In this month’s Artist Profile, Charlotte Keenan McDonald, Curator of British Art at Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, looks at the work of artist Anya Gallaccio.
Anya Gallaccio has often used organic materials, including, flowers, food and ice, to explore themes of decay, transience and loss in her artworks. One such piece is her sculpture, Can Love Remember the Question and the Answer? (2003), currently on show as part of Walker’s National Partners exhibition, Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender and Identity, until 5 November.
Made in 2003, the work comprises two mahogany doors which rest against a wall. Sixty fresh red gerbera flowers, with yellow centres, are placed between the door’s central windowpanes to complete the artwork. The flowers remain in place for the duration of the artworks display. Initially bright and luscious, the flowers inevitably fade and rot over time. Gallaccio makes a spectacle of their decay, reminding the viewer of how quickly beauty fades and how short life really is.
The title of sculpture is taken from a poem by W. H. Auden, To Ask the Hard Question is Simple, first published in 1930. The text is often interpreted in relation to the poet’s sexuality and its impossibility at a time when sexual relationships between men were still illegal. Gallaccio’s use of Auden’s poetry for the title of this work might be designed to remind us of the continuing struggle for equality for LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people in society today.
Can Love Remember the Question and the Answer can currently be seen in Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender and Identity at the Walker Art Gallery. A National Partners Programme exhibition, bringing together nearly 100 artworks from the Arts Council Collection and the Walker’s own collection. The show explores how artists have addressed the show’s themes in their work since 1967 and is programmed to mark the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Sexual Offences Act (1967), which partially decriminalised sex between most men aged over 21 in England and Wales.
Coming Out will subsequently tour to Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, from 2 December until 15 April 2018.