Antony Gormley’s Event Horizon – Reconnect to our Souls and the City we call Home

City View (Day)

Overlooking the Mid-Levels of Victoria Peak (Source: Antony Gormley’s Official Website)

Let’s imagine a city as a human body and sculptures erected in different spots of the city as acupuncture needles stimulating the body’s reflective responses.  This is probably an imaginative picture British artist Antony Gormley would like to bring to the city dwellers through his controversial installation project Event Horizon in Hong Kong over the six months from November 2015 after touring London, Rotterdam, New York, São Paulo and Rio di Janeiro.

An Experiment of Cultural Acupuncture

Gormey with his statue

Antony Gormley with one of his life-size iron cast body sculptures (Source: © K11 Art Foundation)

31 life-size body sculptures cast from the body of the artist himself stand on top of prominent buildings and on busy pavements in Central and Western districts of Hong Kong.  While some people relate the project to suicide attempts and many make funny poses next to those anatomically correct male bodies at the street level, the artist has a bigger message for us – What am I doing in this world and what is this world anyway?  For those of us who have been living in the city for long, we should have witnessed that concrete and glass seem to have replaced a common space in which people lived all aspects of their lives face to face.  The physical and psychological isolation and boundaries in the urban environment, together with the abstract corporate and capital values it contains, have taken away our ability to communicate to others our intense and individual experiences towards our inner selves and surroundings.  Gormley attempts to reignite our senses through this visionary project.  He uses the body sculptures, placed at unusual spots of the Hong Kong skyline, to invite us to observe our own experience, a sense of connection with the horizon and with space at large, within the reality of daily routines.  Gormley refers the installations as cultural acupuncture – the sculptures act like 31 needles going into various parts of the collective body.  It is an experiment to see what kind of responses and energies each one elicits.  It is about a celebration of life and an attempt to consider what the identity and subjective voice of Hong Kong is.


Sculpture Location Map (Source: © Event Horizon Hong Kong Website)

Sculpture as a Tool for Mindfulness

“We exist in space, but space also exists in us.”  Gormley uses sculpture as a tool for mindfulness.  The weighty figures are human spaces that displace space at large by their mass.  He projects them as “black holes in human form, dark silhouettes against the sky, which the built environment that surrounds them is the thing that becomes the foreground”.  City is not the only field that Gormley’s investigation of the relationship of the human body to space takes place.  In Horizon Field (2010-12) the artist placed 100 figures of his body spreading across an area of 150 km2 in the snowy Alps in Austria.  He created a horizon located at 2,039 m above sea level to provide us with a new perspective on bodies in space.  The works form a field in which living bodies and active minds (skiers and hikers alike) are involved in measuring the space and distance through the field of these static iron bodies.  For Gormley, the dark masses against the white snow are indications of absence; places where a man once stood and anyone could stand.  He reverses the usual conditions of sculptures: stillness, silence and inertia and, instead, attempts to highlight free movement, creating new relationships between its context and the internal conditions of the viewer.


Horizon Field (2010-12), High Alps of Vorarlberg, Austria (Source: © Antony Gormley’s Official Website)

The Test of Time and Space


Time Horizon (2006), Parco Archeologico di Scolacium, Catanzaro, Italy (Source: © Antony Gormley’s Official Website)

Time and space are other elements Gormley is keen to explore in his landscape installation projects.  Archaeological sites and open seas are some of the interesting locations Gormley chose to experiment the relationship between time and space.  The Roman Forum in southern Italy dating from about 130 AD was the field for Time Horizon (2006) where 100 life-size body figures were distributed all over the 40-hectare site.  Some were buried up to their necks while others were on plinths in the deepest part of the site and every level in between.  The arrangement offered a way in which the trajectory of time could be felt physically.

In Another Place (1997) the body figures were immersed in the Wattenmeer (Wadden Sea) in Germany.  As with Time Horizon the viewer is implicated in a field effect, but here the rising tide replaces the earth level.  With every tide the bodies were obscured, they disappeared under the surface.  It is the disappearance and reappearance of the bodies between the tides that tests human time against planetary time.


Another Place (1997), Cuxhaven, Germany (Source: © Antony Gormley’s Official Website)

Liberating Art to Serve a Social Role

“My faith is that art becomes an increasingly important testing ground, free of control and ideology, in which we can examine ourselves and our needs, desires and dreams.”  Gormley believes art has to be released from both the institutionalizing effects of the museum and from the commodifying effects of the market.  He demonstrates to us art is a basic human activity that makes us human and offers us the tools to become ourselves.  By bringing art to our daily life with his life-size “needles”, this philosophical artist heals human vulnerability and raises collective consciousness in a city.  Not only does he activate our connection to our souls lost in the lure of false desires and the promise of objects of consumption and power, but also reminds us of the intrinsic sense of being and our intimate relationship with the city we call home.

Event Horizon Hong Kong Website
Antony Gormley’s Official Website
CNN’s Video Interview with Antony Gormley on Event Horizon Hong Kong

Event Horizon

Hong Kong

19th November 2015 to 18th May 2016

Christine Kan


Antony Gormley, Vessel, 2012

Antony Gormley

Vessel, 2012

Cor-Ten steel, M16, countersunk steel screws

370 x 2200 x 480 cm


Antony Gormley, Vessel, 2012

Displayed right at the center of the hall of CENTQUATRE-PARIS in the 19th arrondissement, Vessel has caught the sight of every viewer who visits the exhibition “Follia Continua! 25 years of Galleria Continua”.  Designed by the famous British sculptor Antony Gormley, Vessel is made out of 39 interconnecting rectangular steel boxes.  The material Cor-Ten steel, trademarked weathering steel, is a group of steel alloys which were developed to eliminate the need for painting.  The use of this material allows the sculpture to form a stable rust-like appearance after exposed to the weather for several years.

Vessel takes on the form of a gigantic recumbent man, which at first glance, may appear to viewers as a non-aligned work by Donald Judd.  The series of box containers is an architectural structure of parts – the vessels that form a body.  Yet it is in turn presented in a seemingly haphazard way inside the architecture that is made for the scale of man.  Here the spatial definitions and purposes are blurred and unstable.  The idea mediates on the renaissance trope of the city in the form of a man by making a man made in the form of a city.  It provokes questions about the social and inspirational role of sculpture and its potential to provide direct bodily experience.

This falls into the usual practice of the artist who is widely acclaimed for his sculptures, installations and public artworks that investigate the relationship of the human body to space.  Born in London in 1950, Gormley has developed the potential opened up by sculpture since the 1960s through a critical engagement with both his own body and those of others in a way that confronts fundamental questions of where human beings stand in relation to nature and the cosmos.  The artist continually tries to identify the space of art as a place of becoming in which new behaviors, thoughts and feelings can arise.

For the exhibition at Le CENTQUATRE-PARIS, 2015, Antony Gormley has written, “Take this work as the model of a building that invites you to look into its inner spaces.  I am excited to see Vessel exhibited in Paris, especially in the spaces of a former coffin factory where today, intelligent, lively bodies interact with each other.  Vessel will be the biggest body in there.  It has never been seen in a major city, so I hope that here in Paris, its mirroring of the cells of a dense urban environment will make sense.  Buildings in a city connect with and separate from one another.  You cannot inhabit this work but you can peer into it and see these connections and dead-ends modeled.”

The works of Antony Gormley naturally bring us to ponder on the anti-monumentalism (or Counter-monumentalism), a philosophy in art that denies the presence of any imposing, authoritative social force in public spaces.  It rejects the notion of a monument developed from an elitist point of view as an emblem of power, an opposition to monumentalism whereby authorities establish monuments in public spaces to symbolize themselves or their ideology, and influence the historical narrative of the place.  Artists explore the contemporary drive for creating memorials not of men on horses or mermaids in fountains, but for everyday people and tragedies.

By the same token, we could see that Antony Gormley explores the relation of the human body to space and moments in time through his sculptures, installations, and public artworks.  Over the last 25 years, Antony Gormley has revitalized the human image in sculpture through a radical investigation of the body as a place of memory and transformation, using his own body as subject, tool and material.  He used a cast of his own body as their starting point and for his large-scale, outdoor installations such as Angel of the North (1998) and Another Place (1997).  In Event Horizon (2007), which has been shown in London, Rotterdam, and New York, Gormley sited 31 body forms atop rooftops, riverbanks, and sidewalks within the dense urban environment.  In One & Other (2009), a project for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, he invited members of the public to create their own artwork on top of the plinth for one hour time slots over a period of 100 days.

Other sculptures in Paris at the moment

At the moment, his other two works the Big Spin (2014) and the Big Look (2014) are presented by the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, Paris under the Hors les Murs programme of the FIAC 2015.  These works from his BIG series pursue his study of the body and space, whereby the artist questions the body as a site, and space and scale as the principle factors which condition our understanding of our environment. These sculptures disorient the spectator, provoking a process of self-observation.  Their presentation in the Tuileries gardens is a continuity of Antony Gormley’s practice in which each exhibition is considered a site of physical and psychological experimentation.

We would perceive the artist’s works as not in the normal sense of being a representation of the subject.  Rather he is trying to arouse the interest about what the nature of the space a human being inhabits is.  What he tried to show is the space where the body is, instead of what the body itself represents.


Antony Gormley, Big Spin, 2014 under the Hors les Murs programme of the FIAC 2015

Event Horizon in Hong Kong

The project, Event Horizon, is scheduled to be unveiled in Hong Kong on November 19 and will last until May 18, 2016.  Nevertheless, it has already proved provocative during the two years it’s taken to bring the statues to the city.  The statues were meant to have been displayed last year, but Hongkong Land pulled out as main sponsor after a J.P. Morgan employee jumped to his death from the roof of a Hongkong Land property in February 2014.  Some news reports quoted unnamed sources saying that J.P. Morgan was of the view that having Gormley’s life-size statues placed on rooftops would be too much of a reminder of that particular tragedy.

The idea of Event Horizon is to prompt Hong Kong people to pause amid their daily rush and to take a good look at the details of what’s around them.  It aims at actualising the art’s value – its ability to stimulate thoughts that were lost or thoughts that would otherwise not exist at all.  It is true that in a smartphone-obsessed city, the population in Hong Kong rarely takes a look at the details around themselves anymore.  In another sense, the project is also about how human will overcome extreme adversity.  It is very much about the place of individuals against forces that are faceless determiners of our lives.  The decision to display the statues in the central business district may not be to everyone’s taste, since the area smacks of exclusivity and may reinforce the link between art and the market.  That said, it is certainly a sound demonstration of the challenge of stereotypical views and unexamined values.

Official website of Event Horizon Hong Kong :


Follia Continua! 25 years of Galleria Continua


26th September to 22nd November 2015


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Marc Quinn : Frozen Waves, Broken Sublimes (2015)

Marc Quinn

Frozen Waves, Broken Sublimes (2015)

Stainless Steel

Sculptures, Variable dimensions


Four monumental sculptures by Marc Quinn, being two bodies of work entitled respectively Frozen Wave and Broken Sublime (2015), are presented in Somerset House’s historic Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court.

The four sculptures, namely Frozen Wave (The Conservation of Mass), Frozen Wave (The Conservation of Energy), Broken Sublime (The Invention of Tools), Broken Sublime (The Hunger), originate from the remnants of shells.  Created with stainless steel, the contrast between the unpolished and highly polished reflective surfaces adds to the works the aesthetic – elegant and minimal.  Their monumental scale works amidst the courtyard’s fountains underline the works’ connection to water.  All denote a conversation with the nature and the environment.

With primal and maritime sculptural shapes, the sculptures express the altered states of shell forms either by natural causes (like wave erosion) or by humans (by their consumption).  In the moment before they disappear and become sand, all conch shells end up in a similar form – an arch that looks like a wave, as though an unwitting self-portrait by nature. With titles referencing the science of fluid dynamics and rendered in different scales and cast in stainless steel or concrete, the result appears like a sculpture of a wave yet also something primordial and ambiguous, mined from the depths of time. They point to a magical material transformation: the crystallization of movement into form.

‘Somerset House is a kind of urban beach of the Thames. Built on land which articulates the transition between the urban strand and the water of the river, it is the littoral zone of the city.  By placing the cast stainless steel sculptures in the courtyard surrounded by the fountains, the water of the ocean which formed the sculptures’ shapes is linked to the tamed water of pipes, conduits and drains of the city’. (Marc Quinn, 2015)

This British sculptor and visual artist is perhaps not new to most.  He creates provocative sculptural portraits composed of organic materials.  He is better known for Alison Lapper Pregnant, a sculpture of a woman who was born without arms when she was heavily pregnant, which has been installed on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square.  If not, his ongoing series of “Blood Head” self portraits – Self, in which a cast of his head is made with over nine pints of his own frozen blood.  Quinn’s sculptures, paintings and drawings often deal with the distanced relationship we have with our bodies and with nature, highlighting how the conflict between the ‘natural’ and ‘cultural’ has a grip on the contemporary psyche.  The artist uses an uncompromising array of materials, from ice and blood to glass, marble, spray paint and lead.  He also fabricates sculptures using more traditional media such as bronze, often depicting contorted bodies or people with unusual physical characteristics – amputees, or those who have undergone sex-change surgery.

Marc Quinn: Frozen Waves, Broken Sublimes

Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, Somerset House, London

17th September to 21st October, 2015



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Une expérience révélatrice dans un « musée alternatif »

Si l’émergence de l’art contemporain passe par la remise en cause des idées traditionnelles qui définissent l’art, elle touche aussi à la manière d’admirer les œuvres d’art et nous mène en dehors des lieux de visite traditionnels.  En effet, il n’est pas forcément nécessaire de pousser les portes des musées pour apprécier des œuvres d’art.  Eight Kwai Fong a réalisé un appartement artistique : le « musée alternatif ».

Il est plutôt difficile d’imaginer un « Appart ‘hôtel » dédié à l’art.  Néanmoins, une visite de ce nouvel appartement à Hong Kong nous ouvre les yeux sur ce concept.

En pénétrant dans le premier salon, la vision des livres d’art de l’éditeur TASCHEN de la librairie de la rue de Buci me reviennent à la mémoire. C’est un lieu où presque tous les étudiants en histoire de l’art ont envie de feuilleter quelques ouvrages.

Une réflexion d’images, une réflexion de vie

Le flot de lumière naturelle, les matériaux réfléchissants, la finesse et les formes dissymétriques de l’art décoratif font entrer la nature dans la salle.  Le vase conçu par Todd Bracher, disposé dans le couloir, exprime ce mélange de la vie et de la nature.  Ce dernier, représentant le corps d’une femme, est empli de fleurs.  La surface du miroir reflète ces fleurs, créant un effet dramatique qui accentue la couleur naturelle et la texture des fleurs.  Le vase et son contenu créent une vision totalement unique qui change selon l’arrangement des fleurs.

Cette nature diffusée invite à la conversation avec l’œuvre placée sur le mur – Paradise 28, Rio Madre de Dios, Peru, 2005 de Thomas Struth.  Thomas Struth est un artiste et photographe allemand, qui a d’abord étudié la peinture à la Staatlichen Kunstakademie à Düsseldorf avec Gerhard Richter, et puis, la photographie avec Bernd et Hilla Becher.  La pratique artistique de Thomas Struth est caractérisée par ses séries, par exemple, des photos de rues, des portraits, des fleurs, des familles, des musées et des paysages.  Thomas Struth est surtout reconnu par la critique et le marché de l’art pour ses séries sur les rues Die Architektur der Straßen et la série Portraits.  Fasciné par la culture maya et sa relation à la nature dynamique, Struth a commencé la série Paradise à la fin des années 1990.  Il a fait ses recherches dans les forêts et les jungles du monde entier en voyageant en Chine, au Japon et en Australie.  Avec l’ambition de « faire un autre type d’œuvre avec un sujet différent », il a présenté ses nouvelles photographies avec une multiplicité de couches et une densité de détails.  Ses œuvres contemporaines évoquent les forêts vierges d’Asie, d’Océanie, d’Europe et d’Amérique du Sud.

Mais la réflexion est non seulement physique, elle est également mentale.  Eskimo, une huile sur toile de Zhao Yang, nous donne une réflexion sur la philosophie intrinsèque de la vie.  Né dans la province de Jilin en 1971, diplômé de l’Académie chinoise des arts en 1995, Zhao Yang vit et travaille actuellement à Beijing.  L’artiste se consacre à la peinture des images et des histoires à travers le temps et l’espace.  Eskimo manifeste l’état primitif des êtres humains et révèle leurs besoins nécessaires à la survie par le moyen de la chasse.  Le tableau représente deux figures sur un fond turquoise avec une présentation abstraite et mystérieuse, laissant place à l’imagination.


Eskimo – une huile sur toile de Zhao Yang

Nostalgie, nostalgie, nostalgie

Flânant de salle en salle, on écoute des musiques aux pouvoirs nostalgiques : le disque vinyle classique (l’édition de collectionneurs) diffuse des succès des Beatles, de Piaf, ainsi que la chanson Hotel California émise par la station de radio unique – Le Brionvega Radiofonografo réveille toutes nos sensations.  Conçue en 1965 par Achille et Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, la Radiofonografo (RR126) était une révolution esthétique et technologique.  C’était la première station multimédia comprenant une radio, un amplificateur, un tourne-disque réuni en un seul appareil.  Le coffret en bois et les haut-parleurs, étant fabriqués à la main, ne sont jamais exactement identiques.  Fait en un bloc d’une pièce en aluminium, moulé, brossé, laqué et poli à la main, le nouveau Radiofonografo est un hommage à l’artisanat traditionnel.

Ce qui fait fondre le cœur

On trouve partout les arts décoratifs qui font fondre le cœur.  L’œuvre céramique Melt de Julie Progin et Jesse McLin nous en donne un exemple.  Ayant passé plus de 7 ans à Jingdezhen, Julie et Jesse ont appris l’histoire et les techniques de la céramique.  Ils ont collaboré avec des artisans locaux et des usines de production de masse.  Ils s’approprient les défauts de l’œuvre pour l’embellir.  Julie et Jesse utilisent la technique de processus réductrice : ils laissent intentionnellement certains défauts dans leurs vases pendant l’étape de la production de masse.  Les vases se craquèlent en atteignant une température de 1300 degrés Celsius, produisant la création d’un morceau différent à chaque fois.  C’est une nouvelle esthétique hors d’un archétype.

Par ailleurs, on trouve les bouteilles bolle par Tapio Wirkkala pour Venini.  Cette série de bouteilles en verre de Murano, créée par le designer finlandais Tapio Wirkkala en 1966 pour la maison italienne Venini, emploie la technique de l’ « Incalmo » qui permet à deux différents types de verre, travaillés séparément, d’être fusionnés pour créer différentes zones de verre colorées en un seul et même objet.  Cette série d’œuvres faite à la main en verre soufflé met en valeur la beauté et la tradition des souffleurs de verre vénitiens.  Les œuvres de Wirkkala peuvent être trouvées dans les grands musées du monde entier.

Le mouvement artisanal – art ou marketing ?

Une installation géante Bowler Hat se trouve dans le jardin de cet Appart’hôtel dont le logo est également un chapeau se référant au célèbre chapeau melon de René Magritte (1898-1967).  Ce Bowler Hat est un chapeau qui définit une ville urbaine au style artisanal et bohémien, où un groupe de nomades poétiques, créatifs et culturels sont passionnés par la découverte des plus beaux trésors et expériences du monde entier.  Le chapeau est posé sur un œuf géant émergeant du sol.  L’œuf invite les spectateurs à explorer leurs propres idées artisanales intérieures.  Cette œuvre d’art est une inspiration pour la vie artisanale.

Ce qui est promu dans cet appartement est le mouvement artisanal, autrement dit, un voyage visé à élargir l’imagination à travers des expériences exceptionnelles sur les objets d’art ou les objets de collection.  Dans une ville cosmopolite comme Hong Kong, l’art dans un cadre privé est toujours considéré comme une activité commerciale. Néanmoins, mon expérience à Eight Kwai Fong m’a  fait complètement changer de point de vue.  La décoration minutieuse reflète la passion et l’ambition de son créateur, M. Adrian Cheng, le fondateur de la K11 Art Foundation.  Si j’étais accusée de parti pris, je l’admettrais sans hésiter, simplement parce que je ne peux pas sous-estimer l’effort de ce monsieur pour soutenir l’art et l’échange culturel en collaborant avec le Centre Pompidou à un projet de recherche de trois ans sur la scène artistique chinoise contemporaine.

Le site officiel de Eight Kwai Fong :


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A / AN “ “ – Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) Graduation Exhibition 2015

Having the chance to catch the last day (27th July 2015) of the exhibition A / AN “   – Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) Graduation Exhibition 2015 held at the Hong Kong Arts Centre, I was completely amazed to see the enormous creativity and talent of the students.

I couldn’t help sharing in here my experience.  The exhibition was co-presented by The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (RMIT) and The Hong Kong Art School.  There were total 36 graduating students participating in this exhibition.  The artworks reflect the dedication, personal ideology and unique concepts across the modalities of Painting, Photography and Sculpture.

Incompleteness and unlimited possibilities

On the first glance, the title A/AN “      “ appeared unexplainable and ambiguous.  Along the visit, I got to know more about its meaning.  The blank “      “ actually hinted at the notion of “incompleteness and unlimited possibilities” inherent in both the artworks and the emerging artists.  On one hand, it denoted the dilemma faced by most artists – When is a work of art finished?  Is it ever finished?  Does it need to be “complete”?  On the other hand, it allowed the viewers to have their own interpretations on the artworks.

From Left 1 & 2: The artist tried to capture the tiniest changes; slowest pace and the most fragile growth within the objects. Those traces left by time and life.  By using a set of layered images, she tried to reflect the ambience that she experienced.

From left 3: The 3 pieces are respectively My Wanchai, My Central and My Causeway Bay.  As an introvert observer, the artist recorded the conversations of passers-by on the street.  The work investigates the ‘urban tension’ between oneself and the surrounding and shows the alienation between people living in the community.

From left 4: The artist found a cross point and a connection between her grandmother, her mother and her when she discovered that her mother had also helped her grandmother to pick up useful stuffs from the junkyard to home in the past.

Unstrained imagination

Imagination is an intrinsic underlying element with which the viewers could interpret the artworks in a certain direction, or it could be towards no direction.  The “      “ was left blank in order to let the viewers fill in their own meanings.  There could be infinite possibilities, unstrained imagination or suggestions.  The exhibition enhances our self-awareness towards our surroundings.

Art is dead?

In the art history, the saying “art is dead” appeared at several critical turns in the artistic genres.  For instance, the emerge of abstraction which worked to counteract the figuration has ignited the debate on the criteria of aesthetics.  In the eighties Postmodernism era, the saying “painting is dead” was aroused when large numbers of artists turned their works to installation, video art etc.  In Hong Kong, it has been said for long that “art is dying” especially when we see that the industry is giving way to the urbanisation and commercial activities.  Nevertheless, when I looked into the creativity of these emerging artists, I was fueled with positivity.  Over three years, the graduating students’ enthusiasm in arts has been frequently confronted with the complicated hard work, and yet they have made it!  This exhibition is not the end but the starting point of another art journey ahead, for the students and the future art scene of Hong Kong.

(The exhibition was ended on 27th July 2015)


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Revisit Anish Kapoor’s Exhibition at Versailles

The recent vandalism of Anish Kapoor’s monumental installation at Versailles has become a hot topic in the circle of art people in France.  Focus has been diverted to the intention of the behaviors and the political implication.  The exhibition has barely been open more than a week before the vandals have left their mark on it.   In fact, the victim Dirty Corner, a giant funnel of steel and rock that faces the château, has opened to a swirl of controversy from its very beginning stage of appearance at the château, after the artist has conveyed that the sculpture is meant to resemble “the vagina of the queen coming into power.”

Amongst all the burning debates, my memory rolled back to the week before the vandalism, when I visited the château for the exhibition.  I was looking at the work Sectional Body Preparing for Monastic Singularity in the Star Grove when I saw a mediator patiently explained to a couple the details of the works, their significations, the ideas behind, the representations, etc.  After nearly 20 minutes’ lesson, the couple left with much thankfulness.  “It would have been great if we had seen you right at the start of our visit.  We would have already grabbed a better understanding of the works that we had passed through from the very beginning”, they said to the mediator.  Perhaps people in the debate of this exhibition had a deep understanding of Anish Kapoor’s works, perhaps not.  Above all, it’s time to put the debate aside and start over again to revisit the artist’s works with an eager-learning heart.

One sort of contradiction

The five sculptures placing in the garden, starting from the entrance with C-Curve and Sky Mirror, then Sectional Body Preparing for Monastic Singularity in the Star Grove, Dirty Corner in the centre of the Great Perspective and Descension beyond. The main objective that the artist wants to achieve through his works is to unearth the human condition in all its contradictions.

The first work right when we entered into the château is C-Curve, a mirror running down the sun’s axis.  Anyone who has visited the château must have already fascinated by the famous Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), in which a total of 357 mirrors are used in decorating the seventeen mirror-clad arches that reflect the seventeen arcaded windows overlooking the gardens.  But the gardens of the château themselves already embrace the mirror-like quality in their geometry, e.g. the fountains are mirror-like, reflecting the images above and around. The installation of C-Curve is an add-on of all these reflections. What is distinctive is that the C-Curve turns things upside down.  All the similar for the Sky Mirror which brings the sky down to the ground.  These are the representations of “contradiction”.  These installations granted another signification to the viewer: what one see isn’t quite what one think he sees.

Going further to the Dirty Corner-the 70-meter red metal work which resembles a gaping cavern and has been all along in the core discussion of the public and media owing to its signification as the “vagina of the queen”-is in fact dark.  All the same for the work Descension, in which a pool of dark water swirls in a terrifying non-stop spiral motion.  It looks black and bottomless, like a black hole.

The installation of the artist demonstrates one duality: heaven and earth, visible and invisible, inside and outside, shadow and light.  It opens the imagination of the viewers.  The very symmetrical landscape design of Versailles is disrupted by the upside down and distorted images by the mirrors, entering into a state of instability.  Not only the visual images, the auditory and sense of viewers also undergo a certain extent of bombardment.  The grounds around Descension become uncertain and moving, water swirls, the ruin-like Dirty Corner takes over the peaceful tidy green garden, exposed orifices are hidden within the garden’s labyrinths.  All add up to represent a contradiction, as if the world is about to tip over.  Not to mention the Shooting into the Corner at the Royal Tennis Court where a cannon is installed which appeared to have fired large piles of red wax into a corner.   The meant-to-be for leisure tennis court has become a place of violence with the shooting action and the blood-like wax bullets.

A dialogue with history

Other than the idea of  “contradiction”, Anish Kapoor has established a dialogue with the history at Versailles beyond the topography of this territory conquered by Louis XIV.

The French formal garden (jardin à la françasie) has its history back to the 17th century.  André Le Nôtre (1613–1700), once the chief gardener of Louis XIV and the designer of the gardens of Versailles, was the most important figure in the history of the French formal garden.  The gardens he created became the symbols of French grandeur and rationality, setting the style for European gardens until the arrival of the English landscape garden in the 18th century.

The systematic and orderly design of Le Nôtre demonstrated an ideal and perfection.  Nevertheless, we cannot avoid admitting what is underneath the surface of the ground is something darker, more complex, more dangerous.  There is something organic and natural which can be dug up from the earth in an excavation.  The artist wants to show that it is the same for human being, who has all the underlying faults, imperfections and sexuality.  Anish Kapoor leads us to look at the question of eternity and decay through Dirty Corner.   It unrolled a conversation with Louis XIV, who was very controversial in terms of power and sexuality.  Versailles is undoubtedly a place of power.  Through his works, Anish Kapoor initiates a conversation about power in the contemporary society.  As for Descension, the vortex also represents things that are far from neat and tidy, far from perfection.  Descension is like the grumblings and angers rising from the centre of the Earth.  At The Shooting into the Corner, the cannon is positioned in visual parallel to the statue of the early revolutionary hero Jean-Sylvain Bailly, confronting the theme of oppression and the conquest of freedom (Bailly was guillotined in 1793).  Each installation unravels the inherited meanings in the history.  By his installation, Anish Kapoor draws us into this hidden history of Versailles.

Some may consider the exhibition of Anish Kapoor as an act of violence which destructed the aesthetics and classic of Versailles, but how about the act which destructs the freedom of artistic expression?

About Anish Kapoor – some key dates

1959: Born in Bombay, India.

1973: Went to study at Hornsey College of Art and Chelsea School of Art and Design in Britain.

1991 Won the prestigious Turner Prize, awarded annually to a contemporary artist (usually British) less than 50 years old.

2011 Exhibition of his Leviathan as the annual Monumenta for Grand Palais in Paris, and received the same year the Praemium Imperiale, the international art prize awarded by the imperial family of Japan on behalf of the Japan Art Association.

(The exhibition is held from 9th June to 1st November 2015)


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L’Exposition du sculpteur JIVKO à l’Orangerie du Jardin du Luxembourg

It is always the “visit by chance” which happened to impress most.

The exhibition of JIVKO at l’Orangerie du Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris is like a breeze in this summer which refreshes our senses.

Jivko Jeliazkov is a renowned sculptor whose works are found in prestigious collections all around the world.  Born in Bulgaria, the artist is well-known in France where he has lived and worked since 1990.  The representation of his works is full of life and movement, with themes revolving around man’s evolution and transcendental fate.  With a delicate balance between traditional subjects and contemporary forms,  Jivko’s sculptures stimulate the viewer’s imagination.  He captures wild and primitive energies with his soft and angular geometry.

Embodiment of lightness in the materiality

The amazing thing about Jivko’s sculptures is their sense of lightness.  Instead of the mass of the metal, we find in his works a lace-like sensation.  This apparently mocks the laws of gravity, by contrasting the actual weight of the materials and the apparent lightness of the works.  The forms of the sculptures express a movement and progression, we feel as if they can breathe and move, representing a notion of life and energy.


Between the myth and humanity

Different from Rodin who used to incorporate in his works his aura, Jivko seeks to highlight the soul from the nature and the environment.  He brings the expressive creation of the nature in front of the audiences: the butterflies, the feathers etc.  The compositions of his works usually reveal a mix between the myth and the humanity.

Other than the “lightness” and the “movement” of these bronze sculptures, the paintings of the artist are also impressive.  In the work « Légèreté » (lightness), we feel like the feathers are slowly falling from above.  One may associate this with the opening scene of the film Forrest Gump, in which a feather was falling slowly under the background music.

The exhibition is free.  It’s really worth a visit.

(June 3 – 14, Orangerie du Sénat – Jardin du Luxembourg)


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