Ryan Gander (born Chester, 1976) makes sculpture, paintings, installations, photography, film, performance and text. Often beginning with a conceptual framework, Gander poses questions about the role of the artist, the artwork and the viewer. Interested in language and storytelling, his work is populated by narratives and fictional characters, blurring the boundary between what is real and imaginary.
For the Great Exhibition of the North, Gander has made a site-specific sculptural work for Baltic Square which celebrates the history of Northern innovation. To Give Light (Northern Aspirational Charms), comprises ten black concrete sculptures, each describing an object originally designed to emit or shine light, with a historical provenance from the North of England. These include the ‘Geordie lamp’, a miner’s safety lamp invented by George Stephenson in 1815, the first friction match developed by John Walker in 1824, the first incandescent light bulb invented by Joseph Swan in 1860, and the cat’s eye, patented by Percy Shaw in 1934.
The minimal, simplified forms of these sculptures have been abstracted from images of the light-emitting objects that Gander has researched. Fabricated locally in the North East, the sculptures are made with a special concrete material that glows in the dark. Arranged in a circular configuration, each element is complete with a section of shiny mooring chain reminiscent of buoys or anchors, referencing the maritime history of the River Tyne. Together the sculptures appear like a series of gigantic board game pieces or trinkets from a charm bracelet, outsized as if belonging to the child of a giant.