The glass and concrete titans of London’s Canary Wharf may shine in reflecting the sunlight but rarely are they considered self-reflective or introspective – more as self important proclamations to the self justifying nature of capitalism.
Inside One Canada Square though, there is a quieter musing taking place in the form of Hong Kong Chinese artist Wallace Chan’s ‘Titans’ sculpture exhibition. A former monk, a philosopher, a jeweller and now sculptor, Chan’s pieces make use of titanium to form human heads interspersed with girders as well as more organic petalled whorls of glistening metal.
It is the nature of the metal that provided an inspiration in and of itself says Chan in conversation with CulturAll. Through an interpreter, he describes the inherent magic in the metal which takes its name from the titans. “When titanium comes into contact with the UV light it creates some kind of frequency that is friendly to the human body and also kills bacteria – it’s something that protects you. It can be used in medicine and science but of course, some people might use it for some not so good purposes. You can make weapons and of course that’s bad titans.”
There is humble humanity and beauty in these small heads though the imposed girders show victims too, trapped by a callous iron. Chan writes on his appreciation of titanium as an ‘unsung hero’, whose ‘discreet greatness’ he wants to honour, mentioning the titan Prometheus who brought fire to Earth and humanity. In a world pixelated as much by politics as capital market forces, these pieces do contain an important, timely, appreciation, though more of the conflicted circumstances so many humans now have to live in. Either way, it is well found and welcome in the sangfroid of London’s financial heart.
In a week in which we saw just how evil real, human, titans can be – does the work show the potential for benevolence or also suggest the fear and contempt humans should have for those who would be masters? Speaking perhaps more as a philosopher, Chan alludes to the power of the medium being the message. “I know the metal will last hundreds of years, that makes it more eternal than myself but reflects a contemporary spirit. The metal has a strong memory.”
Titans: A Dialogue Between Materials, Space and Time is exhibited in the Lobby of One Canada Square until 8 April 2022. From 20 April many of the works will also be on display as part of TOTEM at the Venice Biennale