Was ‘Cock’ the first thing that sprang to mind when you thought of Trafalgar Square?
‘It was a pretty quick decision. I had a stuffed rooster toy in my studio. I always looked at it and thought, One day you have to make a Hahn – or cock – sculpture, but it’s a very difficult thing to do because so many artists have done roosters – Picasso, for example. I think it’s totally worn out as an image, so I really wanted to find a new way of doing it. And it fits totally with Trafalgar Square.’ Because of all those sculptures commemorating our military big boys?
‘Yes, there are all these very male figures on their pedestals. But it also fits because it has these tail feathers, which are kind of exploding, echoing the form of the fountains.
What makes a great public sculpture?
‘I think it’s very important for public art that you can look at something and get it very quickly. I like to make things simple. When you do a sculpture of an animal most people have an immediate emotional response. But the piece, like its location, has a lot of levels.’ There’s been some controversy about the fact that the cockerel is an emblem of France. Was it your intention to ruffle feathers?
‘It wasn’t at all my intention to put a French cock on an English plinth, with Nelson looking down on it. I didn’t think of that. I thought more about the male thing, but maybe when you think about the male, you think about the French… I work quite intuitively. Perhaps it was at the back of my mind that it might also be a political symbol.'
So it’s not a swipe at British national pride?
'You know, as Germans we don’t think in nationalistic terms any more, we think only in terms of Europe. I am of a generation that hasn’t any national pride. I was born in the 1950s and we were always ashamed to be German, so that was never a question for me. It certainly wasn’t my intention to hurt anyone. I hope the English people take it with humour. I don’t want to make a bad joke, partly because I’ve spent so much time and money on this piece.’
Is it more time consuming to make sculpture for an outdoor site?
‘It took two and half years of my life. We had to do a lot of tests because it’s in a public place. I don’t want anyone getting injured by my French rooster! The ultramarine colour brings the whole thing together but it is particularly sensitive. We did a lot of rain tests. I think it turned out bright and very nice.’
Trafalgar Square’s pigeons may have other ideas…
We’ve treated the sculpture for that, and a special cleaning and maintenance schedule is in place.’
As a piece of representational sculpture, the work is quite traditional. Do you think of yourself as a classical sculptor?
I’m always working with space like an old-fashioned sculptor – I want each piece to work from the back and the sides. But then with the colour I make the work more like an icon, more virtual, so it’s always hovering between being a sculpture in a very traditional way and becoming flat like a picture.’
That’s quite an unusual idea for a sculptor…
‘I think I developed something there! I am a kind of pioneer.’
How do you hope people will react to the sculpture?
‘I love Trafalgar Square, it has really gorgeous architecture and because of its different levels and the fountains it's a joyful urban space. I think, partly because of the colour, the sculpture is also quite joyful. I like controversy because it's lively but I hope the sculpture won’t be too controversial. I’m very excited but also a little afraid.’
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The Amsterdam-based artist known for her immersive film installations talks to Time Out about her two London shows: ‘Inventory’, which takes inspiration from the eclectic Sir John Soane’s Museum, and ‘Ghost Dwellings’, an installation which focuses on natural and economic disasters in Detroit, Cork and Japan. You don’t live in London, so what attracted you to Sir John Soane’s Museum?‘I noticed that when I was preparing for a show in Rome I kept thinking about Soane’s. I had been doing a lot of research into collections and considering how long we’ve had public museums, and his place is very much a starting point to think about that. And of course, it’s fantastic.’ What aspects of the museum did you want to focus on?‘I focused on the areas (where) he hung what he called his “marbles”: all the architectural fragments and things he collected from ancient Rome and Greece. I’m not interested in trying to replicate the museum. Why should I? It’s a unique place and everyone should go – and everyone does, I think. Instead, I was very interested in the idea of the original and the copy, because there are a lot of plaster casts on display. It got me thinking about the medium.’ Is that why you chose to shoot the film on six different formats?‘Basically I decided to choose not to choose. Usually when I’m preparing a piece I make tests with different cameras and I thought maybe it’s interesting to bring that to the forefront in ‘Inventory’ – the fact that there are all these mediums aRead more
Moscow-born, New York-based painter Sanya Kantarovsky has teamed up with performance artist Ieva Misevičiūtė for his show at Studio Voltaire, which is inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s surreal, satirical novel about the Devil’s visit to Moscow, ‘The Master and Margarita’. On the opening night, Misevičiūtė performed on a stage shaped like ‘Behemoth’ – the book’s diabolical black cat. A film of the performance is on show in the gallery foyer, while the cat remains as a sculpture-cum-bench from which you can admire Kantarovsky’s spellbinding paintings. Time Out caught up with him. How did the show come about?‘The show came out of a collaborative process with performance artist Ieva Misevičiūtė. Most of the figures in the paintings are based on a series of gesture studies I made of her movements in my studio. When she performs in the gallery space there’s an indexical relationship between her body and the gestures in the paintings.’ How conscious were you of making work for a former church?‘I was responding to the history of the space as a church, which made sense with the novel's Christian meta-narrative. I approached this as a site-specific installation rather than a straightforward painting show. There was an internal debate about how the space would exist after Ieva's performance because her presence throws the status of the paintings into question. When Ieva is on stage, they comprise an environment for her performance and become contingent on her body.’ It’s very dramaticRead more