“Monumental Rage” is a new exhibition by the world renowned sculptor Michael Sandler. The exhibition, centered around the dark themes of violence, war and death is a homecoming of sorts for the artist who studied at Chester School of Art in the 1950s when it was housed in the Grosvenor Museum. Born in in Dorset in 1936, he lived in Douglas on the Isle of Man 1942-54, and came to Chester whilst on national service. He went on to study in London and Paris and taught in Britain and Canada, and lived in Germany for 25 years where he was Professor of Sculpture at Pforzheim and then at Karlsruhe. He has exhibited across five continents and his work is in public collections around the world. Notable sculptures by the artist include ‘St George and the Dragon’ 1987-8 in London, the ‘Malta Siege-Bell Memorial’ 1988-92 in Valletta and ‘The Seafarers’ Memorial’ 2000-1 in London.
The central pieces of the exhibition appear to have wandered in from a nightmare, with the brooding “Sound of Your silence” a carved limewood figure of a hooded woman clutching a mummified child being particularly striking. Representing the victims of the Iraq War, the piece is one of the most thought provoking and disturbing exhibits at the Grosvenor Museum ever. The other exhibits also evoke the themes of war and death, with a spaceman/pilot/Christ like figure holding a number of severed heads, this time referencing attacks by the Israeli air force. Another piece featuring a figure in a tomb like setting complete with an appropriate half amphitheatre refers to the Falklands war. Meanwhile designs on show for a never realised sculpture entitled “Big Brother” feature faces emerging from a cube and to a modern mind may remind the viewer of the Hellraiser series of films. Other pieces depict the construction of U boats, volcanic eruptions and disturbingly a suicide themed image of a man burning on top of a moving train.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing, said: “Michael Sandle’s work explores the themes of violence, war, death and memorialisation, making this a particularly appropriate exhibition for the year in which we commemorate the centenary of the end of the Great War. In direct response to the horrors of our age, his art presents a powerful critique of the abuse of power in global conflict, politics and culture, and the accompanying cynicism and hypocrisy.
“The exhibition presents the immensely powerful work of this important artist, whose international status is unmatched in his field by any other British artist of his generation. With sculptures, drawings and prints spanning sixty years, it offers an extraordinary aesthetic, intellectual and emotional experience for our visitors.”
The exhibition has been supported by The Flowers Gallery, the Grosvenor Museum Society, the Henry Moore Foundation, the Finnis Scott Foundation, the Westminster Foundation, the Granada Foundation, the University of Chester, RA250 UK with Art Fund, the Isle of Man Arts Council, and Hiscox.
Powerful and haunting, with art as fascinating as this on display, we can only hope those who witter on and complain about the lack of visual arts in the city go along and see the exhibition by the world class artist. Monumental Rage runs until the 7th October.