Ever Since by Mark Wallinger showing tonight on Channel 4
18 October 2013
It is a contemplative piece that will draw you in, punctuating the experience of television with an alternative and unusual televisual pace.
Wallinger’s work always retains a strong sense of the painterly eye, yet he is not an artist who is easily defined: his body of work ranging very broadly from Sleeper, the performance of a man in a bear suit, to Ecce Homo, a sculpture of Jesus as an ordinary human being on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square, to the lunar-inspired design of the Royal Ballet’s Metamorphosis Titian 2012.
An affable and thoughtful speaker, Wallinger has explained that he has never been an artist to try to hone a signature style, an endeavour he sees as symptomatic of a temptation for artists to become business and to turn out a commodity. Instead he thinks an artist should be a kind of explorer. Read more about Wallinger’s thoughts on his art practice in an article for the Independent.
In Site, a recent exhibition at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, in Gateshead, Wallinger explored the processes of creating order from disorder in a construction site and systemizing the natural world. A series of video and installation works, this exhibition featured a monumental brick wall, each brick numbered individually by hand, but then assembled at random. Another work in Site collates and categorises 65,536 hand picked stones onto a massive black and white checkerboard. Behind this plays a beautiful film the tracks the progress of construction workers erecting a building by the seaside, their methodical work striking a beautiful contrast to the cyclical ocean. This exhibition is a beautiful reflection upon the tension and symbiosis between humanity’s search for structure and the way of the natural world. See Wallinger in an interview about Site and read the fascinating impression of a stonemason to this exhibition.
In a very different installation for the ambitious project Metamorphosis Titian 2012 – a project with works at the National Gallery and by the Royal Ballet – Wallinger created a piece in which the viewer is put in the position of the voyeur. The exhibition featured three works by contemporary artists created in response to three Titians depicting the myth of Diana and Actaeon, in which the goddess of wild places and protector of girls, Diana, is secretly observed by the hunter, Actaeon, as she bathes naked. Struck in awe by her beauty, Actaeon is discovered by Diana, who swiftly turns him into a stag, only to be then torn apart by his own 50 hounds. Wallenger brings this dangerous voyeurism into a modern gallery context by inviting us into a darkened room, within which is another structure made of blacked out glass. Eventually, via a cracked opening in a corner, we find that the inside is a bathroom within which a naked woman enacts various rituals of private bathing. A bizarre experience to be had in a gallery, Wallinger points out that the National Gallery is a building that is “all about the history of the male gaze and the female nude”. Read further on this work in an article in The Guardian.
Wallinger made his name largely in public sculpture, with Ecce Homo in 1999, an artwork that was initially thought permanent but then, to the dismay of many, removed in favour of a series of different installations. Strangely, Wallinger is now being famed for a public artwork that is likely never to see the light of day. The winning entrant of a competition for a public sculpture at Ebbsfleet, this artwork is a majestic, white horse that stands 170ft high on the horizon – over twice the hight of Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North. Having a long standing interest in the symbolism of the horse and it’s connection to man, Wallinger’s ambitious project was put a stop to when the cost of the project blew out to exponential proportions. Jonathan Jones laments this loss, along with the state of public art in general. Wallinger, however, appears fairly magnanimous on the topic, admitting it was fairly likely that the project would not be realised. Read more about the ill-fated project on its page for the Ebbsfleet Landmark Project and in an article by Sue McDougall,