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Artist Kenny Hunter’s bold Aberdeen show explores darker side of public monuments

Artist Kenny Hunter in Aberdeen Art Gallery's Sculpture Court with his show called Sculpture Court.
Artist Kenny Hunter in Aberdeen Art Gallery's Sculpture Court with his show called Sculpture Court.

The leading Scottish artist behind some of the Granite City’s most iconic sculptures has launched a major new exhibition at Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Kenny Hunter, who created Feedback Loop, a firm favourite with gallery visitors, and Youth With Split Apple which sits outside King’s College, will display recent works in his show Sculpture Court.

The Edinburgh-born artist said he was delighted to have his show – a reflection on the changing role of the monument as a public art form – in the gallery’s own Sculpture Court.

Kenny said: “It’s a great honour and I see it as an ongoing relationship I’ve had with Aberdeen Art Gallery who have been really supportive over the years at key moments in my career.

One of Kenny’s pieces which questions the traditional equestrian public monument.

“What I love about Sculpture Court is that it’s like no other place in the world. So many galleries in the world are interchangeable… white cubes and concrete floors, I could be in Cairo or LA and you wouldn’t know the difference,” said Kenny who has held exhibitions around the world.

Embracing the Sculpture Court

“Whereas this space I’m working in has not just  got character, but it’s literally made from the granite of the area. As an artist you have to embrace the character of the Sculpture Court and really work with it.”

His show, Sculpture Court, which opened on Thursday December 9 and runs to October 30 next year, has six sculptures ranging in scale, as well as text works, such as banners and posters.

His theme reflects how the original power and purpose of the traditional monument can seem incongruous in these days of the Black Lives Matters movement, which has seen protests and controversy over the history of statues around the world.

Kenny Hunter hopes people will enjoy his works in the Sculpture Court at Aberdeen Art Gallery.

“These type of art forms tend to be simple, direct clear messages. What I’ve tried to do is make them more ambiguous and balanced and open to interpretation,” said Kenny.

“I’m looking for the viewer to come in and question why it is there and what relationship they have to the object and how the objects relate to each other.”

For example, one of Kenny’s pieces depicts a young girl on a pony, which he says is an inversion of norms for monuments.

Darker side of monuments

“If you think of all the equestrian monuments, they tend to be a male figure with a powerful stallion and that stallion is controlled by the man. It’s elevated and very high up, very much a statement of power and control. Whereas, this is lowdown and colourful and the girl sits on the horse, but the horse is in agreement. There are no reins, there’s no bridle.

Feedback Loop is one of the gallery’s best-loved sculptures.

“So there are these wee and subtle challenges to what you expect to encounter when you see an equestrian statue. It’s just one example of how I approach making art.”

Kenny, who was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Aberdeen University in 2008 and also works closely with Peacock Visual Arts, said he had been questioning the use of monuments and their darker side long before the Black Lives Matter brought it to the fore.

“But when BLM kicked off it made it feel urgent again and what I had been thinking about and talking about in my work moved out of the niche and into the mainstream, so I thought it was time to really refocus on that.

“I have a back catalogue of stuff in my life as an artist that questions the monument and who its serves. It’s this idea of history being a subjective thing. Who defines history who tells the story of the goodies and the baddies.

The Youth with Split Apple statue by Kenny Hunter in the grounds of Aberdeen University.

Open up subject for discussion

“I’m not trying to wield an axe here, just trying to open up a subject for discussion.”

As well as posing questions, Kenny also wants visitors to enjoy visiting Sculpture Court, with its mix of modernity, cartoony influences as well as modern and ancient history.

“These are highly-crafted objects that took me ages to make and there are lots of sculptural qualities like volume, mass, edge, curves and colours. There’s a lot of interesting things in the work that you can just enjoy as a well-crafted thing.”

There is an opportunity to meet Kenny on Saturday December 11 for an informal talk and tour of Sculpture Court at 11am and noon.

To find out more visit the Aberdeen Art Gallery website

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