Ryan Gander (b. 1976) is a conceptual artist whose practice is characterised by storytelling and allusion. Within his often playful works, meaning is subtly implied and questions of existence are indirectly posed. Gander’s practice moves beyond a discipline-specific approach, navigating the complexity of culture with humour and ingenuity.
Gander’s new commission for the Great Exhibition of the North consists of pared down sculptures depicting various objects, originally designed to emit or to shine light, each with a historical link to the North of England. These include one of the first functioning incandescent light bulbs, developed by Joseph Swan (b. 1828, Sunderland) in the late 1800s, and the Geordie lamp, a safety lamp for use in inflammable atmospheres, invented by George Stephenson (b. 1781, Wylam) in 1815.
The objects are linked together by a maritime mooring chain, referencing the dark depths of the river Tyne. These large, concrete sculptures are displayed in the form of a charm bracelet, outsized as if belonging to the child of a giant. Gander references both the history and future of northern innovation, celebrating the inventions of Swan and Stephenson by creating sculpture rendered using contemporary materials developed in the region.