The Mighty Mahalia Jackson for MSS
Monday, 27 November 2017
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.
Anya Gallaccio: Untitled 2016