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Estate of the Artist


David Batchelor, Anthony Bond, Anna Lovatt, Jo Melvin, Giuseppe Panza, Richard Cork, Bob Law A Retrospective, Ridinghouse, London, 2009, p81. This drawing was reproduced as a lithograph for the Tate Gallery's poster for Seven Exhibitions, February 1972. It is the poster that is illustrated on p81.


The 1972 Seven Exhibitions were arranged at short notice to fill a gap in the Gallery's exhibition programme caused by further building delays to the new extension, which finally opened in 1979. Seven artists doing unconventional, experimental work exhibited or performed under the curatorship of Michael Compton. With the exception of Beuys all were British. The text of a flysheet introducing the exhibitions emphasised that each artist was quite autonomous and that the choice of artists was not an attempt to define a group or movement. It continued, 'the pieces in the show will have in common only the fact that they will not be conventional paintings or sculptures. They will comprise a variety of media including sound, videotape and the written word. Most will involve, in one way or another, time' (Michael Compton, Seven Exhibitions, 1972). The other artists involved were Keith Arnatt, Michael Craig-Martin, Bob Law, Bruce McClean, David Tremlett and Hamish Fulton.


In 1958, Bob Law was living in St Ives. While there, he began drawing up to fifty or sixty Field Drawings a day. These were simple, codified drawings, where a perimeter pencil line described both the bounds of the landscape and the outside edges of the paper. Much of the detail in these landscape drawings was shifted outwards, emptying out the centre of the image. These works had a connection to primitive images and children’s drawings, and perhaps also to the work of Alfred Wallis, all of which present aerial and side-on views simultaneously. They are also reminiscent of the works of Alan Davie, who had similarly developed his own private language of signs and symbols. In 1960, Law made his first Impossible Drawing. Developing directly from his Field Drawings, Law now reduced the image solely to the boundary line, accompanied by the date on which it was made. Drawing continued to be a daily activity and these drawings, (influenced in part by American Colour Field painting), drew attention to their own making – by referring to the limits of the work and emphasising the date. The logical counter-balance to these ‘open’ drawings was to then make a series of ‘closed’ drawings, such as Black Drawing 8.10.65. Here, the bounded space is entirely filled in with marks. Law makes short work of covering the page, but does not venture into artful mark-making, doing just enough to complete the task. We are invited to think of the repetitive, physical act of his hand as it crosses the paper, and consequently there is a certain anxious tension present in the final image. Law made many drawings at the time, but this work is a rare example of the few that now survive.