LITTLE EMPEROR: New sculpture by Grenville Davey.
(Sculpture in the Workplace). Curated by Ann Elliott for Canary Wharf Group.
Supported by Arts Council England and PRO ETCH
1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, E14 5AB.
It is quite common to see art on Canary Wharf. There are numerous outdoor sculptures, some for sitting on, and most of the reception areas of the large office buildings feature artworks of some kind. This exhibition, part of Canary Wharf Group’s Sculpture in the Workplace series, is situated on a large, busy, public concourse at the base of the most distinctive building on Canary Wharf. This accommodates both the lifts to the offices and escalators down to a large shopping centre and so is frequented by a large range and number of people. Most are present for other purposes than looking at the exhibition, however some do so, which prompts the question of whether the art is diminished or enhanced by being a part of the everyday business environment. On this occasion it appears to integrate well into the scene.
The artist is Grenville Davey, of Cornish origins, a graduate of Exeter College of Art and Design and Goldsmiths College, London. He is also the 1992 Turner Prize Winner. The title of his show “Little Emperor”, recalls the cherished children of the Chinese government’s single child policy, and can be taken as an indication of the artist’s care and intense feeling for the work. There are ten pieces, all of which were specially made during 2007/08 as a collection for this display.
Two items are very different from the rest. One is a layout of copper floor tiles (Copper Wave Form), etched with wave patterns that give movement when observed from different viewpoints. They make a striking contrast with the dark marble floor on which they are laid.
The other is a black and white cube on which five simultaneous chess games are played using red magnetic metal chessmen (Chess). This piece attracted most attention from the passing crowd, possibly because of its colourfulness and unusual treatment of a familiar subject.
The remaining artworks are all three dimensional structures featuring various industrial elements such as scaffolding poles and clips, rolled steel bars, wooden attachments and twisted metal strips. The materials used are of great importance with much attention having been given to their finishes. Metals are polished, textured or painted and wood polished or oiled. Several sculptures involve circles, drums and discs; forms, which appeal to almost everyone, especially when they are painted in arresting patterns (By Air, and Transformer). In others (such as Ps and Qs) it is the form which is of most interest, whilst two in particular (Selbste Gemachte Hund and The House) remained impenetrable.
It is difficult to interpret almost all of these artworks and possibly it is unwise to try. The titles are displayed on very small plaques and do not seem to help much. It would be better if they had been left untitled as an aid to the imagination. The sculptures are best taken as of having personal meaning to the person who made them, but of interest to others for their own sake, because they are worthy of time spent in looking at them. This intriguing exhibition is therefore recommended to those who like to form their own judgments with minimum input from the artist.