This work has had four names in its short life time. I want to explain the background because it illustrates how a simple typing mistake on an exhibition price list misled both the artist and the Gallery owner and then the Art Executor.
On the website, until now, it has been called ‘Colour Squares’ and to spare the reader any suspense I may say that was the third name, and it was a mistake, my mistake, which I can only apologise for. I feel slightly consoled to have discovered it isn’t just amateurs who can make silly mistakes. It really is hard to concentrate on 50 superficially similar works of art. Looking requires immense concentration and in an exercise like cataloguing you probably always need 4 eyes – one person to do and one to check – and at the time, not afterwards. Mistakes in listing or labelling can cause serious confusion.
I know that this work was put into Jenny’s exhibition in 2006 at Duncan Campbell’s Gallery, because there’s a picture of it in the leaflet. The caption is ‘Colour Paper Relief, 36 x 36 cm’. The size refers to the area of the grid, not the work, which like all of them is 56 x 56 cm. The title doesn’t match any work on the exhibition price list, nor does the list call any work a paper relief, only ‘Semi Relief’. In fact everything about this picture caption seems strange. But the other two Square Circle Triangle works lllustrated in the leaflet are also captioned ‘Paper Relief’, and so I deduce that between printing the leaflet and drawing up the price list either Jenny or Duncan Campbell decided that the Square Circle Triangle series should be dubbed ‘Semi Reliefs’ instead of ‘Paper Reliefs’.
The exhibition price list gives two semi reliefs the same number: third on the list is ’Semi Relief no 19’, the twenty-first is ‘Semi Relief No 19 (with local colour)’. It’s most likely that this latter is ‘Colour Paper Relief’ illustrated in the leaflet. The other ’Semi Relief No 19’ is probably no 9 – an easy typing error. It’s definitely not 19 – that number had already been allocated by Jenny to a completely different work.
After the exhibition Jenny made an album of photographs of the series up to No 17. By this time she must have decided to revert to calling them ‘Paper Reliefs’ – as far as I can see she never again used the term ‘Semi Relief’, even though it could properly be used for the profiled pots in recesses.
We had to rely on the photograph albums for titles until the works were taken out of their frames to be photographed for the digital archive: they have no visible titles and the signature and date are incised with a stylus or faint pencil on the bottom right hand corner and hidden by the box frame, so as not to distract the eye from the purity of the design. There isn’t a photograph of ‘Semi Relief No 19 (with local colour)’ aka ‘Colour Paper Relief’, but when we took it out of its frame we saw two labels stuck on the back, in Jenny’s handwriting, one said PR No 19A and the other PR 21. Why 2 labels and which was the right number?
I can imagine that Jenny might have decided, in the pressure running up to the exhibition, to change the title of the work illustrated as ‘Colour Paper Relief’ to show its relationship to PR no 9 which also forms the shapes from paper strips in the same sequence. PR no 9 had been mislabelled No 19, and so she labelled its coloured twin 19A. I am guessing that later Jenny covered it with a second label after she compared it with the real no 19. I am going to take an executive decision and decide that her second thought, No 21, is the proper title.
Unwinding the story which begins with a typo on the price list has taken me much longer than you would think. It has given me a greater respect for the people who make lists and made me a lot more careful as I continue to draw up the list of works for the catalogue. As part of the cataloguing I shall correct this website and the digital archive and link to this blog to try to prevent any future confusion. I now understand more how the mistakes occurred: the mistake I don’t understand is my own, but that is a further story.