In-Conversation & Reception
Saturday 24 Nov 2018, 12pm onwards (Closed Saturday 22 Dec 2018 - 1 Jan 2019)
Anthony Key (artist) and Katie Hill (Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London)
All Welcome, Refreshments served
Trespassing brings together an illuminating collection of large- and small-scale sculptural and mixed media work produced over the past two decades by British artist, Anthony Key. Characteristically witty and wry, Key’s practice uses quotidian symbols and materials centred on food - noodles, tea, chopsticks, ketchup, the Chinese takeaway – to explore mythologies and pathologies which inform constructions of ‘Chineseness’ and ‘Britishness’, belonging and difference in contemporary Britain. Where food has, in Britain, come to symbolize notions of a ‘tolerant’ and multicultural nation at ease with its ethnic diversity, Key’s eloquent appropriations highlight the contradictions which lay at the heart of this belief. Nothing more typifies this than the aptly titled Trespassing (2000), a coil of barbed wire made from noodles, woven around a large wooden spool. Going Home (2015) is an eloquent allegory about migration, in which the dilemmas of returning ‘home’ to one’s roots are expressed by a meticulously moulded tree stump made from wooden chopsticks.
The ubiquitous Chinese takeaway has been a recurring theme and a metaphorical subject in Key’s practice. In Trespassing, two physically imposing works transform the status of the takeaway, from the transient and commonplace, to a site of liturgical contemplation. InChina Garden (2007), the takeaway is reimagined as a life-size ‘rubbing’, constructed from a wooden armature and flattened takeaway tin foil cartons which precisely trace the contours of each and every surface of Key’s local. Book of Numbers is a spectacular 65-metre construction made from individual wooden chopsticks, intricately bound by string and partially displayed in ceremonial fashion across a 15-metre narrow plinth. On closer inspection, Book of Numbers reads as a form of commemorative ledger, each chopstick containing a handwritten inscription of the name and address of every one of Britain’s Chinese takeaway shops.
The diminutive Tea Cosy (2015) and Snow Globe (2018) variously explore formidable cultural and historical iconography. Tea Cosycomprises delicately and painstakingly knitted cooked noodles, driving a coach and horses through that most English of traditions, tea-drinking. Narratives of defiance, mass production and consumerism are explored in Snow Globe, which restages the iconic and enduring image from the Tiananmen Square Protests in 1989, in which a lone protester stands defiantly facing a line of tanks, clutching his plastic carrier bags.
From the miniaturised to monumental, Key’s visual and material acuity provides an eloquent antidote to often burdensome, vexed and misconceived beliefs around Britishness, history, immigration and integration.
The exhibition Anthony Key: Trespassing – New & Recent Works has been organised by UCA's Cultural Programme and is accompanied by an illustrated brochure (print and download version) which includes texts by Dr. Claire Sutherland (Durham University) and Richard Hylton (UCA).
Anthony Key was born to Chinese parents in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1949. In 1972, he emigrated from South Africa to Britain to study interior design, a field he subsequently worked in professionally for nearly twenty years. Between 1992-1997, Key studied BA Fine Art at West Surrey College of Art & Design in Farnham (now University for the Creative Arts) and MA Fine Art at the University of Brighton. In 2005, he received his PhD from Winchester School of Art, Southampton University. His exhibitions include: Vietnam: A Nation not a War, Palace Green Library, Durham 2015; Entanglement: The Ambivalence of Identity, Rivington Place, London, 2011; Bok gwai/White Ghost, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin 2006; FromSouth China to South London, Unit 2 Gallery, London, 2006; Citizens,PM Gallery & House, London 2005; Did you know…, Paras/Site Art Gallery, Hong Kong, 2003; Walcot Chapel, Bath 2002. He lives in Saffron Walden.
UCA wishes to thank the Oriental Museum at Durham University for the loan of Tea Cosy (2015) and Burnt Offerings (2015).
For opening times please visit James Hockey & Foyer galleries.
Image credit: Book of Numbers (2011), Anthony Key
Photography: Stephen White