Jeff Instone, Script, 1980. Invitation card.
Jeff Instone, Script, 1980. Invitation card.
Jeff Instone, Script, 1980. Invitation card.

Jeff Instone, Script, 1980. Invitation card.


Jeff Instone


28 July – 3 August 1980

Martello Street

Publication of Script, 1976/79, extracts from Audio Works, 1980, and slide documentation of related work 1976/80 can be seen and heard for seven days at Matt’s Gallery.

Jeff Instone has for the last eleven years used the written word, and to a lesser degree, number as the basis for his painting. By the mid seventies this written material had taken the form of an abortive science fiction story called The Terre Verte Venus Probe, an inconclusive essay on the artist and the welfare state, a random art history, 'evanescent adumbrations' and from mid 1976: Script.

Originally 14 rows of 55 words to start the painting Spit Into the Wind Nobody’s Lover, this script of 770 words was extended to 69,000 using uncomplicated systems in themselves of no importance, and the results have been scribbled onto canvas and paper, typed and photocopied, mixed with other material, systematically added to, coded or obliterated to produce the work of the past four years. Logically, Script now takes shape as a 14 chapter book in which repeated typefaces emphasise the way that the original words are multiplied.

Instone's few and rather cryptic statements about his work, in which he talks of 'denying in a disciplined way the values of directed anticipated achievement', or suggests that his work offers 'a sensation of description rather than a record of reality, emotion or working process' seem to glorify reducing an artist's activity to a simple level: Once length of written material is established the form of the work depends upon the size of the area available and, since Instone takes pride in being a poor man, on the use of the cheapest possible materials. No aesthetic decisions need be taken since the appearance of the work depends upon the length of the script; indeed there seems to be delight in the denial of aesthetics. Content is absent because the content of the work is the time spent upon it, and time evaporates. Social and political considerations have been noted now and again but one suspects that Jeff Instone has little understanding of these matters and no great affection for any state of order. Unless one is to consider these works as 'cultural goods', (what he would call 'upmarket trivia') it is difficult to see any point in this catalogue of repetition, this orderly proliferation of meaningless words, of these laborious and time consuming methods. Paradoxically it is that contradiction in his work which makes it easier to consider them as art work: a counterpoint of legible message against illegibility in some of them, and in others the picking up of surfaces against which the writing took place to an extent which overtakes awareness that one is really looking at so many thousands of words or numbers, and not a large rubbing of a fine old brick wall or tiled floor.

There is a dangerously naive philosophy at work here. Instone supposes he is an artist because he works as one: after all 'creation presupposes value' and he works as one because that is the natural expression of his will to work distorted by his personal unwillingness to work for or with anyone, to accept any form of responsibility. Unable to define art he at least can adhere to very rigid procedures, governing the possibility that he may be making art. There is something childlike and unpleasantly perverse in this almost destructive attitude, this balancing act. Perhaps Jeff Instone hopes to make art in spite of himself, but the book Script is now being recorded as speech, and this in turn will provide dialogue for a film; a screenplay for another last picture show. In this way Jeff Instone can continue to evade, and take pleasure in the real concern of the artist for truth, beauty and the joy of humanity.