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After Henry James

welded copper wire 
115 x 150 cm

Notes on this work

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After Henry James
epson and silkscreen
64 x 72 cm

This piece, an unexpectedly passionate quotation from Henry James in worked and joined wire, marks what seems to be the end of a long quest. Towards the end of the sixties I set myself the problem of making paintings and drawings entirely composed of words (e.g., Here We Exemplify and The Sound in My Life which both consist only of the title cancelling itself out in layers). In these works the techniques of musical composition (catches, rounds, canons, fugues) were never far away. Initially I used stencilled letters but as these passed into the currency of graphic design, I took to making my own. Yet the paradox remained that although these used only text as their imagery the greater proportion of their surfaces was taken up with paint that served as space either between letters or within their shapes. It was only in the early 1990’s when writing semi-cryptic message to my then wife-to-be that I started making works of letters without any gaps between the lines. On the plane back from an assignation in Frankfurt, while writing one of the spidery trellises of amatory words I found that by bullying the letters a little I could make them act as self- supporting units, like drawings for a free-standing screen. It was one of those brief exciting moments where a few seconds of thought and a few lines in a notebook leads to months of laborious realisation.