Artwork of the Month - March 2018

Permutations – White with Jug

Permutations – White with Jug
Oil on canvas
121.5 x 197.5 cm / 47¾ x 77¾ in
Signed and dated verso W. SCOTT 80
Scott Collection

The title of the painting links it to two series of works that Scott executed from at the end of the 1970s: Permutations and Poem for a Jug. From the end of 1977 to the spring of 1978, Scott painted eight large canvases on the still life theme, each designated a different colour (blue, brown, ochre, etc). All of them were exhibited as a group at Scott’s then London gallery, Gimpel Fils, in May–June 1978. Poem for a Jug, a much larger series of 26 numbered works, was produced between 1979 and 1980. Although not technically belonging to this group, according to a Gimpel Fils stock card Permutations – White with Jug was included ‘hors catalogue’ in their exhibition of the Poem for a Jug series which opened in May 1980.

As with many other of Scott’s late still lifes, close examination of the canvas reveals that behind the simplified shapes, preparatory drawing is visible underneath the paint. Along with what look like squaring up lines, pentimenti reveal that the bowl has been moved upwards and to the right, while the jug has also been shifted to the right. By deliberately allowing these ghostly forms to remain, Scott adds texture and depth to the composition. Talking about his recent paintings in the 1970s, Scott acknowledged how hard it was to capture these works in reproduction: ‘Again frying pans, cups and saucepans. I have been told that I end up where I began. I don’t know if this is a back-handed compliment or not. As a painter who has for so long been concerned with the actual touch of brush on canvas, the medium of the photograph seems so inadequate.’