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Great Britain born 1930 – France 2014

S14 [Untitled] 1960 Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Primary Insc: signed verso u.c., blue chalk, "Denny", not dated, inscribed verso u.c., orange chalk, "14"
Dimensions: 101.8 h x 101.9 w cm
Acknowledgement: Gift of the Contemporary Art Society, Tate Gallery, London, 1972
Accession No: NGA 72.559
  • with Galerie Müller, Stuttgart, Germany, 1962;
  • Contemporary Art Society, London;
  • by whom donated to the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board, 1972 (title transferred to the National Gallery of Australia, 18 July 1990)

Robyn Denny, Richard Smith and Ralph Rumney were involved in the collaborative installation of large free-standing paintings, entitled Place, held at the ICA in London in September 1959. Their aim was to create an 'environment' that addressed the role of the spectator as an active participant within the space. The following year Denny was included in the Situation exhibition at the RBA Galleries, London, in September 1960, where he exhibited the triptych Baby is three 1960 and 7/1960 1960. These two paintings are often considered as heralding the artist's major preoccupations of the next decade.

In the year separating the Place and Situation exhibitions, Denny undertook an exploratory series of domestic-scale paintings that at first glance appear to deny or rebuff the concepts underlying Place. However these small square-format and numerically designated paintings are best approached not in isolation, but as a series of investigations within a set of parameters. Six paintings from this body of work were included in Denny's mid-career retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London in 1973, with S12 1960 identified as 'the most interesting' as it 'anticipates Denny's classic dismissal of the claims of the image. The grid image … [is] simply swamped by the tonal intensity of the colours green, grey and blue.'

A process of experimentation, evaluation, rejection and evolution in the artist's work is particularly evident in this series of paintings. S14 1960 addresses similar concerns to S12 yet appears a more resolved painting, particularly as it anticipates the distinctive circuit-like geometry and symmetry that are often cited as hallmarks of Denny's subsequent work in the 1960s.

Steven Tonkin

  1. Tate, London
  2. Collection of the artist, London
  3. Robyn Denny, Tate Gallery, London, 7 March - 23 April 1973; S6 1960 cat.28, S7 1960 cat.29, S9 1960 cat.30, S10 1960 cat.31, S12 1960 cat.32, S17 1960 cat.33
  4. Robert Kudielka, Robyn Denny, London: Tate Gallery, 1973, p.30

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Anne Kirker and Peter Tomory, British Painting 1800-1990 in Australian and New Zealand Public Collections, Sydney: The Beagle Press, 1997, p.72, cat.521, as 'Untitled'

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra