Monday, 27 November 2017

Anya Gallaccio: Untitled 2016

I always enjoy a walk to the Whitworth Art Gallery, as it means a part of the journey entails having to approach the gallery through the tranquil grounds surrounding the gallery - Whitworth Park. The green environment always has a calming effect, and never fails to put me in the right frame of mind to appreciate the art on show in the gallery space, especially in Autumn when you can crunch through the fallen leaves. 

On my latest visit to the Whitworth however, whilst walking through the park and enjoying the scenery, I came across an interloper. A metal masquerader, posing as one of the other trees which form a neat avenue along the side of the recently extended gallery building. It is Untitled 2016, the work of sculptor Anya Gallaccio, which, understandably given the circumstances of its creation, explores themes of loss, memory and physical presence. The conception and installation of this intriguing work is described thus: -

In Februrary 2015 the Whitworth reopened its doors to the public after a major expansion project by architects MUMA. Before building works began a 3D scan was made of the space that is now occupied by the new extension. The scan included the line of London Plane trees that flank the South side of the building. One of these trees had unfortunately died, and was earmarked to be felled.

On Anya’s first visit to the site the tree had already gone, leaving a noticeable gap in the avenue. Fascinated by the absence of the tree, she studied the architects digital scans with the hope of making a work in response to its loss:

“Usually I would take an existing object and transform it; not making a copy but a new unique object determined by the form and material properties of the original. I am interested here in using the data to produce a sculpture that is a ghost of the real tree, without being a replica.” 

In connecting the new gallery to its surroundings, MUMA devised a system of window mullions, in angled, stainless steel that reflect the landscape of the art garden and park outside, as in a mirror. Gallaccio’s new sculptural commission will reinstate the missing tree in stainless steel, appearing as a ghostly negative form. This is the second permanent public sculpture of her career; her materials are usually impermanent and have included flowers, chocolate, fruit and sugar. Gallaccio’s practice engages with the dualities of nature and transience versus the fixed. (Whitworth Art Gallery)

The "tree" is a wonderful, metallic conceit in a similar way to the cut and paste "trees" of Ai Wei Wei (here), and unobtrusively melts into the landscape. It forms a creative compromise to its living, breathing, neighbouring London Plane trees which still survive. You can read an interesting short essay - Trees: Memory and Loss, by Matthew Retallick at the bottom of this Whitworth Gallery website page (here).

This little fella took a great interest in my photography. He kept following me. I've signed him up on an internship.

Another discovery on this visit, were these interesting stainless steel bands placed around certain trees in the park. They looked too professional, and considered, to be the work of a group of random graffiti artists. I thought the typographic bands were intriguing, and obviously had something interesting to communicate. I went into the gallery and enquired about the origins and meanings of these arboreal additions. The attendant on the desk thought that they were the work of a local renegade artist group, but on consultation with a body higher up in the gallery chain, it was revealed that the stainless steel bands were an installation titled - If The World Is A Fair Place Then... They are the work of the Raqs Media Collective, and part of their current Twilight Language exhibition in the gallery. 

The artistic installations, and natural beauty of Whitworth park this Autumn make it an attractive destination in itself. Towards the rear of the gallery - still in the park, you can also see Nathan Coley's colourful light installation - A Gathering Of Strangers, which looks even more effective in the twilight.

Anya Gallaccio: Untitled 2016
Whitworth Park 
Oxford Road