Anya Gallaccio has been invited to create a new site-specific installation for the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain. The Duveen Galleries Sculpture Commission, supported this year by Malvern Water, is a prominent and prestigious biennial event in the exhibition programme at Tate Britain. The first Commission, for the launch of Tate Britain in 2000, was undertaken by Mona Hatoum, but the Commission builds on a long programme of sculpture exhibitions in the Duveens at the Millbank Tate including installations by Richard Long, Richard Serra and Luciano Fabro.
In her practice, Gallaccio employs natural materials - flowers, fruit, water, grass - to create installations that are perhaps more like events. She has said before that her work is both a performance and a collaboration due to the unpredictable nature of the material she works with. She uses these everyday materials in fantastical, unexpected ways, ‘concealing her artifice under a cloak of naturalness’. Her installations often change over the course of time, and they not only engage the viewer visually, but can also act on the other senses such as smell and hearing.
Gallaccio’s earlier works were usually displayed in large derelict spaces, playing off their evocative setting. In 1996, she constructed a vast block of ice in a disused pumping station in East London. Over time, a core of rock salt slowly eroded the ice from the inside out. Similarly, she has responded to historical sites, such as Compton Verney, where she made a design inspired by a ceiling decoration in the Robert Adam house and recreated it outside on the lawn (Repens 2000). Adam brought elements of the natural environment into his interiors, whereas Gallaccio transferred this interior design to the landscape. The pattern disappeared as the grass grew, emphasising her interest in continual transformation.
Gallaccio’s Duveen Galleries Sculpture Commission will follow on from these works, but respond specifically to both the dramatic space and scale of the Duveens and the tradition of British landscape painting represented in the Tate collection. As a result of looking at works in the displays at Tate Britain, Gallaccio began to consider the possibilities of working with that archetypal symbol of the British landscape: the oak tree. Using oak trees that are grown and felled for timber, she will fill the South Duveen galleries with whole tree trunks, with their bark intact but with their branches removed. As ‘columns’, they will mirror the classical architecture of the setting, but their rough surfaces and contours will ensure their original and ‘natural’ state is not forgotten.
In the North Duveen, Gallaccio will create a semi-transparent carpet of sugar by pouring a molten sugar solution directly onto the floor. This will spread and harden, in a gesture similar to the work in Freeze (1988) when she poured molten lead on to a warehouse floor. Gallaccio’s interest in sugar as a traditional preservative is long standing, however her decision to use sugar beet grown in Norfolk is key to this new work for the Duveens, further extending her interest in, and exploration of, the rich diversity the British landscape.