Friday, 29 April 2016

Impossible Possibilities

This is an intriguing stand-alone screenprint from 1973.  Entitled ‘Quadrum Dax’, it was printed by Kelpra in an edition of 100.  Dimensions are 86cms x 64cms.
I see it as a very satisfying hybrid, recalling the mechanistic, painted sculptures of the early Sixties, the pattern componentry of As Is When and Universal Electronic Vacuum and looking forward to the more ethereal graphics style that would peak with Paolozzi’s prints of the late 70s.  It is an exemplar of what Paolozzi was talking about in his letter published in The Guardian, 6 March 1967:
By employing engineering methods the iconography of the sculptor can be extended far beyond the normal range of the traditionally trained and studio bound artist and the high technical standards of industrial commercial process, including screen printing, can provide a complexity and range of possibility impossible by normal art-craft printing methods1. 

As to colour, I regard it as a halfway house between the use of high contrast, saturated hues – often of the primaries – in the Sixties’ print series and the much more muted schemes of the Kottbusserdam Pictures and Turkish Music series (1974), and Calcium Light Night series (1974-6).  The composition anticipates the four-block structure of the woodcut series of 1975, For Charles Rennie Mackintosh. 

The rendition of pattern and the geometry is much more clinical than in any other Paolozzi print I have seen. 

I suspect that Paolozzi selected the title mainly on the basis of his liking for the sound and/or look of quirky words and phrases.  It is not a notable Latin expression.  Quadrum obviously refers to ‘four’ and Dax can ‘mean’ anything from a proper name to the German Stock Exchange. 

The print does not feature in the relatively comprehensive Tate on-line catalogue and is missing from the lists in Kelpra Studio: The Rose and Chris Prater Gift. Artists’ Prints  1961-1980, unless it represents one of untitled items, DP4886 or DP4887.

1 The full text of this letter is reproduced in Eduardo Paolozzi Writings and Interviews, edited by Robin Spencer, Oxford University Press, 2000