Some background notes on Barry Flanagan’s approach to making work and the archive project

1 February 2010

Flanagan made the following statements at various points in his career. They indicate his approach to sculpture and to the practical considerations of record keeping and more philosophical notions of the archive. He made many statements and notes, these are a small sample, some have been published previously others are published here for the first time.

Best known as a sculptor, Flanagan variously classified his output as ‘…I might claim to be a sculptor and do everything else but sculpture.’ Silans 6, January 1965
‘I am an English speaking itinerant European Sculptor, accountable in the Republic of Ireland, holding both British and Irish passports.’
Barry Flanagan Sculpture 1965 – 2005 Irish Museum of Modern Art
He always cited the significance of trade and teamwork whilst maintaining his position as an itinerant artist.
‘It was my need to jump in every possible means of expression, which unfortunately the Education Framework does not allow. This has been my direction; every direction.’ Silans 6, January 1965
Flanagan wrote: ‘I prefer working with the essential stuff of sculpture rather than my own “ambitions” for it. This way I hope to find things.
Heap practically made itself. In reference to it after the fabrication it was a heap; that is it. Then I got the “idea” about stacks and racks etc. by then I had made what I knew would be a bundle…Sculpture itself set the standard.’ Art in Process iv, Finch College, NY 1969

On the interconnectivity between the works 4 casb 67, gr 2spr 67, ring l 67, and their subsequent curatorial installations, he wrote:
‘the relation to each other and to themselves as autonomous identities was covered in the statement in Studio International…as components of a sculptural language their exhibition is, as plays and music are interpreted after authorship at a later date, open to responsible and creative interpretation dictated by time and place given normal consideration to the authorship’ (June 18 1976) Barry Flanagan Public record part 1 1969-1977 TG4/2/339/1

Flanagan’s oeuvre includes sculpture, print, drawing, painting, performance and other events. These works date from the late 1950’s to 2009. The database is in effect both a catalogue raisonne and an archive catalogue. This database is the information displayed on the website and it is core to the estate’s role in granting access to Flanagan’s work as a sculpture and major contributor to radical practices of innovation from the 1960’s until his death in 2009.  The online presence of website will grant access to the documentation of Flanagan’s practice within the context of shared concerns with other artists and to instigate new research projects assisted by the web presence of an online catalogue raisonne and archive. The catalogue is an information resource and the website is designed to give immediate links between the artworks and the archive.

Flanagan was continually seeking out strategies for compilation and frequently used questions to devise plans for denoting systems of reference which might lead to the incorporation of ‘imaginary solutions.’ Introduced to Alfred Jarry’s writing with the gift of ‘The Evergreen Review’ from a poet friend, Nick Wayte in Bristol in 1963, was a meeting of minds. Flanagan  referred to Jarry as his historical hero, a symbolic figure emblematic of the individual imagination in revolt. (Interview with Hans Olrich Ubrist, 2005p59) . Throughout his life Flanagan paid homage to Alfred Jarry, the playwright and inventor of ’pataphysics which is ‘the science of imaginary solutions.’ It is a sensibility evident in Flanagan’s thesis from St Martins School of Art 1966. He writes:

Perhaps the question is how I absorb, correlate, senses and continue to do so. How may I spend this accumulation that is absorbed, correlated and sensed. A person may walk, talk, breath, hear, see, eat, feel, and he must make sense. The person is aware and accounts.

My hand touched the table for the very first time, for all it know. My brain seems to have a strange unreal life of its own: it will remember many other time, times. Time and times, timing timing times timing timing, and rather over qualify the touch. Its just not good enough, my conduct does not add up to the simple demands of this digression and wondering situation. The sheer adventure and life of the touch is the only relevancy.

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