|Victoria Falls, 23 million gallons of water crash over the precipice every minute. The largest waterfall in the world, to hear it and feel the rumbling in your chest is quite something, to trek your way through a dense rain forest coming upon it after a 20 minute walk is quite profound. It’s one of my favourite things to do back home, to stand observing the edge and feel dwarfed, to feel inconsequential in the face of it’s magnitude and privileged to be a witness of such awesomeness. Scale is a thing I’ve been considering since Bronze at The Royal Academy and William Klein at Tate Modern last year.
I wrote about seeing Klein, it was like visiting an old friend so full of iconic images on a gigantic scale that couldn’t fail to impress or draw you in. Drinking in the pleasure of the exhibition I went deeper with Klein and found something I didn’t know was there.
Before that show i’d missed the added layer to the mirror work, blown up on a gallery wall the lines and perspective that Klein worked so well make this fashion photo from 1950s Vogue shoot feel intriguingly urban.
Art and photography is usually what I go and see at galleries, but the Bronze show has shifted something in me. If you knew how pedestrian my self taught art appreciation tastes are you’d be as surprised as I am that the two most affecting shows I’ve seen in the last year were a sculpture show and an art installation. Yeah, I can hardly believe it myself, but I’m certainly feeling it.
My first visit to the Bronze at The RA was so absorbing and intense that my brain cut out after Room 5, probably because of the Brancusi bird -all simplicity of form with no details to absorb, it’s just golden and perfect.
But also there was Boccioni and De Kooning pushing dimension and form in to the realms of science fiction. Giacometti, Louise Bourgeoise and Il Porcelino by Pietro Tacca which reminded me so strongly of the wild boars in Princess Mononoke I almost clapped delightedly at the likeness. That show triggered emotions for me, in addition to the joy of observing some seminal bronze works up real close or actually appreciating the many moving parts of the sculpture making process, there were also the waterfall moments when pieces transitioned from being beautiful to being experiential.
There was one piece that made me revisit that show. The immediate thrill of seeing some of my favourites having dissipated, the pleasure centre of my being wanted, actually needed me to experience Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus With The Head of Medusa one more time. I went late on the final day, hoping for, if not an empty room then one less crowded than on my first visit.
Commissioned by a Duke de Medici for the Piazza della Signorina in Florence, Perseus holds Medusa’s head in his right hand, held high in triumph for the viewer to see, Perseus’ left foot pins down Medusa’s headless body, sprawled beneath him, her form is as physically accurate as his. Her back arches and her dress flows in ripples like its silk, it’s bronze. Looking up from underneath in to his face his expression is fierce.
It’s bronze but it’s alive. The statue would have joined Michelangelo’s David in the piazza and whilst that seminal work is, too, magnificent, Cellini in one piece produced a narrative climax that transcends the marble perfection that is David. It took my breath away and made me feel small with wonder, i love the intensity of that and i haven’t been able to stop looking at sculpture around town ever since.