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Giancarlo Neri


Giancarlo Neri - The ChairAs I sat on the top of Hampstead Heath in the sun, I wondered how many optical illusions could be played with Giancarlo Neri’s gargantuan sculpture, The Writer. This monument to the intimacy between the writer and his desk stands at 22ft high. The size is breathtaking, and against all odds, it works. It works so well that you simply can’t take your eyes off the thing. It’s simplicity is mesmerising, and it fits so well into the landscape that it makes it difficult to imagine the Heath before its installation.

Hampstead is famed for its literary traditions, and local resident Zadie Smith introduced the sculpture at its launch party. She questioned the proclamation of the sculpture as a monument to the loneliness of writers, arguing that she cannot escape the companionship of her characters when writing at her desk. It seemed rather odd to have a writer there to vocalise what is essentially a silent pursuit: The Writer is a tribute to the deafening hush that novelists, playwrights, journalists, essayists and poets encounter on a daily basis. Though that was - quite rightly - the last thing on the minds of a group of sinewy boys playfully daring each other to climb the chair legs. These are the same legs that will be used for goal posts, a prop to lean against when kissing your lover, and a urinal, as well as a climbing frame. When I spoke to Neri, he said he was delighted how many people - particularly children - feel the need to rush up and hug the legs. The sculpture represents a private moment in a public place, translated on a vast scale; it is this peculiar recipe that elicits cynical, startled or enchanted smiles from almost all who walk across the Heath.

It was fun listening to the comments of passers-by. The Writer is so huge that it demands a voiced response from all who see it. “Ah, this must be made out of space-age material. If it was made out of wood then man would have been making chairs as big as this a long time ago” muttered one wag. Neri, being a very serious and stylish Italian, may not have approved of this observation.

This exhibition marks the official opening of the new Rollo gallery space at 17 Compton Terrace, in Islington, which is currently hosting a display of smaller works by Neri until October 22nd.




reviewed - Rebecca





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