What is this exhibition? It’s 40 thousand rough clay figures arranged by
hand, filling the main floor space of an old converted church in Scunthorpe. I cannot include a picture of the display as there was a sign asking the public not to take pictures – but I can include a scan of the leaflet that accompanies the exhibition, so I have.
My impressions? What did this exhibition do for me? Not much. I was left numb, bored and disinterested. Why? Firstly, you cannot really get a feel for the entirety of the piece as you can only view a narrow part of it at best (this is meant to be part of the exhibit). By leaning outward, and risking possible death by impalement on a small army of rather sad faced clay creatures, you can get a better view and an idea of all the hard work that has gone into putting so many little statues in one place. But it still did nothing for me. I wasn’t amused, emotionally moved, angered, inspired or even interested.
Thankfully my wife pointed out to me that we could see the whole exhibition space, the interior of the converted church, and that was inspiring. Usually at 20-21 Gallery (Scunthorpe) the main hall is full of artworks and displays. But by filling it with an army of very short figures we were able to appreciate the beauty of the empty space itself. The arches, the towering columns and the impressive entrance to the clock tower. That was inspiring. This once sacred space still holds hints of something unearthly and spiritual, and that’s the opinion of a dyed in the wool atheist! On that basis, I encourage you to visit the exhibition, ignore the clay figures and admire the space in which it sits.
There was another good reason to visit 20-21. Down the entrance corridor to the main display hall was a small exhibition dedicated to the work of Dominic Wilcox. Just a few pieces in the corridor but they did more for me than tens of thousands of crude clay models. He had taken items and ideas from everyday life and transformed them into the unusual and the interesting.
I especially liked his future viewing binoculars,
which had a certain steam punk quality to them. A bowl made from semi melted red plastic soldiers, similar to the same toys I played with as a child. An image of the back of a boy’s head with an on off switch implanted into the scalp. That reminded me of Douglas Adams and one of his characters who invented an off switch for children, something that I think all parents would like to see.
I found Dominic’s work stimulating and amusing. The sculptures bringing to life some of his sketches and giving life to his ideas. I spent about ten times more time looking at this small corridor based exhibition than Mr Gormley’s rather lacklustre clay figure army.
I so liked Dominic Wilcox’s work that I even stumped up the £10 for a signed copy of his book. It has gone straight into my creativity/imagination stimulation stack. A resource I use when I need to boost my own creativity.
I would heartily encourage you to visit the 20-21 Gallery and see the Gormley installation for yourself. Perhaps you have a different opinion? Maybe you love all things Gormless, I mean Gormley (naughty)! But I would also encourage you to spend time admiring the exhibition space itself and spend time in that corridor dedicated to Mr Wilcox. Go along and see something I feel is genuinely more original and stimulating than thousands of dull small clay figures.