Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a sculpture. Or is it a drawing? It’s so hard to tell sometimes. Gabriel Orozco’s Dark Wave is a replica of a whale skeleton – so, clearly sculpture – on which a pattern has been drawn – a drawing then – it’s all so confusing. Quite apart from the overwhelming scale of the piece, what I like about this work is the ambiguity of the thing. There’s the starting point of it feeling like a readymade that’s been worked – an approach Orozco has used a lot in works like La DS– on but in fact the skeleton is remade resin and calcium carbonate before being draw on in graphite. Then there’s the way the pattern makes it harder to quite figure out the skeleton but still somehow manages to feel like it’s meant to be there, albeit in a way that makes the piece feel like it might be some sort of archaeological find.
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 The work was originally made for an exhibition at Tate Liverpool, so the choice of bone china was a deliberate one intended to resonate with Liverpool’s history as a producer of china with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.