The online editorial and curatorial project for reductive, geometric and systems artists working in the UK
Interview with Terry Pope by Charley Peters
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
CP What is the starting point for your work?
TP My work starts with an awareness of sets of interesting visual things and events, and then attempting to invent things that will not only reveal why they are interesting, but also have the capacity to capture attention. The process of invention starts with drawing, and by drawing I mean any experimental activity, in any medium, in any dimension, that explores subject matter.
CP You have said that the main objective of your constructions is to 'give life to spatial volumes'. Why has the articulation of space become such an important aspect of your work? Could you explain your relationship with, and your approach to, rendering space?
TP The articulation of space' has not 'become' an important aspect of my work, it has always been the most important aspect. However, I did not at first realise either the full extent to which the vitality of transparent volume was compromised by orthodox methods of expression, nor the complete impossibility of saying things about space without actually using it. When I made my first object in 1958, it started a 'feedback loop', so that from then on, each succeeding work more or less initiated another.
CP What role do materials play in your work? Is there a relationship between your choice of materials and what you endeavour to explore spatially?
TP Space is transparent, so not unnaturally I chose materials such as clear acrylic sheet that offer the potential to explore its vital but elusive properties. But the materials do not function as the form only, more often than not their role is formative, and space itself is the medium.
CP You have named John Ernest, whom you met in 1960, as the single most important influence in your life. What were the most important things that you learned from him?
TP John Ernest was without doubt the most important influence on my early work. I believe that with the best teachers, it is sometimes difficult to say just what it was that they taught you. In my first year as a student at the Bath Academy, I already knew I did not want to paint or make sculpture, but was really excited about space as a medium. I was lucky to meet an artist who encouraged me in the direction I had chosen, knew how to find things out, and embodied an unusual creative fluency in his handling of materials.
Transparent Construction No.3 1978 61 X 80 X 17 cm
Space Construction 13 Perspex 1962-
CP Do you still see a relevance in these lessons for a younger generation of artists?
TP I have often wondered what might be the best way to teach art, and actually believe there is a lot to be said for the 'atelier' system. It is important that young artists learn how to remove obstacles from their own path, and have access to a high level of criticism.
CP From what I’ve experienced of your work I'm assuming -
TP Arnheim's Art and Visual Perception was very useful and so was The Perception of the Visual World by James J. Gibson, albeit a book with a very different approach to the study of visual perception. The combination of theory and my own practical experiments helped me to begin to understand more about why we see the world the way we do, direct my own research, and discover opportunities for new experience.
Subjective Object No.5 2010-
CP If the role of space in your work is its primary concern, how would you describe your relationship with geometry?
TP Geometric operations have an independent beauty, and I recall being made aware
of the properties of conic section in my second year at the Bath Academy. I explored
other aspects of conic section with a mathematician friend some years later at Reading
University. For some time now my most frequent use of measurement as such, is calculating
CP To what extent would you situate your work within the traditions of abstraction?
TP Not particularly. I would prefer to emphasise the importance of formal values.
Supercube 2011 120 x 120 x 120cm
CP You have talked about your artwork as visual instrument, and in particular the spectacles you have designed and built can literally change how we see space and depth. The Hyperscope extends the effective distance between our eyes to provide a dramatic impression of depth; the Cyclopter compresses the view from both eyes into one. Could you explain why you first started to develop these instruments and the stage you are at now?
TP My constructions are an attempt to make an object that will not only capture
attention, but direct it towards what I believe is important, dramatic, special and
even beautiful. But it tries to be more, in that its activity aspires to involve
the spectator in a collaboratively creative experience of their own -
The development of the four optical devices was a project to discover the limits
and capacity of the visual system, and what restrictions, as well as advantages,
were imposed by our having two eyes that were about 65mm apart. In our first two
years of life, the eye-
Hyperscope MX3 Circa 2015
Pseudoscope MX3 Circa 2015
The Hyperscope increases the distance between your eyes, presenting the visual cortex
with greater than normal horizontal discrepancies from each eye, and therefore with
more data to generate additional sensitivity to stereo experience. The Pseudoscope,
by switching your eyes right to left, left to right, turns space back to front. Objects
rotating clockwise appear to rotate anti-
The Cyclopter commons the two visual paths, removing all stereo conflicts, and with
the visual system no longer using vergence, it will, among other things, allow you
to pass through the surface of renaissance paintings into the virtual space, as originally
devised by the artist. The Earth Curvature Device, by using vertical binocular disparities,
makes it possible to see the curvature on a sphere that has a radius of 4000 miles
The present status of these devices is that, with the exception of the Earth Curvature
Device, all are in different levels of production, and are being used for diverse
research by universities and individuals in different parts of the world. Larger
Hommage au Groupe de Recherche d'Art Visuel 1978 Perspex & Mirror 75 X 55 X 40 cm