Gavin Turk Unveils New Public Sculpture Outside Cambridge Central Station 




The British artist Gavin Turk has created a new public artwork Inspired by surrealist artistic methodologies and the ‘myth’ of the artist. The bronze sculpture depicts the Greek Goddess Ariadne as an exploration of a classical figure that invites the audience inside a larger metaphysical maze. The unveiling was attended by the dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at a ceremony on Friday. 

Ariadne Wrapped has made a reality of something which I dreamt up by looking at a painting, of a painting of a dream. – Gavin Turk

The internationally acclaimed sculptor Gavin Turk has unveiled a new artwork at the heart of the CB1 development in central Cambridge. The sculpture, named ‘Ariadne Wrapped’, is positioned outside the city’s central station and described by the artist as an “out-of-focus classical form” that plays against the colonnades of the station itself.

Ariadne Wrapped depicts the mythical character of Ariadne, who in Greek mythology allegedly helped Theseus escape the Labyrinth and the Minotaur; Ariadne was then taken to Naxos and abandoned there by Theseus. At first glance, Turk’s work shows an object hidden in a dust sheet and bound with rope. The cloth, however, forms a vital part of the artwork, with Ariadne packaged up suggesting a constant state of transportation, accompanied by the bustle of passing trains as the figure remains stationary. The contrasting criss-cross ropes represent navigation lines, referencing new perspectives.

Gavin Turk Ai Weiwei Photo Deborah Curtis © Artlyst 2022

Gavin Turk with Ai Weiwei At Unveiling of new public sculpture Photo Alice Herrick

The shape of the covered object suggests the heroine, Ariadne, in a classical reclining pose, with her arms thrown over her head, a posture of abandonment. Through this depiction, Turk explores the themes of value, how we look at the world and the male gaze.

Turk cites Italian Metaphysical artist Giorgio de Chirico – known for his surrealist works, often picturing a white colonnade and a piazza – as an inspiration for the sculpture of Ariadne. The reclining figure of the latter is located in front of a set of arches at the station building. The use of playful trompe l’oeil and the sculpture’s ambiguity juxtaposed against the vibrant public square leaves the viewer questioning its meaning.

As a wrapped work, Turk’s piece reminds the viewer of artworks by artist duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude, iconic for their large-scale landmark installations and often wrapped in fabric. This concept of wrapping artwork deceives the eye. This idea inspired Turk, and we encounter Ariadne as a figure metaphorically dressed in history, context, and time.

“This most recent work outside Cambridge Station brings together many different themes from my work, developing what I see as a metaphysical landscape, incorporating other works I have made. Including a 12-metre Nail opposite St Paul’s Cathedral, a giant plug-in plug hole in Paddington Basin and several larger-than-life doors hanging in frames (most recently, L’âge d’Or was sited outside the Museum of Migration in Rotterdam).”

In summer 2018, Gavin Turk hosted the ‘Metaphysical Cyclist’ tours, partnering with Cambridge-born artist Adam Dant on three public bicycle rides for the local community. The rides, for which Turk designed a fleet of colourful, striped bicycles, encouraged everyone in Cambridge to see the public art surrounding them every day with fresh eyes. Later this year, The Heong Gallery in Cambridge will showcase an exhibition of Turk’s work, exploring the artist’s interest in waste, consumerism, and the historical references the piece is inspired.

Gavin Turk (b 1967) is a British-born international artist. He has pioneered many forms of contemporary British sculpture, including the painted Bronze, the waxwork, the recycled art-historical icon and the use of waste in art. Turk’s Oeuvre deals with conversations of authorship and identity. He was concerned with the ‘myth’ of the artist and the authenticity of a work.

Prestel published a monograph on Gavin Turk in 2013, showcasing more than two decades of his work. In 2014 Trolley Books published ‘This Is Not A Book About Gavin Turk’, which playfully explores themes associated with the artist’s work via thirty notable contributors.

Gavin Turk has been commissioned to create several large public sculptures, including Nail, a 12-meter eponymous sculpture at One New Change, next to St Paul’s Cathedral, London, England. Axis Mundi (2017) is an oversized painted bronze sculpture of a plug located in Paddington Basin, London. As well as L’Âge d’Or (2019), a large Bronze open door permanently sited outside the Museum of Migration in Rotterdam.

Along with other well-respected artists, Gavin Turk is part of the Young British Artists (YBAS), a label by the Tate for British artists who began to exhibit together in 1988, becoming known for their openness to materials and processes, shock tactics and entrepreneurial attitude.

Throughout his career, Turk has pioneered a range of forms of sculpture, including the painted Bronze, the waxwork, and the use of rubbish in art. In addition, Turk’s installations and sculptures deal with issues of authorship, authenticity and identity.

Top Photo: Deborah Curtis © Artlyst 2022

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