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Circumferential Sections by Richard Hamilton


 

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Circumferential Sections
Five Tyres Remoulded is one of the strangest enterprises of Hamilton's career, though at a certain level not at all unusual. In Hamilton's words, 'the paradox of a shallow relief print of a perspectival projection was the main interest of the project.' This aspect clearly relates to the earlier use of relief elements alongside imagistic illusion, as in Pin-up(1961).
Hamilton's first prints were dry points done at the Central School of Art in 1939; since then he has been a prolific print-maker. His first one-man exhibition (at Gimpel Fils in 1950, consisting of a series of 'Reaper' engravings) announced his interest in contradictory spatial readings and, more especially, in technological development (being inspired by Giedion's 'Mechanization takes Command'). Hamilton had been a member of the Independent Group based at the ICA and, in its second lecture-series (winter 1952-53), had talked on consumer goods while Reyner Banham discussed American car-styling and sex-symbolism, both themes reflected in Hamilton's first major paintings of 1957-58.
The impact of technology was also the theme of Hamilton's exhibition 'Man, Machine and Motion', staged for Newcastle and the ICA in 1955. Hamilton's 'Five Tyres Remoulded' portfolio included a text reporting its own research and development (as it were) and discussed his fascination with an illustration from a 1951 issue of 'Technique et Architecture' which showed the development of tyre treads from 1902-50. From 1951 to 1963, when Hamilton made perspective drawings leading to the 1964 print, the image stayed on Hamilton's pin board and became a slide used in lectures.
The 1964 version was a screen print, but the original idea had been an etching deep enough to emboss the paper, an aim finally realised a decade later when the image was machine-cut in a brass plate and the print cast 'by spreading on the plate a silicone elastomer (manufactured as a flexible mould material), then reinforcing with a non-woven Terylene cotton fabric.' The project had been revived in 1970 when an American dealer offered to find a US computer programmer interested in plotting the perspective with a computer. Sherill Martin at Kaye Instruments organised the computer formulation of the perspective using a general FORTRAN programme called CAPER (Computer Aided Perspective). The screen prints were printed by Frank Kicherer, Stuttgart, the text by E. Schreiber in the same city. The relief cast was made by Hartmut Freilinghaus of Hamburg.
However, apart from the Independent Group interest in technology and design, there is clearly another aspect to this whole project. The clue here is given by the initial 'impossibility' of the completion of the calculations (due only to human loss of interest, hence the 'abandoned' adjunct of the original title) and by the complete documentation of the history of the project within the 1974 portfolio itself. The initial stage coincides with the 1963 retrospective of Duchamp's work at Pasadena, which Hamilton reviewed for Art International, though his involvement with the idea of the Green Box goes back at least to a 1959 review for Uppercase 2. As Hamilton wrote of the Green Box, the written text was a commentary but also existed within the work 'as a literary component of its structure'. As is the case with Duchamp, Hamilton's approach to graphic plotting is equally comparable to an engineer's. It is important to remember also that Hamilton undertook the making of a replica of Duchamp's Large Glass for the Tate Duchamp retrospective.
If Hamilton's work lacks the depth and density of Duchamp's visual-verbal play and suggestive meaning, it takes one aspect of Duchamp's work on board seriously: that sense of driving a procedure to its exhaustion. Duchamp referred once to the importance for him of the idea of tautology in logic and mathematics, the repetition of a simple theorem or premise to the level of extreme complication. Hamilton's 'Five Tyres Remoulded' is a complexification ad absurdum of that initial, visually simple image of 'the historical progress of a technical quest.'
Artist:Richard Hamilton
Artwork type:print
Material:ink, Mylar
Measurements:600 x 850 mm
Technique:screen print on Mylar
Date:1972
Location:Arts & Humanities Research Council, Whitefriars, Lewins Mead, Bristol, BS1 2AE. View by appointment; please contact the AHRC's Facilities Manager on 01179 876 500
Rights owner:Richard Hamilton
Rights status:UK HE use only
Institution:Council for National Academic Awards
Notes:He was educated at the Royal Academy Schools from 1938 to 1940, then studied engineering draughtsmanship at a Government Training Centre in 1940, then worked as a 'jig and tool' designer. He returned in 1946 to the Royal Academy Schools, from which he was expelled for 'not profiting from the instruction being given in the painting school' (Hamilton, p.10), then attended the Slade School of Art from 1948 to 1951.
Hamilton taught at the London Central School of Arts and Crafts and University of Newcastle upon Tyne; he gave up teaching full-time in 1966.

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