Monday, 2 July 2018

In Praise of Church-going

Thinking of Eduardo’s childhood, I wonder to what extent his visual ‘vocabulary’ was – perhaps sublimely – influenced by an environment that enveloped him at least once a week:

Courtesy Cruon

This is the (Roman Catholic) St Mary Star of the Sea Church, Leith.  The exterior is rather sombre, the work of Pugin and Hansom, typical of the mid-Victorian (1854) Gothic style.  But, inside, we see rich patterns and visual structures that surely echo themes and devices that figured in the 60s/70s print series:

The second of these photographs (courtesy of Barry Gordon) shows the pattern-rich nature of this interior.  With geometric themes in the tiles of the floor and the wall surfaces along with several elements of the windows, I’m sure we are looking at the basis of many of Eduardo’s images, especially where blocks of pattern were ‘assembled’ in the manner of a physical building.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Eduardo was sound on Europe

In the current Brexit context, good to see that Eduardo was a ‘Common Market’ man rather than a fan of the federal nightmare.  That’s not to say that he didn’t like Europe itself – after all, he spent a lot of time in Germany teaching and working.  But, as you see, like many others of us, he left Paris ‘with his tail between his legs.’  And, as a prophet of the Brexit global-trading philosophy, note that Eduardo was selling mostly into the U.S.  The cutting is from The Tatler, August 1962 – a publication which regularly reported on his work and exhibitions during the Sixties:

© Illustrated London News Group

Monday, 29 January 2018

Aye, Robot (apologies to Isaac Asimov)

Paolozzi, the digital artist in a still-analogue age, had a fascination with robots, especially around 1970.  Nearly 50 years on, these things are now frequently in the news as examples break through from being laboratory projects into the everyday environment, for instance as now-practicable housework ‘assistants,’ and, yikes, as functioning sexual partners.  What was science fiction to us 1950s/60s/70s-dwellers is fast becoming everyday reality.  Disappointingly, the aesthetics of realisation don’t compare well with the imaginations of Fifties artists, Eagle’s Frank Hampson for instance, whose visualisation of the dashing man in space – Dan Dare – makes Apollo moonwalker Buzz Aldrin look no more than a  lumbering, jazzed-up Michelin Man.

Likewise, the primary-coloured tin and plastic toy robots of the Fifties appear much more characterful than the rather sterile-looking models now emerging, (though in regard to the sexually active ones, being hygienically sterile may well be a very desirable attribute . . .)

 Robots amongst a sample of the collection of toys amassed over many years by Paolozzi

Sexbot as pictured in the Sun, January 2017

But, back to 1970, and it’s a bit awkward in the Artist’s studio since it looks as if Eduardo’s chat-up lines were not impressing his mechanical companion:

Courtesy of Robin Spencer (Eduardo Paolozzi: Writings and Interviews)

Paolozzi said of the etchings series, Cloud Atomic Laboratory, (1971):

The schism that separates Space Age Engineering, technical photography, film making and types of street-art from fine art activities is for many people/artists unbridgeable.

Within the grand system of paradoxes, the theme of this portfolio is the Human Predicament. Content enlarged by precision. History shaded into the grey scale as in the television tube.

Le Robot Robert,’ is from the series:

© Trustees of the Paolozzi Foundation

Below is a detail of the 'Shelves of Readymades' which was made for the 1971 Tate Paolozzi exhibition.  This has been preserved within the Krazy Kat Archive kept at the V&A.:

Courtesy of Robin Spencer (Eduardo Paolozzi: Writings and Interviews)

Much convoluted theorising is valid about Paolozzi’s purpose in using robots as subject matter – analogy with issues of control/subservience in a new technological-age, for example – but he said something much more straightforward in 1960 talking to Edouard Roditi:

. . . if one of us (sculptors) chances to find a particularly nice and spooky-looking piece of junk like an old discarded boiler, he can scarcely avoid using it as the trunk or body of a figure, if only because its shape suggests a body to anyone who sets out to do this kind of assembly work.  Then one only needs to weld something smaller onto the top to suggest a head, and four limb-like bits and pieces onto the sides and the bottom to suggest arms and legs, and there you have the whole figure, which has come to life like a traditional Golem or robot . . .

This late Seventies book with its strangely engaging cover image was referenced by Paolozzi:

Paolozzi’s interest in these things as subject matter was sustained through to near the end of his career, as demonstrated by the most impressive sculpture, ‘Vulcan,’ installed in the Dean Gallery, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art:

© (c) Trustees of the Paolozzi Foundation

And, meanwhile, over at the National Museum of Scotland, some more Paolozzi robotic creations keep guard of a collection of ‘early-man’ artefacts:

© National Museums Scotland

Paolozzi had always liked to explore the juxtaposition of images and objects, contrasting the mundane with the deeply philosophical for example.  I think therefore that he'd be particularly pleased with this installation.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Cutting and Pasting - for real!

As noted in this blog a time or two previously, I often reflect on Paolozzi’s achievement in creating his complex, collage-based 60s/70s prints without the aid of the electronic/digital software we today take for granted.  His hands will have suffered the ravages of several craft processes including ‘cutting and pasting,’ in which nasty sharp blades and various ‘toxic’ adhesive substances – think of Cow Gum fumes for instance – were involved.  But not always just Paolozzi’s own fair hands . . .

In this connection I had the good fortune recently to be contacted by Keith Coates Walker, Educator and Musician, who told me that he had been an assistant to Paolozzi on the Z.E.E.P. series.  (Keith also acted in this capacity for Pop Art stars, Jim Dine and Claus Oldenburg.)

Since there have been several accounts of ‘difficult’ working relationships with Eduardo, Keith’s general comments are interesting:

I suppose he could appear a bit remote and not personable . . . he was totally focused on his work, nothing else seemed to matter to him.  However he was on the other hand a very generous human being and I got along with him very well. It was certainly an interesting time and I enjoyed the experience enormously.

Regarding working practice, Keith explains:

Eduardo gave me a range of ephemera which were a mix of bits of packaging, magazine clips etc which he wanted converting to line drawings.  These were then photographed individually; (this, of course, was before Photoshop!) The resulting images were then printed as black and white photographs. The next stage was to construct the intended print as a full size paste-up.  This itself was then photographed and an offset litho plate was made and a number of copies were run off so that I could work on the colour separations.

The next stage (see example Z.E.E.P. ‘Agile Coin Gross Decision Logic‘ image below) was to work out the colours and the general balance.  This was done in three shades of grey.

The next stage (see Z.E.E.P. example image below) saw the introduction of a couple of shades of blue.

In the next stage (again see Z.E.E.P. example image below) I added Letraset textures and decided on the final colour separations.

At every stage there were a good few number of prints done to play around with so that alterations could be made.  If I remember it correctly the whole process took about 6 months.  Doing the initial drawings was the easy part, it was the rest that was lengthy, to and fro from the photographer and the printers. This was the first time that Eduardo had used offset litho for his prints - prior to that he had always used screen printing. The printers* specialised in map printing - in fact on the back of the image above is a map, this being the first off the press having made use of a piece of ‘scrap’ paper.  I'm assuming this is now quite a rarity.

* Advanced Graphics

I am very grateful to Keith for his generosity in providing this insight into a process that has not previously been detailed elsewhere.  Keith himself is keeping the particular creative style in play with his own prints, for example, Shock Velocity 113 (upper), and Biscotti’s Dream (lower) as below:

© Keith Walker

© Keith Walker

There’s much, much more, at - so indulge yourself!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017


This is a very interesting and well-produced post on the It’s Nice That blog by Billie Muraben.  It’s rich in anecdote about Paolozzi and illustrated with some excellent photography:

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Third Dimension Flattened

A rarely-seen lithograph recently crossed my path.  It’s from 1963 and, as far as I know, is untitled:

The image featured in The Metallization of a Dream.  This book, created by John Munday, gathered together a selection of Paolozzi’s fifties/early sixties work.  A commentary text was contributed by Lawrence Alloway.  It was published by the Royal College of Art’s ‘Lion & Unicorn Press’ in an edition of 400.

Both graphic and sculptural work is included, with an emphasis on technological source imagery and components, often of automotive industry origin.

Although a pleasingly ‘flat’ image, the print could well be an intermediary study for a sculpture piece typical of Paolozzi’s output in the first few years of the sixties decade.  For comparison, here, below, are some example three-dimensional ‘cousins’:

The Twin Tower of the Sfinx-State II (1962)

Imperial War Museum (1962)

Tower for Mondrian (1963-4)