Sacha Craddock - critic & curator

Arena, Alison Wilding

Art House Foundation, May 2016

Independent, autonomous almost humming with individual power, ‘Arena’ has somehow landed near the canal. It does more or less need to be seen in a perfect light, though. Absorbing and radiating, reverberating, a transparent polycarbonate puzzle which aches, as if a print, idea or drawing made full and three-dimensional. A law unto itself, the slots and slits shift, as layers build up in a delicate and particularly inward looking or independent manner.
The relation between sculptural idea and reality is always precarious, but especially so with fragile Arena. Held together, by slotted unit perfectly placed onto unit, the non-weight is heaped so delicately, with such precision, that the construction has its own self-defining logic. But here, in an old studio, now a cleared gallery space, the piece is framed by white wall at one end and by brick at the other, and ambiguous scene merges with undeniable fact.  
Bands of two-dimensional material are brought together; there is a sense of pressure, an inevitable push, a regular build up of strength, of density, as two-dimensional planes align to bring inevitable opacity. Yes, an arena is about spectacle. A battle, a performance, where oratory, badness or goodness is pumped out, or even acted upon, on the central stage, yet Arena turns its back on the situation, all the way around.  Not low enough to give an over view or provide any simple visual statement, there is a place within, we know, and also don’t care what that is and what it might mean.
An architectural play on both the real and a model for an idea, Arena seems to pose substantial as well as light questions about sculptural expectation, virtuosity, and the possible authority of any one piece.  The people who so painstakingly fabricated Arena in 2000 were disappointed with its first manifestation in a working interior with unnatural light.  Now as the daylight is absorbed and bounces off the surface, this prismatic piece seems now, perhaps not so much then, to do with excavation, emergence, something found, dug up, exposed and re-realised. A rock after the tide goes down, Alison Wilding’s futurist piece of logic feels the prop for a film as well as a thing itself left behind and then found, with added apparently Kryptonite lozenges. Is it there when we leave the room? Perhaps not in the dark.   

© Sacha Craddock May 2016
Instagram @sachacraddock


Executive Member - AICA
Member of Faculty - British School at Rome
Chair - New Contemporaries
Trustee - Shelagh Cluett Trust
Trustee - Braziers
Trustee - Art House Foundation
Arts Advisor - Royal Borough Kensington and Chelsea





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