Room 11

Shit and flowers

One of the lessons that Hamilton learned from Marcel Duchamp was to adopt ‘a stratagem of dichotomy’ – making dramatic shifts of subject matter, style, and facture from one group of works to the next. What he later called his ‘scatological period’ was a deliberate volte-face from his work at the end of the 1960s.

Hamilton liked to spend August in Cadaqués in Catalonia, where he discovered a collection of postcards from the village of Miers in south-west France showing people ‘relieving themselves’ after drinking Eaux de Miers, a local laxative. Back in England, he was struck by a new convention in fashion photography: the squatting model, whose position enabled her whole body to be shown close-up in the rectangle of the magazine page. Hamilton also encountered a set of Andrex toilet paper adverts showing young women in soft-tinted sylvan environments, and a number of lenticular flower postcards which reminded him of his desire to add the flower picture to the list of genres he had tackled.

All this led to a series of works in which Hamilton took an irreverent approach to the conventions of romance, glamour and schmaltz. These subjects were also the starting point for complex technical experimentation: for instance, Hamilton set out to make colour-etchings through the production of four copper plates inked with yellow, cyan, magenta, and black. The arduous and difficult process necessitated collaboration with the famous printer Aldo Crommelynck; meanwhile Hamilton’s friend Marcel Broodthaers contributed a poetic text in old French to introduce the resulting portfolio.