Size isn’t everything but…

By Steph Jones

Size isn’t everything but in the case of Firstsite’s new sculpture exhibition everyday normalities have been blown up, larger than life and we’re here for it. In the exhibition Sculpture at Firstsite opening on the 20th November, you can see and interact with work from cherished British artists such as Bharti Kher and Sarah Lucas, whilst also becoming part of the local creative community the site has nurtured. Read more on Firstsite and their upcoming exhibition here in Size Isn’t Everything But…

Art can be so much bigger than a painting on a wall or a sculpture in a gallery, and no I’m not talking about The Journey of Humanity which measures over 17,000 square feet, or the Statue of Unity which is 183 m tall. I am referring to places like Firstsite, Art Fund’s Museum of the year, which has become so much more than just a place to view art. Art with the right intentions can have a big impact on a community, bringing people together to have meaningful conversations and to look at the world through someone else’s lens.  

Firstsite, Colchester. Photograph by Jayne Lloyd.

By introducing people to the art world who would have previously been excluded, Fisrtsite empowers the community to become creative together. The building was designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly and is filled with exceedingly valuable resources and initiatives to improve the lives of locals, for example, their holiday hunger scheme which provides much needed nutritious meals to children during school holidays.

As part of their 10th-anniversary celebrations, six sculptures from British artists will be displayed in the surrounding Lewis Gardens, open 24/7 to everyone to enjoy up close. During lockdown, the community space was greatly missed by the people of Colchester, with queues forming when they reopened, for this reason, it was important to make exhibitions accessible for people that are still vulnerable.

Utilising the outdoors which became so important during our time inside, visitors are encouraged to explore the artwork which looks at each artist’s curiosity in the everyday.

Sarah Lucas

Known for her work discussing the female experience Sarah Lucas has created some striking works often using found objects such as newspapers, cigarettes, buckets and lightbulbs as a way of processing the everyday. Food is a common theme in her work representing parts of the body in the form of visual inuendoes and pairing them with other objects to create puns. Her ‘Self Portrait With Fried Eggs’ shows how the male gaze affects how we view even the most unrelated things both balancing seriousness and humour to connect with the audience. Most notably she creates female forms using stuffed stockings, some looking full of life, others flopped in a pile of disjointed limbs, almost forming entirely new creatures. She uses furniture as a way of looking at how we physically interact with the world and view certain normalities as taboo.

Her works being displayed at Firstsite are titled ‘Kevin’ and ‘Florian’ (2013), the two large marrow sculptures cast in concrete symbolise growth, with the British vegetable being referenced in her piece ‘Au Naturel’ (1994). An old mattress adorned with various fruit and veg created comical connotations alluding to human forms. Perhaps a references to the silly childlike humour which remains in all of us, forming inappropriate connections in the adult mind.

Ryan Gander

Creating work in various mediums Ryan Gander creates art with layered meaning revealing various stories and references both that he intended and also personal the audience. minimal at first glance his sculptures often follow the common theme of being an amalgamation of objects fused together and cast in a single material to create a motionless capture of time.

His piece Everything is learned (2010) will be part of the exhibition Sculpture at Firstsite, the hunk of Purbeck marble is carved with the buttocks and heels of a person seeming to have been sat there so long they left a dent. Taking an interest in art history, the rock references Rodin’s The Thinker (1902) as well as traditional statue pedestals, challenging the constraints of sculpture and encouraging the audience to interact with the piece. The subtle presence of human form in rock encourages people to sit on it, becoming part of the art themselves.

Bharti Kher

Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
© Bharti Kher

Bharti Kher is an English born artist who has been living and working in New Deli since 1993 absorbing the culture and responding through her art. With a fascination for daily rituals and the domestic space, her work uses found objects fusing them together to create a dialogue between objects. Using a wide variety of different materials and processes she creates structures that challenge cultural taboos from an outsiders perspective.

The fallow (2019) will be on display at Firstsite, the 3.5 meter high statue made from bronze is a reconstruction of smaller hybrid pieces made using clay figures. The god resembling figures were collected in south India, being originally used in festivals and celebrations showing history in their deterioration. Bharti Kher sliced them open showing their hollow innards and fused them together. The Fallow refers to the natural regeneration and metamorphosis that the land undergoes between harvests, with the goddess in dusty yellow embodying this change.

Julian Opie

© Julian Opie; Courtesy of Lisson Gallery

With his use of striking colours, bold lines and shapes Opies work is bold and recognisable from a distance almost like a road sign. Known for his simplified portraits art such as the cover of Blur: The Best Of, he takes on pop art in his own way focussing seemingly mundane things. As an avid people watcher, his portraits are usually based on passers-by, stripping them back to a few lines with no facial expressions or personalities just unknown figures.

Two of his sculptures “Imagine you are driving a blue Honda” and “Imagine you are driving a yellow car” (2004) will be on display in Sculpture at Firstsite, the lifesize models are made from aluminium plate and finished with an almost 2-dimensional looking paint job. The geometric sculptures portray Opie’s fascination with the real world and our interpretations of it.

Opening on the 20th November and remaining there for the next year, this exhibition is well worth a visit for the inquisitive minds, people watchers and urban explorers amongst us. Why not take a picnic and sit beside a giant marrow named Kevin or make a day of it and explore other events taking place at Firstsite.

To find out more about Fisrstsite’s community focus and what they have on this year visit

If you enjoyed reading Size Isn’t Everything But… why not check out Little To Big

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