I had been reading Anthony Caro's 'Quest for the New Sculpture' during the period when my last project was ending and this new one beginning. I had in mind elements of my previous project as well as thoughts relating to sculpture and representing ideas relating to vision and how I might do this with appropriate materials. I was influenced by the connection between Anthony Caro sculptor and Kenneth Noland painter and the friendship and mutual admiration they had for each others work.
I personally had not found the power in Noland's paintings as I found in Caro's sculptures but Noland's series of circular colour field abstract works were certainly something I found staying with me as pure geometric form more than the colour. Caro's book is deeply comprehensive and is a fascinating account of the development of his practice and his connections across the Atlantic at a very vibrant time during the 1960's. His links to and friendship with Clement Greenberg as well as important American painters such as Noland made Caro an emerging international presence that only Henry Moore had so far managed to achieve as a British sculptor. Caro of course was just developing his own style during the early 1960's having worked with Henry Moore as his assistant.
I wanted to focus upon chapter 6 in 'Quest for the new sculpture' and the 1963 Whitechapel exhibition as this seemed a pivotal point for Caro beginning to establish himself in America. I also found it a creatively interesting point of connection between Caro's new sculptural work and the new paintings of Kenneth Noland. My focus upon this chapter was ultimately what led me to personally create my own response for this project which I felt contained aspects of Noland's paintings as well (less so) some of Caro's sculptural work.
Caro's sculptures during the very early 60's such as 'The Horse' in 1961, 'The Lock' in 1962 and 'Atlantic1962 lacked any idea of circularity and were predominantly stiff geometric solids where movement was provided by the relationships between angles, vertical lines and the surrounding space of the sculpture. It wasn't until late 1962 and 1963 that Caro introduces aluminium tubing and curved lines into his sculptures. 'Early one morning' 1962 and 'Month of May' 1963 are very good examples of a new fluidity in Caro's work. I had wanted to contain the geometry of my sculpture inside the large solid blocks in his works such as 'Pompadour' 1963. These were 3 frontal solid forms surrounded by a number of curved pieces and I was interested in the idea of the triptych.
I became interested in using some of Caro's structural sculptural shapes with Noland's painted geometric circles and linking this into my idea related to vision or the idea of changes of perception. I was already looking at other work of the period as well as more contemporary sculpture and painting and seeking to ground my work in some past place whilst also using a modernist approach to materials and the idea of crossing sculpture, painting and installation. I of course am just listing the areas that were interesting to me and how I was trying to apply those to my own creative interpretation. I am not describing my own breakthrough but rather more my personal visual response to my own project being rooted in earlier ideas and forms used by artists that were exploring the boundaries of their respective fields.
I used photographic gels in this piece as the material seemed appropriate to my ideas about seeing and the process of light, the eye and the image. The circles are geometrically proportional in that each circle is exactly double the size of the previous one. I was again working across painting and sculpture using the material in a sculptural way even though it is essentially blocks of colour which has a stronger association with paint perhaps. The holes are representative of a process of change which linked into my previous projects ideas on metamorphosis and they also show the visual size reducing in much the same way a camera's aperture adjustment of stops lets in precisely double the light or half the light of the previous stop depending upon movement down or up aperture scales. The cut out circles of colour remaining on the floor suggests a previous connection and now distorted separation which fits with my ideas of how to represent visual alteration and or loss.
In mid April 1969 Caro had written to Greenberg in America including images of his latest work and asking for his feedback. It was Noland who communicated Greenberg's enthusiastic response to Caro. Caro interestingly for me wrote again to Greenberg in May thanking him for the part that he had played in the new direction of Caro's work. Greenberg was an enormously powerful figure and it is interesting that it was Greenberg a critic and not sculptors like Henry Moore with whom Caro trained that were pushing the creative agenda forward for Caro.
Further to this Interestingly in my own fascination with painting and sculptural form Caro writes in an extract taken from the book 'My Own Work' reprinted in Giovanni Caradente, Anthony Caro 1992, p.87 ' My source was invariably painting rather than sculpture. From painting I found came my moving away from conventions of sculpture. Looking at sculpture from the past would have inhibited me.'
Noland found himself part of the inaugural exhibition in 1963 at the new Whitechapel gallery run by Kasmin and his partner Lord Dufferin. Caro was also invited by Kasmin to hold an exhibition of his work there as well so the links between Noland and Caro in theIr apparently separate artistic fields were growing in terms of gallery appetite for their work and the influence both were having on other artists work. Caro kept Noland informed of the tremendous response his circle paintings were generating. Caro writes 'Every time I went to Kasmin's there were students or young artists in there and I see reproductions of your paintings pinned up in a lot of people's studios.' Noland became instrumental in bringing Caro to America to teach at Bennington College and along with Greenberg's support both artists found a creative environment full of enthusiasm and support.
I thought this was for me an interesting connection I wanted to explore and I felt encouraged that I was able to produce a piece that in some way reflected my interest in the links between their work.