In every room, and in the gallery's external spaces, sit iron sculptures dusted with an orange patina of rust. These have been cast from the roots of the pequi vinagreiro, sourced in the jungles of Brazil with the help of local communities. The trees are rare and live for more than 1,000 years when left undisturbed. Ai picked through the remains of these giants, looking for the perfect forms, piecing together new compositions to make shapes that seem to have animal qualities, with necks and serpentine limbs. These sculptures engage with both the fragility of the rainforest and those who are 'uprooted' by political and environmental issues, much like Ai himself.
Ai Weiwei, Roots. Lisson Gallery
The show also features more fragile works constructed from silk and bamboo. In the past Ai has enlisted the help of Chinese kite makers to produce these large, delicate designs, featuring dragons and many-tailed fish. In this exhibition the papery hangings reference his past works. Hands giving the middle finger (Ai's trademark symbol of defiance) rain down between curly clouds and winged beasts, casting faint shadows on the wall behind. There are Lego works here, too, images that more directly engage with the political climate, such as a huge rendering of the cover of the Mueller Report, which investigated allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Cast tree roots and bamboo kites and images built from Lego are not new to the Chinese artist. But they are beautiful and hang together so well as to bring a sense of calm to Lisson's white-walled galleries.
|What||Ai Weiwei: Roots, Lisson Gallery review|
|Where||Lisson Gallery, 27 Bell St, London, NW1 5DA | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Edgware Road (underground)|
02 Oct 19 – 02 Nov 19, Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 6:00pm Saturday: 11:00am - 5:00pm
|Website||Click here for more information|