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54 Union Jacks Occurring on Postcards

cast plaster
36 x 39 cm

Notes on this work

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Nine Maquettes After the Union Jack
acrylic on plaster relief
29 x 35 cm framed

Early in 1973 I had a phone call from the Midland group gallery in Nottingham saying that they were celebrating their anniversary with an exhibition of flags and would like me to design one for the show: I accepted the invitation and after only a few hours reflection remembered all the flags I had seen fluttering on postcards, each one a Union Jack but in fantastic ways eroded by the stages of offset lithography, brutalised by the tinter's brush, or fragmented and faded beyond recognition by some earlier graphic process. I therefore decided to reconstruct such a flag (flying in fact on a postcard of Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin). I made a drawing to indicate how the flag in question would look were it to be flattened out and the gallery had a full size one professionally made from the design.

Looking through postcards of beflagged public buildings in London I found that the Union Jack was capable of hundreds of variations, each seemingly acceptable by the public (at least on the scale that they appear on a card) as the British flag. In trying to reconstruct the hypothetical flat appearance of these mutilations the principal difficulty was to decide what happened in the parts of the design hidden from view as they furled and billowed in the wind. I made intermediary relief maquettes on which I could conjecture the parts concealed. Gouaches were made from these which could be said to reconstruct those absurd flying objects flying on top of the Houses of Parliament or the Tower of London, taken down as it were and ironed out.

Works & Texts (1992) pages 67-69

See a related print in the Editions section.