Some artworks take time for their significance to be fully absorbed and this was the case with Michael Lyons’ sculpture, Centaurus. As a consequence of this, the present gallery run, based on a trail of 20 sculptures called Sculpture in the City, is described on two separate time scales, the day itself and a few days later. On this later occasion I looked across an expanse of water to the City from the banks of the Thames whilst on a separate run and at a greater distance. The inspiration for a double narrative of this sort was also inspired by the writer Marcel Proust who used the changing distance of a spectator to reveal different truths about a cluster of objects whether they be artworks or the steeples of rural churches.
Close up, Sculpture in the City is a trail that extends south from the building formerly known as the NatWest Tower which bares, for those who are interested, the bank’s logo in its section. It then doubles back at Leadenhall market and one soon arrives at the grand plaza of the Leadenhall Cheesegrater, and then further back, the plaza of the St Mary’s Axe Gherkin. This doubling back at Leadenhall gives the sculpture trail an overall V shape with the Cheesegrater near the tip.
It was these same three buildings I would see from afar as I jogged round the long curving banks of the Thames a few days later. They formed a slowly rotating compass which would constantly pick out due south thanks to the illumination of a rather vivid red sunset reflecting off the Cheesgrater’s long south-facing facade. Thanks also to Michael Lyons’ sculpture, this overview of the whole sculpture trail would inspire me on my return home to write the present account, mindful of the fact that some artworks give a delayed reaction to the understanding of their truths.
On the day, Michael Lyons’ sculpture appeared sited on ground level in a plaza close to these iconic buildings. It had a roughly worked steel form and stone plinth and what looked like a gestural curve applied to a horizontal steel plate as a head and this sat atop a thick tapered pole in reference to a neck. It had a presence a bit like a sentinel and its name Centaurus suggested it was referencing a point or constellation in the southern sky, despite the bright midday sun temporarily obscuring any poetic reference to the stars. Then comes the moment referred to at the beginning of this account, of realisation. The sculpture was actually in alignment with the paving slabs of the plaza and this in turn, through the vision of architects, extended to an overall south facing aspect for all the buildings in that little region of the City. Thus from afar on the Thames I was looking at London’s Compass as the three buildings of the trail formed a V shaped constellation brought to life by its glowing tip as the evening sunset shone off the slope of the foremost building, the Cheesegrater. This is a compass that any city visitor can henceforth use to pick out due south and guide them on their way.
Centaurus by Michael Lyons. The sculpture faces due south, as do the surrounding buildings, in fact, and is the inspiration for this week’s blog, the London Compass.
Gavin Turk in Sculpture In The City
Huma Bhabha of Stephen Friedman in Sculpture In The City.
William Kentridge of Marian Goodman gallery. The artist has produced a composite portrait of a poverty stricken figure selling coals.
Sarah Lucas of Sadie Coles HQ in Sculpture In The City.
Ugo Rondinone of Sadie Coles HQ in Sculpture In The City.
Lukas Duwenhogger at Raven Row. Exotic symbol-laden paintings.
Giuseppe Penone in Sculpture In The City. Bronze tree with smooth boulders.
Brick Lane activity.
Anthony Caro of Gagosian in Sculpture In The City. Made from additions to a sea floatation tank.