Wednesday, 9 April 2014


Photograph courtesy of Sarah Kate Wilson
 TATE BRITAIN until November 2nd 2014

The Duveen Gallery - 100 metres long, with a lofty vaulted  roof - has seen plenty of drama. Each year an artist is commissioned to produce work which responds to  the Tate, its surroundings and the Gallery itself. In 2002-3 Anya Gallaccio's massive oak trees, felled and with their branches lopped, became natural, rough-and-ready 'columns' both mirroring and challenging the classical setting. In 2007 Mark Wallinger  recreated peace campaigner Brian Haw’s sprawling Parliament Square protest. A year later Martin Creed choreographed a live performance, making runners speed through the Duveen as if their lives depended on it.
  And 2014 brings a new paradox. Phyllida Barlow says "Considering a body of new work, I was very conscious of two particular contradictory aspects: the tomb-like interior galleries against the ever-present aspect of the river beyond".

Dock is a monumental, exuberant counterpoint to a calm, graceful, neoclassical gallery. 
It is comprised of 7 inter-related sculptures filling the whole space. When the way is almost blocked, most of us visitors seem to prefer to squeeze against the walls, though it's perfectly possible to wander around inside the sculptures. Perhaps its invasiveness reminds us of the terrible floods higher up the Thames earlier this year, powered by the river upon whose banks the Tate stands. 

So you look up at shapes which reference lofty cranes. Vast shipping containers dangle in the air as if ready to be loaded. Untitled: dock: crushedtower, a functionless wooden tower wrapped in paper is a pastiche of the monumental sculptures surrounding it. We can see that Dock is made of familiar everyday materials - timber, metal, polystyrene, canvas, cardboard and rope. Everywhere they are  suspended, collapsed, stacked, wrapped, folded, jambed, crimped and squeezed. 

 Dock  is monumental, awe-inspiring, captivating. It is also light and airy, The contrast makes you dizzy , even vertiginous.. Each step you take reveals a new vista. And I've included the coral/fuchsia colours in the two lower images because they filling the windows of fashion shops in the West End at the moment. 

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