Anthony Hancock

Paintings & Sculpture:

A Retrospective Exhibition

Self-Portrait, early 1950s
A detail of the reconstruction by Magnus Irvin


Anthony Aloysius St. John Hancock (1924-1968) has long been acknowledged as a truly exceptional artist, yet his actual pictorial and sculptural oeuvre continues to be unjustly neglected. Despite a certain cult following Hancock's work is still chiefly known from the bio-documentary account of his Paris years, "The Rebel" (1960), a film whose treatment of his work is far from reverential. Various other circumstances have contributed towards this eclipse: not least the fact that all of Hancock's works have been irretrievably lost to posterity, the result of a combination of tragic accidents and wilful destruction.

The perfect first project then for a new organisation, The Department of Reconstructive Archaeology1 which has been created precisely for such a purpose. The Department has undertaken to re-create the entirety of Hancock's known pictorial output, as well as his most important sculpture (the magnificent and imposing Aphrodite at the Waterhole). The resulting exhibition, at The Foundry gallery, Old st, will allow for a complete re-assessment of Hancock's contribution to the art of his time. And, although the loss of the actual works precluded their having any significant art historical influence,3 we shall at last be able to appreciate their remarkable presience (Hancock's theories of Infantilism and Shapeism self-evidently share many similarities with Dubuffet's conception of "Art Brut" for example).

One of the joint directors of the Department, Magnus Irvin, will give a practical demonstration - by reconstructing Hancock's only known "action painting" Aphrodite at the Waterhole (on the Horizontal) - on the evening of the exhibition's opening, 7 September 2002 vulg. (in reality New Year's Eve 129 EP by the pataphysical calendar).

The accompanying catalogue, prefaced with an essay by Andrew Wilson (deputy editor of Art Monthly), will contain Hancock's catalogue raisonné, a description of the Department's methodology, as well as appreciations of Hancock's work, and essays on the confusions surrounding its authorship (the works of Paul Ashby and Alastair Grant).



1. The Department of Reconstructive Archaeology was created in April 2002, and is dedicated to re-making lost cultural artefacts (literary, artistic, scientific, etc.), but also envisages being able to apply its techniques to the re-creation of any culturally determined construct (for example, languages, modes of behaviour, belief systems, etc.).

The Department, being a part of the London Institute of 'Pataphysics,2 has no prejudices regarding the superior validity of "the real", over "the fictional", "the imaginary" or "the virtual". Such concepts are equivalents, being equi-valently imaginary. If we in the Department find ourselves rather more drawn towards research in the latter categories, this is more a matter of personal inclination, and because the domain of the real has already been so thoroughly trampled over by those of a more orthodox archaeological bent.

The Department is concerned not simply with archaeology, but with reconstruction, with praxis rather than contemplation. Of course, we are well aware that this is by no means a novel approach. Ever since Thor Heyerdal, to cite the most obvious popular example, archaeology has utilised practical demonstrations to corroborate the plausibility of its hypotheses. The Department does not share this dogged utilitarianism, however. We have no hypotheses to prove, and no itches to scratch, ideological or otherwise. [back]

2. The London Institute of 'Pataphysics was founded on New Year's Eve 127 EP (7 September 2000 vulg.), in the presence of various dignitaries of the Collège de 'Pataphysique,4 including the Provéditeur-Convecteur, Thieri Foulc, and Stanley Chapman, Regent, the current President of the LIP. It is an independent organisation, but maintains amiable relations with the Collège via the London Annexe of the Rogation. It is anglophonic, rather than anglo-centric, and like fellow associations in Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Argentina, etc., engages in the promotion of 'Pataphysics5 "in this world and in all others". The Institute may be contacted via bookartbookshop (17 Pitfield st., London N1 6HB) or this website: [back]

3. It should be noted that the departmental Directors are not entirely in agreement here, since Magnus Irvin detects the influence of Hancock in the works of a number of his contemporaries. In the catalogue Irvin will make a case for Hancock's influencing one artist in particular: Ronald Kray. [back]

4. The Collège de 'Pataphysique was founded in 1948 and "occulted" itself for 25 years in 1975; in 2000 it was reborn, or rather once more became a public institution. The Collège ­ and during the occultation, the Cymbalum Pataphysicum - has published a regular quarterly review for over fifty years. Its membership was, and is, illustrious: Raymond Queneau, Boris Vian, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Dubuffet, Jacques Prevert, Eugène Ionesco, Georges Perec and the Marx Brothers were all members. Recent promotions to the "Satrapy" (the Collège's highest rank), have included Dario Fo, Fernando Arrabal, Umberto Eco and Jean Baudrillard. [back]

5.'Pataphysics was defined by Alfred Jarry6 as "the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments" and furthermore: "'Pataphysics will examine the laws governing exceptions... and will describe a universe which can be, and perhaps should be, envisaged in place of the traditional one, since the laws that are supposed to have been discovered in the traditional universe are also correlations of exceptions, albeit more frequent ones, but in any case accidental data which, reduced to the status of unexceptional exceptions, possess no longer even the virtue of originality."7

The science was further elaborated and codified by luminaries such as René Daumal, Julien Torma, Doctor Irénée-Louis Sandomir (the founder of the Collège), and more recently, Jean Baudrillard. 'Pataphysics is a science, albeit one with an aesthetic sensibility: it regards "humour" and "the serious" with the same imperturbable gaze. [back]

6. Alfred Jarry (1873-1907) is chiefly known outside of France for his play Ubu Roi (1897), which is justly considered to be the commencement of modern theatre. Pataphysicians value his other writings equally highly, especially perhaps those works in which the "vastest of sciences" is expounded: Days and Nights (1897) and Exploits and Opinions of Doctor Faustroll, 'Pataphysician (written around 1898 but not published until 1911). [back]

7. From Alfred Jarry, Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, 'Pataphysician, translation by Simon Watson Taylor, a fellow of the LIP, originally published by Jonathan Cape in 1965, the current edition from Exact Change, was published in 1996. [back]




Patron:Pierre Menard
Joint Directors:Magnus Irvin (Phone: 020 7263 3846);
Alastair Brotchie (Phone/fax: 020 7490 8742, mobile: 07770 784 185, email:
Press liasion:Tanya Peixoto (Mobile: 07970 440 675, bookartbookshop: 020 7608 1333)

President:Stanley Chapman
Associate membership of the LIP is by subscription (currently £10 per annum), details from The Secretary of Administration via bookartbookshop (address below) or
8-20 September 2002 vulg.

Venue 1:   The Foundry , 84-86 Great Eastern st., London EC2
Open:   Tues-Fri 3-11 pm, Sat & Sun 2.30-10.30 pm
Private view and technical demonstration:   8 pm, 7 Sept. 2002
Live webcam broadcast of above on:
Contact:   Jonathan Moberly,
Venue 2:   bookartbookshop, 17 Pitfield st. London N1
Open:   Wed-Fri, 1-7 pm
Contact:   Tanya Peixoto 020 7608 1333


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