Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Look but dont touch

It is a strange experience to view Anya Gallacio’s art, the real or truth of the natural world and the unreal or fiction of the art object lose their usual definitions, you can easily be lost between questions of the ambiguous or the obvious. A sense of the contemporary or classical also blur when seeing Gallacio’s sculptures, when the sculpture contains those elements of real and faked natural materials and processes my mind begins to wonder and wander. I feel that I am supposed to be reacting to something deeper than my initial response, but I always return to the response of observing and feeling rather than speculating and theorising.

Gallacio’s latest exhibition at the Thomas Dane Gallery combines a variety of sculptural works. When the questioning of these sculptural elements subsides to looking and feeling the materials she has employed begin to draw a pure emotional response. A bronze cast apple tree with highly decorative polished porcelain apples ceases to be the representation of a fruit tree but a means of absorbing details of materiality, the shiny apples create small reflective flowing forms of the world they are mirroring, the cast bronze of the tree shows the aged gnarled outer skin of the trees bark, you begin to see life and death contained within this facsimile of the living plant. Similarly the life and death of a seemingly insignificant plant is elevated to a reflection of beauty and sadness when the stems of brussel sprout plants are cast, the strong woody stems have reached the point at which the plant is beginning to exhaust itself and die but prior to this inevitable death Gallacio has intervened and with the casting held this process in time. This giving plant has been stripped of its food and as its leaves give way to a dry, papery rotting the bronze cast memorial to the plant makes you bring your eyes close to observe the fine detail of the structural elements of the decaying plant, the compulsion to touch the delicate looking textures of the sculpture is overwhelming. Casts of Jerusalem artichokes also draw you to observe the structures and textures of these seemingly insignificant plants, rendered as casts these tubers now become sculptural objects, this selection of cast plant matter brings to mind the use of natural forms of plant and leaf structures in Roman decoration.

The largest and most impressive piece is the macramé hand notted hop twine sculpture that hangs hammock like across the largest of the galleries three rooms, this 30 metre long patterned object drapes, stretches and flattens as it is secured to the gallery wall. The repeated pattern alters under the structural changes induced by its placement, from one repeated unit the contorted structure alters these units to many of its possible variations.

Gallacio’s art sits resolutely in the real world with the materials she employs in her work, these materials may seem ambiguous or insignificant but if you just keep looking you will still be looking and feeling long after the speculations and theories have disappeared.

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