Saint Apollonia, tortured for not conforming to pagan worship, shakes and tremors as a pair of pliers are raised to her face and with a jerking motion and jarring of the exposed cogs and springs, her hands abruptly wrench a tooth from her mouth. Her whole body trembles from the agony and the distress. The contraption creates a shiver up your spine as you feel the exact revulsion of martyrdom through sound and vision. It is both disturbing and frightening due to its violent and aggressive nature.
Successions of large-scale kinetic sculptures revisit the subject of traditional sacred art and the lives of the saints, adding a contemporary twist on the original paintings, and engaging the audience in participatory art by allowing them to bring the sculptures to life with the press of a foot pedal. Consisting of Landy’s customary material; refuse, the sculptures become almost living and breathing in their mechanical nature of working machinery and tell their tales in an essentially performative act.
Doubting Thomas, the utmost cataclysmic of the works, depicts Saint Thomas entering his finger into the wound of Christ’s torso which he received on the cross. Thomas doubted whether it was true that Christ rose again after his death and was asked to verify the lacerations. Christ retreats involuntarily, painfully jolting and rocking in an overly exaggerated movement after Thomas has jabbed his finger towards him and probes the wound. The sound of it is equally alarming, a horrendous demolishing and breaking noise of metal heavily crashing together as though Christ is going to rip right out of the reinforced floor.
Landy’s sculptures are altogether expressive of pain, suffering and torture. Although somewhat comical in their appearance with their surrealist Frankenstein style, they can teach us what paintings cannot portray or envisage. Stories depicted in Christian art have been long disremembered or bear characteristics which are now difficult to comprehend. Materialistic modern culture slowly overthrows Christianity and apart from a small group of art historians and theologians, its stories are neglected. Not only do many education establishments have little or no focus on this early history but those who still follow the traditional religion seem to have failed to remember the fundamental figures.
Through Landy’s admiration of Jean Tinguely (1925-1991), a Swiss kinetic sculptor, who was well known in the 60’s for his sculptural ‘meta-mechanical’ machines, and a tremendous concern for community, he aspires to create artworks which have a direct effect on an audience, one that exceeds the conventional gallery experience.
Saints Apollonia, Catherine, Francis, Jerome and Thomas have their lives exposed and retold in this chilling exhibition. Alongside these sculptures are Landy’s paper collages; Through cutting and splicing various parts of the original paintings, multiplying and growing them, breaking down the past, Landy was able to redesign the images of the Saints. They in turn created the interactive Kinetic sculptures which have sequentially breathed new life into parts of the National Gallery Collection that were previously ignored and misunderstood.
Leana Lovell Gardner