contemporary art, sculpture

Mark Wallinger, Heaven (1988)

April 20, 2014

wallinger

This sunday calls for a religious artwork, a blasphemous one even. What you see is a bird cage, a fishing lure and two pairs of mean looking hooks.

It looks like a remake of Why Not Sneeze Rose Sélavy?, a birdcage which in 1921 Marcel Duchamp filled with sugar cubes. But we live in vicious times.

Nothing appears to support the fish. Two fine strands of cat gut allow it to hover, as if on a cloud. Let’s call that an Easter miracle.

It really is a fish out of water. The base of the cage is lined with the candy coloured gravel you would usually find in an aquarium. That much is easy on the eye.

Heaven appears to be a cage with no exit and a dangerous incentive to break in. The hooks are man-size. Your way in might be through pain and coercion.

But Jesus liked fishermen. He asked Simon and Andrew to become fishers of men. An artist must be a fisher of collectors, curators, critics and the public at large.

So what can he or she do to grow an audience? Wallinger leaves one spellbound by a visual conundrum, a piece of heaven you can puzzle over.

His heaven is quite an empty place, mind you, the only occupant a trap for big game. And that’s damning in all senses of the word.

Jorge Luis Borges said: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library”. If you also love art, you might just as well substitute library for gallery.

Be warned however, if an artist snags you by the tongue, they will reel you in. You will find yourself talking about them whether you like it or not.

This piece can be seen in Somewhat Abstract at Nottingham Contemporary until June 29 2014

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