Collection NameFlanagan, Barry
Reference Number (click the number to browse all records in this collection)TGA 201716
TitleA collection of documents and editions produced at the time of Barry Flanagan's first solo exhibition at the Rowan Gallery 1966 and while a student at St Martin's School of Art in 1965
Extent8 folders
Access StatusOPEN
DescriptionThis small archive collection results from Flanagan's contact with Frederic Hunter (1934-2012), a producer in the radio division of the Central Office of Information, who was immersed in the alternative poetry scene in London, defined by Michael Horovitz's poetry events since 1959 under the banner of Live New Departures and the International Poetry Incarnation at the Albert Hall in 1965, which laid the foundations for an emerging counterculture. While a student at St Martin's Flanagan was immersed in the avant-garde concrete poetry scene and exhibited at Better Books (whose manager was the visual and sound poet Bob Cobbing) and performed at the opening of 'Between Poetry and Painting' at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in 1965.

This collection documents this formative moment in Flanagan's career between 1965 and 1966 that lay the foundation for much of his future thinking, and complements key sculptures in the collection such as 'aaing j gni aa' 1965 (T01120) and 'ringn '66' 1966 (T13295). This group of material given by Flanagan to Frederic Hunter over a period between 1964 and 1966 is made up of:

*2 copies of Lindsay Barrett, 'The Pale Manifesto Dreams on Bleeding Nights', Thundereye Poem Sheet (1964?). This poem by Lindsay Barrett, a fellow student of Flanagan's at St Martin's was produced by Flanagan under the imprint 'Thundereye Poem Sheet' and constitutes what appears to be the only known extant copies. Each of the two copies is made up of 2 pages printed on light-sensitive Agfa paper - one copy prints the first page as a positive and second page in negative and reverse, the other copy prints them in reverse order. Both copies have a typed paper strip attached by staple with the instruction to 'Read black pages by reflection in a mirror.' This use of positive and negative reverse printing is an aspect of Flanagan's work at this time and also informs his use of the palindrome for the sculpture 'aaing j gni aa' 1965 (Tate T01120).

*Barry Flanagan, 'o poem n to fred aug 4 '65'. Two works printed on light sensitive paper (each titled identically, and initialed at bottom right and in the image), 330 x 203mm.
Both unique prints resemble (but with significant differences) prints that appeared in the twelfth issue of the student magazine Flanagan co-edited 'Silans' for the academic year 1964/5. 'O poems' by Flanagan were known to have been exhibited at Better Books (most likely informally) through the testimony of Bob Cobbing though none were known to have survived until now. Such works existed not only on the page but also has performances of sequences of shapes made by hands or the mouth (one such was performed at the opening of the landmark exhibition of visual and concrete poetry, 'Between Poetry and Painting' at the ICA, London in October 1965). Such works used simple, archetypal shapes, the circle, square, lozenge and crescent to produce a sculpture that was not a representation but shapes experienced for the first time and which then had to be named - he referred to such works as the realization of 'a pre-language mark of meaning'. The 'o' of the works' titles refers as much to the mouth, forming and moulding letters and words as to simple form of the circle or ring that was a foundational structure for Flanagan's interest in shifting dimensionality - from circle, to sphere or cone - realized in the sculpture 'ringn '66' 1966 (Tate T13295). The 'n' of the titles refers to the structuring of language as a noun, again also featured, for example, in 'ringn '66'. One of the works could perhaps be an oblique allusion to the Diamond Sutra - a scared object of devotion and study in Zen Buddhism.

*Barry Flanagan, autograph card note signed to Hunter, 9 October 1965, with mailing envelope addressed by Flanagan. Hunter is thanked 'for the return of the repros and master', mentions his holiday in Cornwall, and closes with 'see you at the ICA Oct 21 I expect', a reference to the ICA exhibition 'Between Poetry & Painting' (Flanagan performed a finger poem at the opening event on that date).

*'Preinfoflanexpoinvite' (6 May 1966). A strip of light-sensitive paper printing an invite in negative form, ie. in reverse or mirror writing, mailed to Fred Hunter, with his address written in blue ink to verso by Flanagan, postmarked May 6th, 1966. This sent as an early announcement of his first solo exhibition at the Rowan Gallery (August 1966).

*Barry Flanagan, 'blobs' 1966. A complete set of 4 pairs of 'blob' sun prints (from a total edition of 16 sets - thus constituting a quarter of the edition), together with the artist's holograph ink explanatory note, signed and inscribed to Hunter. Each of the 4 pairs of prints consists of two irregularly cut sheets of light-sensitive (Gevaert) paper (the uncut sheets originally measured 25x20cm.), each of which has been marked with a 'blob', seemingly applied by the artist's finger. The first, on white (positive) paper, has been irregularly folded multiple times, with its black (negative) paper twin left unfolded and its 'blob' visible in gold. Both positive and negative sheets are initialled by the artist. Flanagan's holograph note, written on one side of an envelope, reads: 'to fred hunter one set of a total of 16 sets. distributed in co. with catologue [sic] to sculpture show rowan gal aug '66 all segments or 1/8ths of sets marked so: f in this blue ink from this "pentel" pen best wishes barry flanagan p.s. I think the marks on photo paper are best described as blobs.' It is understood that this is the only complete set extant (examples are not within the Flanagan Archive). Flanagan mailed out a very small number of individual pairs with the Rowan Gallery invitation card to his first solo show.

*'Barry Flanagan', invitation card, Rowan Gallery, London 5 August - 1 September 1966 with mailing envelope (postmarked 23 July 1966) containing a pair of 'blobs aug '66', both positive and negative prints initialled by Flanagan.

*'Barry Flanagan', invitation card, Rowan Gallery, London 5 August - 1 September 1966 with mailing envelope addressed to Hunter in Flanagan's hand.

*Barry Flanagan, untitled statements, five sheets of paper, gathered by a staple at the top corner, each featuring a separate statement, (c.1966). Typescript, four of the five sheets in carbon copy. Sheets of differing dimensions, with the smallest first, cascading to the final, quarto-size page, the statements increasing in length in step with the paper size. These unpublished statements relate to that contained in the invitation card for the Rowan Gallery exhibition and one statement published later in the 'ICA Bulletin' (November 1966). These statements are previously unknown and complement those of this period that had appeared in 'Silans' or in the invitation card for his 1966 Rowan Gallery exhibition, providing further evidence for the influence that 'pataphysics held for him.

*'Still and Chew' invitation (12 August 1966). Two strips of light sensitive positive and negative Gevaert paper, originally rolled, stapled together and mailed in the post. Hunter's address written out in blue ink by Flanagan on the verso of the negative strip and with Flanagan's ink annotation on the party details on the recto of the positive half. This is the invitation sent out by Flanagan to the event at John Latham's house at which invitees each chewed a page from Clement Greenberg's book 'Art & Culture' borrowed from the college - the pulp then being mixed with yeast and chemicals and left to ferment. Several months later when the college library sent Latham a demand for the return of the book Latham delivered a small glass phial containing distilled essence of 'Art & Culture' in return. The college as a result did not renew his part time teaching contract. His subsequent assembly of all the material from the action 'Still and Chew: Art and Culture' 1966-7, was later acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Administrative HistoryThere are 162 works by Barry Flanagan in the Tate collection - made up of 18 sculptures, 1 film, 13 drawings and 130 prints. He was one of the most significant and consistently inventive British sculptors of his generation. First emerging in the mid-1960s in the context of the artistic experimentation typified by St Martin's School of Art, his sculpture attended to questions of material, process, form and idea and led to his work being critically received in the context of conceptual art and arte povera; an emphasis on the importance of making and craft subsequently led him to concentrate on casting from the early 1980s.
Acquisition SourcePurchased from Andrew Sclanders Beat Books, 2017
Custodial HistoryGifted to Frederic Hunter by the artist; purchased by Andrew Sclanders Beat Books from Jill Hunter, the widow of Frederic Hunter, 2015
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