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30 x 154 cm

Notes on this work

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A shop that I pass regularly on the way to the studio had a small red and white plastic sign saying C LOOPSEEND. Since the shop sold yams and sweet potatoes I assumed that this was the name of the proprietor; the double vowels suggested Dutch however and I was puzzled each time I passed it.

Having seen this name for about a year and having thought it odd but probably liable to rational explanation, I suddenly came across its double in a second-hand shop in Ipswich in 1965. I was about to ask the shopkeeper whether he was any relative of his namesake in Camberwell when I noticed, in the back of the shop, many piles of similar nameplates, each bearing the inscription C LOOPSEEND.

For some reason I made no enquiry in the Ipswich shop but asked instead at the Camberwell grocers.

'Is this the name of the shop or a brand of banana or what?' and received the reply:

'No, it's broken, mate. There should be a sort of panel thing what goes over the top covering the letters so as you can sort of slide it along like, to make it say open or closed.'

I had failed over a long period to connect this sign with either its combined and opposing messages, or with the hundreds of complete examples I had seen in almost all the shop doorways in England.

My delight in the discovery has in no way diminished since I first introduced it into a painting (A Little Art History 1965) shown in my first one man show. Indeed it has taken on new resonance as it reflects aspects of philosophy, science and politics that I have encountered thereafter. I'm certain that uncertainty has no more eloquent emblem.

(Postscript) Twenty years later the strange syllables still lingered in my consciousness and I designed a large plastic replica whose transparent slide remembers its function yet reveals what it was meant to conceal.

Works and Texts (1992), p. 288.

Postscript: Meanwhile, Embassy Signs Ltd. of Bellenden Road have, after some adjustments I made to the prototype, produced, in laminated plastic with perspex slide, a handsome multiple of my favourite device.

Studio Diary August 10th 2007

See also C LOOPSEEND in Music Scores and Editions.