and per se and: Part XVIII – Alexander Calder and Peter Liversidge

The Ingleby Gallery’s endeavour of pairing the works by two artists – some of whom now sit comfortably within the canon of art history – is proving to be a crowd divider. The ultra-minimalist concept, presenting only one or two pieces from two artists in a large room, was conceived as an opportunity to intensely compare the works and see echoes of similar themes in both artists’ practices.

This fortnight was the showcase of Jean Painlevé’s 1955 film ‘Le Grand Cirque Calder’, a performance of Alexander Calder’s kinetic sculpture ‘Cirque Calder’ (1927), alongside the work of Peter Liversidge, a contemporary artist with an impressive portfolio.

Calder, known best for his block-coloured hanging mobiles was an established sculptor in the early twentieth century and, before he developed his characteristic style, drew in aluminium and carved in wood. Each character at the circus is handmade and uses varying forms of basic mechanics to perform their tricks.

An exciting chance to see a less well-known side of Calder, the sparkle is dulled a little when you search for more context on the piece and realise the same film is available on YouTube. This would have spared you walking all the way around the foot of Calton Hill.

What YouTube cannot guarantee, though, is the proximity of Peter Liversidge’s objects that accentuate the playful atmosphere of Calder’s piece. They seem to heighten each other’s legitimacy and the film allows us to understand the playful side to Liversidge’s ‘Effigy’ (4), (5) and (6), whilst they in return expose a more sinister aspect of ‘Cirque Calder’.

An understanding of Liversidge’s style and repertoire is useful in viewing this exhibition. Working most famously with hypothetical exhibition proposals typed on an A4 sheet, Liversidge’s body of work expands to include found materials with which he arranges eyes and mouths to suggest faces, often cutting the generic shapes into the found materials. The modest shelf that presents the arrangement of stony faces appears to have been plucked directly from a museum’s display of artefacts from ancient Pre-Colombian civilisations. The gold-smothered cardboard, that hangs opposite the ceremonial heads, completes the trio on display.

After a while the strange atmosphere of frozen facial expressions that sit quietly, while Calder plays with children’s toys to a gleeful audience, is unavoidable. Suddenly links form between the resonating themes in Calder’s work that are centred on toys and his famous mobiles that are objects also associated with children, all the while Liversidge’s faces stare around the room and it all seems a little disconcerting. The show nevertheless presents a chance to consider how the curation of a room can affect the pieces on display and that the meaning of the work can alter with the context in which it is presented.  

Ingleby Gallery 

Until 16th December

Photo credit: Laura Henry 

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