Materials & Objects in the Tate Modern Boiler House

The Materials and Objects exhibition at the Tate Modern covers such a vast range of ideas, media and artists that it takes a while to really take it in. Below I have selected some of the pieces that really caught my attention. They’re by no means an exhaustive look and it is really worth taking an afternoon to go and look.

‘Work No. 232: the whole world + the work = the whole world’ (2000) Martin Creed

This is cheating slightly as it is on the wall before you go into the Boiler House. There are few things more visually appealing to me than a clean, rounded font lit in white, so it’s not surprising that I picked this, but I also like the fact it is tautological – an equation that can never be solved, and also that you can’t say for sure whether it is a positive or negative statement! It was commissioned for the Tate in 2000 to mark the change from The Tate Gallery of British Art to Tate Britain. You can read more about it on the Tate Modern website.

‘An American Tribute to the British People’ (1960-4) Louise Nevelson

This is one of two Nevelson pieces in this exhibition. The other one (Black Wall) is taller than it is wide and painted completely black, which obscures the contents. The use of gold paint in the piece above highlights every surface making it an object that you can look at endlessly and see new and different features to it. Nevelson collected the boxes and items for her work from the streets around her home where such things were frequently discarded. To read more about her work in this exhibition go here

A detail from ‘Ink Splash II’ (2012) El Anatsui

I think its apparant that I’m a bit of a magpie. In the case of Ink Spalsh II by El Anatsui, however, it was the vivid blue that attracted me rather than the gold. I especially like how dark it looks in the folds of the piece, which was made by weaving strips of aluminium bottle tops. These were then attached to each other using copper wire to create a metallic tapestry. As you can see from the photo on the Tate’s Website, the colour escapes the established boundaries of the piece by spilling over from the wall onto the floor.

‘Behold’ (2009) Sheela Gowda

Behold by Sheela Gowda is a striking piece to look at, and that is before you realise it is constructed using human hair. The hair has been knotted and forms 4 kilometres of rope, which is then wrapped round and hung from twenty car bumpers, knotted further into netting, hung from the ceiling and pooled in coils on the floor. The work reflects superstition in the place Gowda lives; it is common for people to knot their hair around car bumpers to ensure safety from bad luck and accidents. Tate Modern page on Behold.

‘Embryology’ (1978-80) Magdalena Abakanowicz

The final artwork I have picked out from my trip is Embryology by Magdalena Abakanowicz. It takes up a large room by itself; being arranged in two different mounds – one long and the focal point of the room, and another piled up in the corner. To me, the stuffed burlap sacks are reminiscent of the rocks and stones on a beach, but on closer inspection the texture of the hessian suggests something softer and more obliging.



Trafalgar Square, The Tube & Public Art on the way to the Tate Modern

As a newly minted as an HE student who has never visited the Tate Modern before, I hopped on a train and headed down to London to visit the iconic gallery.

There were a lot of interesting sights and things of note before we’d even got as far as the Southbank, so I would like to share those with you.

Travelling across London on the Tube exposes you to a huge wealth of design history; from the signage and decoration of the stations to the textile designs (known as a ‘moquette’). The current moquette is called ‘Barman’ and features key buildings from London’s skyline, including the London Eye. Can you spot the others? 


The fabric has been used on underground trains, starting with the central line in 2011. You can read an interview with the designers Wallace-Sewell here

The fourth plinth on Trafalgar Square was shrouded in wrapping when we were there but a few days later David Shrigley who, incidentally has recently done a collaboration with Tiger on everything from plectrums to a rather nice bag (that I think pretty much everyone in the Art building now owns!) had a sculpture called ‘Really Good’ unveiled.

I happened to be in London again a couple of day’s later, but in true Kitty form neglected to take a photo. Here is the photo from the Fourth Plinth website of it:

‘Really Good’ (2016) – David Shrigley

I better find some other superlatives to describe my feelings for it; safe to say I love the positivity of its message and how the super elongated thumb echoes the height of Nelson’s Column.

Another interesting spot was on the outside of the Hilton London Bankside, a juxtaposition of exposed filament bulbs and tin ceiling tiles with a diptych by Niki Hare.

I am always drawn to strong blues and teals, but where this work really shines, for me is with the orange and yellow ochre letters, they stand out beautifully to my eyes. The tin tiles and filament bulbs feel historical in a carefully curated way; that sort of bulb is increasingly popular at the moment, which I think is a response to how displeasing energy saving bulbs are to the eye; these bulbs have a warmth and understated feel softens the harshness of a fairly modern building.

Finally, before entering the gallery, I spotted some interesting sculptures of heads. They lead you closer to the monolith that is the former power station and they are by a scultptor called Emily Young. I think what made them stand out to me was that the heads are beautifully carved but the back of the head is left natural. These are the ones that caught my eye:

‘Stillness Born of History II’ (2014)
(Onyx with Volcanic Pyroclastic Brecchia) – Emily Young

‘Planet’ (2012) (Clastic Igneous Rock) – Emily Young

There is something entrancing about the smooth, carefully hewn features combined with the natural, rocky outcrop that is hidden behind the face. You can explore more of Young’s work on the Bowman Sculpture Catalogue website and on her own gallery page on her website.

Next time I will be writing about the Louise Bourgeois Artist’s Room and the Materials and Objects exhibition at the Tate.