Rachel Stratton - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Rachel Stratton

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Rachel Stratton

PhD student; Associate Lecturer

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10 Mar

Thesis: ‘The Shape of the Message’ in the Art of the Independent Group: A Study in the role of General Semantics and Non-Aristotelian Logic, 1950–1961

Supervised by Gavin Parkinson

Funded by Consortium of Humanities & Arts in South-East England

This thesis explores how the theory of General Semantics and non-Aristotelian logic can be used to examine the work of artists and critics associated with the Independent Group (IG) in 1950s London. An informal gathering of artists, architects, critics and designers; the Independent Group met between 1953 and 1956 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts to share ideas about the impact of technology on the democratization of culture and society. Although in writings and interviews, certain members of the IG have referenced the importance of non-Aristotelian logic, its significance remains almost entirely omitted from the scholarship. Conceived in the USA in the mid 1930s, the basic premise of the theory was to revise causal Aristotelian language structures by incorporating scientific and technological paradigms into language. The IG’s interest in visual culture as communication made it essential to interrogate the structures that determined how art transferred information. Through this focused study, I bring together published and archival evidence of the prevalence  of non-Aristotelian logic in the 1950s and explore the potential of using it as a framework for interpretation of certain trends in art and criticism in that decade. In doing so, I begin to construct a broader picture of how the theory spread internationally and its significant, if under-valued, contribution to abstraction and conceptualism from the interwar period to the mid-1960s.


  • BA History of Art, University of Cambridge
  • MA Modernism in Europe, Courtauld Institute of Art


Research interests

  • 20th Century British art
  • Modern and Contemporary art
  • The Independent Group
  • Surrealism
  • Art and Science

Other academic activity

  • Director and Lead Curator of AXNS, a curatorial collective specialising in crossovers in art and science.
  • CHASE Student Advisory Group representative for the Courtauld Institute

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