Anya Gallaccio was born in Paisley in 1963. She studied at Kingston Polytechnic and Goldsmiths College, University of London. Gallaccio is one of the leading British sculptors of her generation, yet the ephemeral nature of her chosen materials, such as flowers, fruit, ice and grass, means that few of her works remain permanent.

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  • Anya Gallaccio because I could not stop  2000

    Anya Gallaccio
    because I could not stop  2000
    Installation at Lehmann Maupin, New York 

    Private Collection/courtesy Lehmann Maupin, New York

  • Anya Gallaccio because I could not stop (detail) 2000

    Anya Gallaccio
    because I could not stop (detail) 2000

    Private Collection/courtesy Lehmann Maupin, New York

Anya Gallaccio’s work

Most of them simply decay, rather than being acquired by private or public collections. The unpredictable time-based qualities of her installations relate to the history of performance as much as the tradition of sculpture. This fascination with cycles of transformation and degeneration, properties inherent in the organic materials she uses, lies at the heart of Gallaccio’s practice.

Many of Gallaccio’s early works were set in large derelict spaces. In 1996, she constructed a thirty-four tonne cube of ice in an old Pumping Station in Wapping, East London. This vast block of ice slowly melted over time, a process accelerated by the ball of rock salt buried in its core. She has also responded to historical sites. In Glaschu 1999 she took a pattern from a carpet design found in the archive of a local factory and recreated it in foliage on the floor of the neo-classical interior of Lanarkshire House in Glasgow.

The conceptual framework of her art is often developed from the specific site and its historic resonance. Yet the physical presence of the work is always a primary concern. The viewer’s senses are stimulated at every turn. This might be the pleasurable scent of flowers or chocolate - which at a later date might become the disturbing stench of decay. Or it might be the bold use of unexpected forms to create a stunning view, for example through the introduction of seven felled oak trees to the grand Duveen galleries at Tate Britain, or the simple presentation of a wall of gerbera daisies pinned behind a single sheet of glass, as seen in a new work, preserve ‘beauty’ 1991-2003, for the Turner Prize exhibition.

Anya Gallaccio preserve ‘beauty’ 1991-2003

Anya Gallaccio
preserve ‘beauty’ 1991–2003
2,000 red gerberas, glass, fixings

Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York
© the artist

Her exhibitions at Tate Britain and the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, showed the innovative ways in which Gallaccio continues to explore the language of sculpture. Recently she has started to work with the traditional sculptural medium of bronze, whose properties seem to be the opposite of the unconventional materials she usually employs. Yet the casts of living objects, such as in because I could not stop 2002 which juxtaposes a bronze apple tree with real apples , represent Gallaccio’s ongoing fascination with time, whether presented in its arrested state, or by making visible the inevitable process of natural decay and eventual disappearance.