Though David Černý’s work may at first seem to be all about the visual joke, his sculptures often do make a political point. Given the artist’s reluctance to talk about his work and what his intended meaning for it might be, it can require a bit of knowledge and/or research to get to the heart of the matter. For me a case in point is the sculpture Quo Vadis, a Trabant on legs, that I encountered quite by accident in Prague. (Had I done my research before visiting Prague I might have planned a walk through the city to find more of Černý’s public sculptures; as it is, well, maybe I’ll get back there and follow the Černý sculpture trail at some point.) Anyway, while a bit lost, I ended up looking through a fence into the garden of the German Embassy, intrigued by the sight of a car on legs. That the car in question was a Trabant – a cheaply produced East German car, with a fibreglass body – was a clue.
There’s something different about London this summer. The Olympic feelgood factor coupled with a bit of actual sunshine after the seemingly interminable rain means we seem to have found ourselves in a mood to both celebrate our country and the odder aspects of its history and traditions and to jump about. On hand to help out – as part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad – is Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege. As playful reworkings of our heritage go, a life-size bouncy castle version of Stonehenge certainly hits the spot (especially as it comes complete with anxious announcements about health and safety).
Christine Borland, Family Conversation Piece, 1998
The skull is a powerful symbol. While others have used real skulls as the basis for drawing, sculpture or installation, Christine Borland has used skulls as a starting point for making works in other materials. The skulls in Christine Borland’s Family Conversation Piece are made from fine bone china which is then traditionally decorated in blue and white. The work was originally made for an exhibition at Tate Liverpool, so the choice of bone china was a deliberate one intended to resonate with Liverpool’s history as a producer of china with the decoration – in the style of the porcelain made in Liverpool in the eighteenth century – also referencing the city’s history as a trading port involved in the shipping of both produce and slaves.