Paul Neagu, Great Tactile Table, 1970. © Estate of Paul Neagu

Room 4 in Performer and Participant

Paul Neagu

Full Hand

Paul Neagu, Full Hand  1970–1

Empty Hand and Full Hand consist of framed blocks of wood which hold small boxes or blocks arranged in the shape of a hand. Like many of the works shown in this room, the cellular structure of the hands relates to Neagu’s interest in the human body as a microcosmic model for larger systems.

The hand as a symbol appears in several of Neagu’s works, notably in a series of drawings called 36 Possibilities Realised Simultaneously.

Gallery label, September 2004

© Estate of Paul Neagu

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Great Tactile Table

Paul Neagu, Great Tactile Table  1970

Like many of Neagu’s ‘palpable objects’, this work contains many small boxes or compartments. These boxes are filled with small metallic objects which the spectator was invited to feel. Great Tactile Table is the largest of a group of sculptures with compartments arranged to form human figures. Neagu called these figures ‘anthropocosmos’, a term combining the Greek words for man and universe. The compartmentalised structure refers to the cellular composition of the human body. It is also a metaphor for larger systems, such as society, which consist of individual yet interrelated parts.

Gallery label, September 2016

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Tactile Object (Hand)

Paul Neagu, Tactile Object (Hand)  1970

These two sculptures are variations of Neagu’s ‘tactile’ and ‘palpable’ objects. Both combine textured surfaces with more elaborate imagery and religious symbols. On the top of Tactile Object is a cross made from strips of leather. Palpable Object contains cut-outs in the shape of human figures, giving the box the feeling of a coffin or reliquary.

Religious references appear in several of Neagu’s works. In the video of Cake Man Event, also shown in this gallery, the ritualised eating of waffles recalls the Christian Holy Communion.

Gallery label, September 2004

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36 Possibilities Realised Simultaneously

Paul Neagu, 36 Possibilities Realised Simultaneously  1973–4

36 Possibilities Realised Simultaneously is a ‘collaborative work’ made by the Generative Art Group which Neagu founded in 1971. The group had five members: Neagu himself and four fictitious characters. Each character worked in his own distinctive style, allowing Neagu to explore different aspects of his artistic practice.

This work consists of canvas-backed drawings made by the five members of the group. The range of styles, images and ideas in the drawings is an indication of the breadth of Neagu’s artistic interests.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Ceramic Skull

Paul Neagu, Ceramic Skull  1973

In this work rectangular shapes are stacked in tiers to form the shape of a human skull.

The spaces between the individual shapes create cellular divisions. As with many of Neagu’s ‘anthropocosmic’ works, this head, formed of cellular elements addresses the nature of the human body and experience. It is an apparent whole, yet divisible into a number of discrete parts, sensations and experiences.

Gallery label, May 2003

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Palpable Object

Paul Neagu, Palpable Object  1970–2

These two sculptures are variations of Neagu’s ‘tactile’ and ‘palpable’ objects. Both combine textured surfaces with more elaborate imagery and religious symbols. On the top of Tactile Object is a cross made from strips of leather. Palpable Object contains cut-outs in the shape of human figures, giving the box the feeling of a coffin or reliquary.

Religious references appear in several of Neagu’s works. In the video of Cake Man Event, also shown in this gallery, the ritualised eating of waffles recalls the Christian Holy Communion.

Gallery label, September 2004

© Estate of Paul Neagu

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Jump

Paul Neagu, Jump  1977

The leaping man shown here recalls Neagu’s video Hyphen Ramp (shown in this room) which shows the artist repeatedly jumping against the gallery wall.

The phrase ‘impulses and vectors’ appears to the right of this figure. ‘Impulses’, for Neagu, refer to the body’s actions and movements. ‘Vectors’ are more regular systems or structures, such as the grid-like divisions filling the shape of the leaping man. The artist has described his performance work as an attempt to reach a state of ‘fusion between impulses and vectors.’

Gallery label, September 2004

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Box, Tactile Object (Receptacle)

Paul Neagu, Box, Tactile Object (Receptacle)  1972

This work, made in 1972, is one of Neagu’s later ‘tactile objects’. It shows the artist experimenting with a wider range of materials. The hinged lid of the wooden box opens to reveal small cardboard boxes set in papier maché.

The encrusted appearance of the papier maché gives the object an amorphous and organic quality, and reinforces its tactile nature. Like Great Tactile Table, also shown in this room, the boxes would have contained small objects or materials for the spectator to handle.

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Tactile Object 3

Paul Neagu, Tactile Object 3  1970

When Neagu first exhibited these small-scale sculptures he suspended them from the walls and ceiling of a darkened gallery. Visitors were encouraged to feel their way around the room, experiencing the works by touch.

Neagu considered sight to be an overused sense. In his Palpable Art Manifesto of 1969 he called for ‘one public, palpable art through which all the senses, sight, touch, smell, taste will supplement and devour each other so that a man can possess an object in every sense.’

Gallery label, August 2004

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Paul Neagu, Rocking Hyphen (Edge Runner)  1983

Rocking Hyphen (Edge Runner) is made of nine wooden beams, held together by rusted bolts and steel rods. The ‘Hyphen’ is an open rectangle supported by three legs. This shape recurs frequently in Neagu’s sculpture. The form was originally developed in the context of his performances.

Neagu observed ‘Hyphen is my recurrent instrument of work as the plough is for the farmer. Conceptually it relates the essence of the earth to the body of man and to the ideas of the harvest’.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Paul Neagu, Neagu’s Boxes  1969

Neagu's Boxes is a video transferred from a black and white 16mm film made in Bucharest, Romania in 1968. The footage, just under ten minutes long, was shot by the artist’s friend Comis Laurian and documents an exhibition of Neagu’s work at the Amphora Gallery. The soundtrack features the compositions Intégrales, 1925 and Density 21.5, 1936 by the modernist composer Edgar Varese (1883-1965).

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Paul Neagu, Going Tornado  1974

In Going Tornado Neagu performs a series of actions intended to lead him to a transcendental state. To that end, he removes constrictive clothing and performs sometimes awkward movements around the space.

Drawings by the artist are shown at intervals. Neagu has described this performance as the transcription of these drawings into live action. The work culminates with the artist spinning around in circles, mimicking the movement of the rising spiral (or tornado) depicted in one of the drawings.

Going Tornado was recorded at the Grampian television studio in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Tactile Object 2

Paul Neagu, Tactile Object 2  1969

When Neagu first exhibited these small-scale sculptures he suspended them from the walls and ceiling of a darkened gallery. Visitors were encouraged to feel their way around the room, experiencing the works by touch.

Neagu considered sight to be an overused sense. In his Palpable Art Manifesto of 1969 he called for ‘one public, palpable art through which all the senses, sight, touch, smell, taste will supplement and devour each other so that a man can possess an object in every sense.’

Gallery label, August 2004

© Estate of Paul Neagu

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Paul Neagu, Anthropocosmic Mould  1971

Anthropocosmic Mould takes its title from the ‘anthropocosmos’ figures that rest inside the box. ‘Anthropocosmos’ is a word Neagu invented, combining the Greek words for man and universe.

As with Great Tactile Table (also shown in this room) the figures are composed of cell-like compartments. These are metaphors for larger systems, such as society, composed of separate but related parts. The placement of the figures within a hinged box suggests a coffin or reliquary.

Gallery label, May 2003

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(White) Tactile Object with Hinges

Paul Neagu, (White) Tactile Object with Hinges  1969

Both Palpable Object and (White) Tactile Object with Hinges contain hinged or moveable parts which were originally intended to be manipulated by the spectator. Neagu's aim was to offer a multi-sensory experience, extending beyond the purely visual.

Neagu was convinced that ‘you can take things in better, more completely, with your ten fingers, pores and mucous membranes than with only two eyes‘. He continued to make tactile and palpable objects throughout the early 1970s.

Gallery label, May 2003

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Art in this room

Full Hand
Paul Neagu Full Hand 1970–1
Great Tactile Table
Paul Neagu Great Tactile Table 1970
Tactile Object (Hand)
Paul Neagu Tactile Object (Hand) 1970
36 Possibilities Realised Simultaneously
Paul Neagu 36 Possibilities Realised Simultaneously 1973–4
Ceramic Skull
Paul Neagu Ceramic Skull 1973
Palpable Object
Paul Neagu Palpable Object 1970–2

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