Gillian Ayres OBE, The Colour That Was There 1993 . Tate . © Gillian Ayres

Ideas Depot

El Lissitzky, 4. Anxious People  1923

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El Lissitzky, 10. New Man  1923

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Roy Lichtenstein, Explosion  1965–6

Beginning in 1962 Lichtenstein borrowed images of explosions from popular war comics for use in his paintings. The subject embodies the revolutionary nature of Pop art and suggests the very real threat of annihilation by nuclear explosion that was prevalent at that time (the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in 1962). But Lichtenstein was also interested in the way dynamic events like explosions were depicted in the stylised format of comic book illustration. This print incorporates many of the hallmarks of his early painting style: flat primary colours, Benday dots, outlines and schematic drawing.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Joan Miró, The Great Carnivore  1969

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Pol Bury, 16 Balls, 16 Cubes in 8 Rows  1966

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Chris Ofili, R.I.P. Stephen Lawrence 1974 - 1993  2013

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Frances Hodgkins, Wings over Water  1930

Frances Hodgkins was born in New Zealand and first came to Europe in 1901. She taught in Paris between 1910 and 1912 and settled in England in 1914. She was a close friend of Cedric Morris and Lett Haines, the former proposing her membership of the Seven and Five in 1929. 'Wings over Water' is typical of Seven and Five artists in its depiction of a table-top still life set before a window. It was painted in the artist's studio in Hampstead, an area of North London much favoured by avant-garde British artists at the time, and evokes memories of Cornwall where she had settled in 1914.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Gillian Carnegie, Hanser  2010

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Leon Golub, Wounded Sphinx  1965

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Carel Weight, Allegro Strepitoso  1932

During the 1930s Weight was interested in fairy stories and images which kindled the imagination. 'Allegro Strepitoso' was inspired by memories of childhood visits to London Zoo accompanied by his mother. A photograph of Weight's mother adopting a position of agitation provided the pose for the lady in red. Weight wanted to execute a comic painting and became fascinated with making the lion appear to spring out of the cage. The title of the painting was suggested by a musical friend of the artist after it had been completed. Allegro means 'merry' or 'lively', while strepitoso means 'noisily'. The theme of attack and escape is one that runs throughout Weight's work.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Martin Parr, The Last Resort 25  1983–6, printed 2018

The Last Resort is a series of forty photographs taken in New Brighton, a beach suburb of Liverpool. Shot with a medium format camera and daylight flash, the photographs are an early example of Parr’s characteristic saturated colour, influenced by the American colour photography of William Eggleston (born 1939) and Garry Winogrand (1928-84). Parr printed eleven images from The Last Resort in a large-format edition of five for his 2002 retrospective at the Barbican Art Gallery, London. New Brighton, Merseyside (25) is one of four works from this special edition owned by Tate.

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Salvador Dalí, Mountain Lake  1938

Mountain Lake demonstrates Dalí’s use of the multiple image: the lake can simultaneously be seen as a fish. By such doubling he sought to challenge rationality. The painting combines personal and public references. His parents visited this lake after the death of their first child, also called Salvador. Dalí seems to have been haunted by the death of his namesake brother whom he never knew. The disconnected telephone brings the image into the present by alluding to negotiations between Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, and Hitler over the German annexation of the Sudetenland in September 1938.

Gallery label, December 2005

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Lygia Pape, Weaving  1957

Here Lygia Pape creates a complex composition out of simple rectangles and triangles. The title refers to the act of weaving, and thus to textiles, a reference that implies the transparency of woven fabric, as well as its regularity and precision. Each shape is made with a woodcut printed onto thin paper, with the grooves of the natural woodgrain of the printing block visible. This organic element, along with the overlapping of the shapes, deliberately disturbs the pure geometry of the work.

Gallery label, November 2015

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Patrick Caulfield, After Lunch  1975

Patrick Caulfield’s paintings explore alternative ways of picturing the world. After Lunch was one of his earliest works to combine different styles of representation. In this case, what appears to be a photomural of the Château de Chillon hanging in a restaurant is depicted with high-focus realism, contrasting with the cartoon-like black-outlined imagery and fields of saturated colour of its surroundings. Caulfield deliberately makes the relationship between these varying representational methods uneasy and ambiguous, so that the picture appears more real than the everyday world around it.

Gallery label, November 2016

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Paul Klee, Burdened Children  1930

These two works show Klee’s great imaginative and technical versatility. In The Castle of Mountain S, the mysterious castle seems to have emerged from the artist’s process of heavily working the paint. The freer process of ‘taking a line for a walk’ animates Burdened Children showing the spontaneity that Klee associated with childhood.

Gallery label, April 2008

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Nelson Stevens, Uhuru  1971

Uhuru 1971 is a screenprint on paper produced by Nelson Stevens, a member of the Chicago-based artists’ collective AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists). Uhuru takes its title from the Swahili word for freedom. Adopted as a fundamental principle of the Pan-African movement, Stevens centres on the hopeful spiritualism associated with the word. Here it is emblazoned above a portrait of an African American woman who gazes upwards with a strong expression. Her face and Afro hairstyle are made up of fragmented and frenzied lines and forms, typical of Stevens’s painting aesthetic, evoking rhythm and movement inspired by African music.

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Natalia Goncharova, Three Young Women  1920

The apparent abstraction of this composition derives from the radically restructured forms of the three women identified in the title. Many years after its completion, the artist described it as: ‘Three half-length female figures, the play of sunlight and reflections of a sandy path (yellowish orange) and orange red etc.’ The fragmented forms that Goncharova favoured in earlier works were here resolved in a more stable synthesis that reflect her contribution to developments in post-First World War Paris.

Gallery label, November 2007

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Gillian Ayres OBE, The Colour That Was There  1993

For The Colour That Was There, Ayres took a proof of a screenprint she had rejected, and painted over it using acrylic paint (a medium she had given up in favour of oil some years earlier). The shift in medium complicates the spatial dynamic of the composition, additionally defined by the decorative painted border around its four edges, emphasising the work’s self-contained nature. The title could refer to the original screenprint, which may have been differently coloured, or perhaps to a colour that was obscured when Ayres painted over the print.

Gallery label, October 2019

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Nicola Tyson, Swimmer  1995

Nicola Tyson describes her work as ‘psycho-figuration’. Her figures tend to be oddly misshapen with puzzling proportions, usually set against a flat painted background. She uses them to examine issues of identity, gender and sexuality.

The submerged body of the Swimmer is particularly distorted by the refraction of light through water. The lower body tapers to a point like a tadpole, while the monstrously bulbous head has a pink-coloured void where a face should be. The bright colours conflict with the anxiety provoked by the distortion of Tyson’s figures.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Hansjörg Mayer, alphabet study: a  1962

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Hansjörg Mayer, alphabet study: b  1962

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Hansjörg Mayer, alphabet study: c  1962

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Edward Ruscha, OK (State I)  1990

OK (Slate I) is a lithograph with the word ‘OK’ at its centre. The letters are a peach-orange colour and the background is blue. The background takes a pure shade of blue in the region immediately above and below the letters, while the section behind the letters has a purple hue. There is also purple along the top and bottom edges of the piece. The letters, meanwhile, are a darker shade of peach at their centre than at their top and bottom. Small tendrils of the text’s peach-orange colour extend beyond the edge of the text and mingle with the blue of the background. This gives the letters a fuzzy-looking effect. The lithograph was made by Ruscha in 1990, but it is a technique he has used throughout his career. Lithography allows images and text to be printed quickly and can be used to produce dozens of identical images.

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Pablo Picasso, Girl in a Chemise  c.1905

This is one of the first paintings Picasso made after moving from Barcelona to Paris in 1904. The painting relates stylistically to works of his so-called ‘rose period’. Even though this painting is predominantly blue, the warm pinkish-brown undertones in the background represent a transition towards a more colourful palette and lighter subject matter. The young woman portrayed here is likely Madeleine, Picasso’s regular model at the time. Her depiction bears similarities to his paintings of harlequins and travelling entertainers which featured heavily in Picasso’s rose period.

Gallery label, November 2019

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Jorge Macchi, Musical Box  2004

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Alexandre da Cunha, Erik Ellington (fan)  2004

Erik Ellington (fan) 2004 is a floor-based sculpture by the British-Brazilian artist Alexandre da Cunha that comprises three skateboards with their wheels removed arranged in a three-armed configuration to resemble a domestic ceiling fan. At the centre of the work, eight lightweight metal objects – an ash tray, two cake moulds, the bottom of a cake tin, two round baking trays, a salad bowl and a circular lid – are threaded onto a plastic-covered metal broom handle using a series of wing nuts and bolts. The work is balanced on the floor, with two of the skateboards touching the ground and a third support provided by the lower end of the broom handle, onto which is attached a small metal sink drainer.

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Sharon Lockhart, Goshogaoka Girls Basketball Team: Ayako Sano  1997

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Sir Anthony Caro, Table Piece XXVIII  1967

In 1966, after a rapid rise to prominence with large-scale, abstract works constructed from steel, Anthony Caro began making small sculptures which became a long-running discrete series, known as ‘table pieces’. Designed to sit on the edge of a horizontal surface at table height, they are neither maquettes nor models that can be scaled up and placed on the ground. Caro’s goal was to make small sculptures whose modest dimensions would be intrinsic to their final form. Often their component parts include handles, tools, objects or implements whose size is recognizably intended to fit into the human hand. However abstract Caro’s sculpture may appear to be, it is always related to the human body for, as he stated in a lecture on Degas, ‘all sculpture takes its bearings from the fact that we live inside our bodies and that our size and stretch and strength is what it is’ (quoted in Moorhouse, p.25).

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David Shrigley OBE, Untitled  2004

This drawing shows two black silhouetted figures, joined so as to appear as one. As the words written on the page state, the image represents an elephant standing on a car. The car is a simplified representation of an old-fashioned vehicle such as a child might draw. Viewed from the side, it consists of an angled-off dark area between two parallel lines drawn using a ruler, sitting on two half-circles representing wheels. The elephant towers over the car, completely out of proportion to the vehicle’s size. Only the front part of its body is visible on the page, its front feet planted firmly on the car roof and the top of its head cut off by the edge of the paper. Its trunk is nearly as wide as its legs and it looks out at the viewer from a single large eye. This eye, like the centres of the car tyres, consists of a rounded white area with a black spot in the centre. The white area is bare paper, around which the artist has filled in the contours of the car and the elephant with black ink, applied with a brush. The words ‘elephant chooses to stand on your car’ are written in capital letters on five heavily-ruled lines next to the left of the elephant’s legs, under its trunk.

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Roger Hiorns, Untitled  2006

Hiorns uses chemical or mineral processes to explore ideas of growth and change and the tensions between the industrial and the organic, the functional and the functionless. Untitled 2006 is one of his distinctive engine pieces. Standing on top of a steel structure, based on a chair designed by the sculptor Donald Judd, an engine is covered in blue crystals, which grew on the surface from copper sulphate powder. Hidden below the engine, and connected by a pipe, is a small model of a gothic cathedral, also coated with crystals.

Gallery label, July 2015

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Art in this room

P07141: 4. Anxious People
El Lissitzky 4. Anxious People 1923
P07147: 10. New Man
El Lissitzky 10. New Man 1923
P01796: Explosion
Roy Lichtenstein Explosion 1965–6
P07357: The Great Carnivore
Joan Miró The Great Carnivore 1969
T00919: 16 Balls, 16 Cubes in 8 Rows
Pol Bury 16 Balls, 16 Cubes in 8 Rows 1966
P20385: R.I.P. Stephen Lawrence 1974 - 1993
Chris Ofili R.I.P. Stephen Lawrence 1974 - 1993 2013

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