Melancholy Mobiles

Mixed media; steel poles; hanging fixtures
Width: approximately 3m 

These works were developed as part of a large-scale project material / rearranged / to / be which was developed with the acclaimed choreographer Siobhan Davies in response to (amongst other things) the life and work of Aby Warburg; this opened at The Curve, Barbican, London, before touring to Tramway, Glasgow; the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; and the Bluecoat, Liverpool.

The Melancholy Mobiles are somewhat reminiscent of Alexander Calder’s floating and balancing forms, although Calder’s two-dimensional floating shapes have been replaced with three-dimensional ‘Dürer Solids’ — the mysterious polyhedron that appears prominently in Albrecht Dürer’s famous 1514 engraving Melancholia I. Made of dark, lustrous material, the forms do not suggest the playfulness normally associated with mobiles. Rather, they recall the depression from which Warburg suffered throughout his life, and the ‘Saturnine’ character which many artists are said to possess. Here melancholy is presented as an ongoing process of balance, something which allows the making of a certain beauty, and grace, but which requires care and attention, also. Warburg saw Dürer’s etching as a ‘consoling, humanistic message of liberation from the fear of Saturn’ and considered the brooding female figure as ‘a thinking, working human being’, her access to spiritual and intellectual capacity giving her away out of depression.

Installation photographs from the Whitworth Art Gallery, and from the exhibition ‘The Other Dark: Tacita Dean, Jeremy Millar, and Nashashibi/Skaer’, Sirius Art Centre, Cobh, Ireland.