by Justyna GreenApr 03, 2020
The imposing red post boxes are the city’s landscape paraphernalia, especially of the cities in the UK. The iterations of the 19th century post boxes are even installed in the Commonwealth of Nations and British Overseas Territories. When the British sculptor Alex Chinneck gives a twist to these boxes, the sculptural installations garner the attention of the viewers to let them have a moment of ‘pause-and-wander’. To create the series Alphabetti Spaghetti, Chinneck borrows the form of British post box and ties it in a knot. As an act to relook at the cultural icons of the Empire and celebrate street art culture, the Alphabetti Spaghetti were installed in London, Kent and Sheffield.
Chinneck’s sculptures are not limited to the on-site specifics, they involve a play around the existing architectural troupes with a taste of theatrical performance. Since the works dismantle the conventional ideas of perceiving and processing the objects around us, Chinneck, in an interview with STIR, says, “Surrealism is best served on a bed of familiarity, so I try to produce sculptures that make the everyday extraordinary”. Chinneck’s Alphabetti Spaghetti is about fabricating a layer of a twist on an everyday object that could be otherwise mistaken as any other entity in the large landscape. The sculptural disruption of these objections creates an illusion of newness that could not be achieved within the norms of geometry.
The public art is not confined to the limitation of visual delights but opens an opportunity to contextualise the work within the history of its space of placement. Chinneck’s first work, Telling the truth through false teeth, emulated the same thought. By bringing the art to the community, Chinneck says, “Audience appreciation doesn’t make a public artwork better but it can help it feel complete”. As part of the installation, Chinneck created 312 identically cracked windows using 1,248 pieces of glass through the industrial process and fitted them into a dilapidated factory in Hackney, East London. Situated a few miles away from the Olympic Stadium, the dire state of factory underscores the fall of the economy in the area despite the eventful Olympic Games of 2012. Unlike the artworks that have a life of their own even after the exhibition is over, this public art came with an expiry date. Within the span of five months, the work was crumbled down to pieces when the authorities demolished the factory.
For the Milan Design Week 2019, in collaboration with smoke-free innovators IQOS, Chinneck created an immersive work for an exhibition World Revealed that invited the viewers to the art of ‘unzipping’ the past, present and future. Maintaining the essence of the local architecture of the place, a new façade was created for two buildings. The stone quoins unzip the insides of a new building with ethereal light, and the two more sculptural interventions unzip the concrete floor and stonewall. The large-scale manifold installations are a result of the navigation through long steps of ideation and execution. Chinneck states, “The work takes complex paths to reach simple visual moments. Every journey between concept and reality is challenging and only possible through collaboration and my foolish determination”. The contrast running between the outer and inner walls is heightened with the coloured ethereal light. The immersive experience of the works, accentuated with colour, illumination and sound, breaks the order of things for a more fluid understanding of teleology.
From stone quoins, windowpanes, to glass, Chinneck has no single favourite material to work with, a variety of materials has its own challenges and advantages. Chinneck declares, “Every material has limitations and my sculptures attempt to playfully transcend them. I think there is something positive about stretching, or in my case bending, the realms the possibility, albeit seemingly”.
Chinneck wittingly replies to the question about the final takeaway for the viewers after watching his works, “The viewer can leave with whatever they want (as long as it’s not the sculpture). It’s my work but it’s their experience”. Conjuring a fantastical world both in the mind and outside, Chinneck’s works demand technical efficacy that on the surface may appear minimal, yet the viewers unfold its slices of meaning slowly and steadily. When the works are not about one-time spectacle, Chinneck raises the interest among his viewers who gets to see an unrecognised part of the object under a garb of newness with his art and design.