-hand side are a series of long columns that extend the length of the space, creating a vertiginous effect, while the upper part of the photograph depicts a grid pattern formed by stage apparatus attached to the ceiling. Located at the bottom of the image just to the right of the centre is a long rectangular metal bar that is seemingly supported by thin metal wires that form an inverted ‘v’ shape. The image, which is slightly blurred in places, is mainly composed in stark shades of green, yellow and orange alongside small patches of intense blue and a large black area on the right-hand side. The work is signed by the artist on its reverse.
British artist Catherine Yass made this print in London in 1997. The image in Stage was made from two separate photographs, a technique that Yass has commonly adopted in her practice. First, the artist shoots a colour positive transparency of her subject. After a short pause – a moment that Yass described in 2002 as ‘the gap between illusion and reality’ (quoted in Tate Britain 2002, p.12) – she takes a second image of the same scene, but this time uses a negative transparency. The two images are then combined to produce the final work, with the artist making further adjustments during the printing process. The layering of two distinct images creates the blurring effect visible in Stage, and this technique also inverts patterns of light and colour so that, for example, areas of bright yellow light become a distinctive blue tone.
Stage is closely related to Cell, a series of lightbox-mounted photographs that Yass completed in 1997 of the Barbican Arts Centre, having been commissioned by the institution to produce work for an exhibition in its foyer. In depicting the pulleys and machinery that support theatrical productions, Stage can be seen as drawing attention to equipment and spaces that are usually hidden from the audience. In 2003 the architectural historian Jane Rendell positioned Stage as one of a number of works by Yass that depict spaces not commonly seen in photographs:
These kinds of marginal areas are usually ignored, rarely photographed in colour, and seldom explored in relation to their formal properties, in terms of light and shadow. But Yass’ images investigate exactly this: the spatial qualities of these liminal zones.
(Rendell 2003, pp.16–17.)
Born in London in 1963, Yass studied at the Slade School of Fine Art (1982–6) in London, the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin (1984–5) and at Goldsmiths College in London (1988–90). Her photographs have frequently explored the employees and interior spaces of institutions – often those that have supported her artistic practice. Completed in 1994, Corridors (Tate T07065–T07072) is a series comprising eight photographic transparencies in light boxes depicting psychiatric hospital interiors. Yass’s practice has also included making films, which are usually silent and take a particular interest in notions of flight or falling. For example, Descent 2002 (Tate T13569) was made using a crane at a construction site at Canary Wharf in London, while High Wire 2008 is a multi-screen installation showing the French tightrope walker Didier Pasquette crossing a wire hung between two tower blocks in Glasgow.
Stage is part of Screen, a portfolio of eleven prints by London-based artists that was published in 1997 by Charles Booth-Clibborn under his imprint The Paragon Press. The works were all made between February and July 1997, and are presented together with a title page and colophon by the graphic designer Phil Baines in a black buckram-covered wooden case. The title of the portfolio refers to the technique of screenprinting and also alludes to the fact that many of the featured artists work with screen-based media. Each print exists in an edition of seventy-five, with the first forty-five produced in portfolio sets, of which the portfolio owned by Tate is number thirty-three.
In Print: Contemporary British Art from the Paragon Press, exhibition catalogue, Cvijeta Zuzoric Art Pavilion, Belgrade, London 2001, p.22, reproduced p.5.
Turner Prize 2002, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2002, pp.12–13.
Jane Rendell, ‘Where the Thinking Stops, Time Crystallises…’, in Malcolm Miles and Tim Hall (eds.), Urban Futures: Critical Commentaries on Shaping Cities, London 2003, pp.16–17.
Supported by Christie’s.
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