John Gibbons: New Work
The expansive lobby of One Canada Square, the Cesar Pelli tower that put Canary Wharf on the map, is ill-suited to art, writes Andrew Mead. The slick marble veneers, the terminal blandness, make pieces look alien or lost. But the Canary Wharf Group perseveres with its 'Sculpture in the Workplace' exhibitions, and in John Gibbons has an artist who can deal with this daunting space.
Spanning the last four years, Gibbons' sculptures, made of stainless-steel tubing, explore themes of openess and enclosure in various ways. He has placed them, singly or in small groups, at intervals on all four sides of the lobby, and though most of them are modest in size, they cohere to create a private world within the corporate one. As you move from sculpture to sculpture, there's both change and continuity - but a strong sense of development overall.
Some works evoke architecture; it's a long-standing reference for Gibbons (AJ 29.5.97).
Others are more like cages. One group, placed on five grey pedestals that greet you as you enter from Canary Wharf Station, bears a strong resemblance to heads - steel armatures stripped of skin. But Gibbons has left behind the rigid near-symmetry of the earliest of these 'heads'. The latest work in the show, New Life (2004), looks more like Alsop's ill-fated 'Cloud' in form: a bulging irregular envelope of criss-crossed steel, the line traced by the tubing as fluid, continuous and ramifying in three dimensions as Pollock's was in two (see picture).
The only drawback to this show comes with One Canada Square's hyper-vigilant security staff: look at a sculpture for any length of time, or take out a notebook, and they think you're from Al Qaeda. It's pointless to make the gesture of presenting art 'in the workplace' if the workplace culture prevents people from enjoying it.