In the warmish sun of Spring I headed along the Thames and into the Richard Deacon exhibition at Tate Britain. Posters showing wicker-like curving structures have been scattered across the city for a few weeks and I have been looking forward to exploring the exhibition further. It turned out that what I had thought was wicker was actually layer upon and layer of hardboard. I had expected (perhaps because I had thought I was looking at a work made of wicker) that there would be lots of craft elements to the exhibition.
The exhibition doesn't disappoint. The skill of the artist is evident with Deacon using a wide range of different techniques. The sculptures draw you in, fascinating in their complexity, curves and angles, the warmth and openness of some and then the hard, cold gloss of the ceramic pieces. On closer inspection the larger work even reveals smaller hidden pieces giving it an inside/ outside feel.
On entering the last room, I was faced with two adjacent works of art that make an inside / outside statement - first Tropic (2007) a dark green work which is solid and low to the floor with triangular shapes at its core. Then next I came to an aluminium taller open work, Two by Two (2010). This piece uses triangular shapes once again - this time with holes in the centre of the triangles. These holes make you look through the sculpture and into its' heart, rather than onto and around it. Outside the main exhibition is another of the ceramic works - large green columns standing high, hexagonal and almost touching. It looks like a miniature, above ground and non sea-side version of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. It was great to be able to explore and interact with the piece rather than just standing and staring.
This got me thinking about the notion of inside/outside and 'experiencing' art with all your senses rather than just your eyes. The current Neto exhibition in Bilbao is a reportedly perfect example of an artist who goes one step further and wants to engage with the audience. Ernesto Neto believes his works should be entered, inhabited, felt, and even smelled; allowing visitors to experience their own bodies, senses, and minds through art. A trip to Bilbao is definitely on my list of places to visit soon.
For me, art is all about stimulating the senses and parts of my brains, which I do not use at work, to understand what I am seeing - I absolutely expect that reflections on what I saw at the Deacon exhibit will return to me over the next few days, weeks and maybe even again in years to come. What a return from a couple of hours viewing beautiful objects!
One way in which we are hoping to enliven the senses of passengers at St Pancras is through the Terrace Wires programme. The second piece, which is due to be revealed on Monday 7th April, is David Batchelor's Chromolocomotion and will bring this idea of inside/ outside to station.
Measuring 20 metres long - more than twice the size the largest of the Deacon pieces (and yes David Batchelor is working with fabricators just as Richard Deacon did with his larger pieces. No artist would have the space in his studio to build an installation of this size) - Chromolocomotion will be a feast for the eyes and a challenge for the senses. While you won't be able to interact with it, the sheer size and scale will draw you in. In addition, every time you look at it the colours will change as the sun moves position. Put St Pancras on your list of places to visit after April 7th, and see for yourself the challenge of the space that Terrace Wires offers the artist. Let your brain revel in what the work has to say.
Given the recent controversy around the child who was caught playing on a Judd piece at Tate Modern, the debate around art being interactive looks set to continue. For me art has to challenge me and get me thinking - whether that is physically or mentally!