October Gallery is delighted to present the second solo exhibition of LR Vandy, following last year’s display of her large-scale installation, Dancing in Time: The Ties That Bind Us, a five- meter-high rope sculpture commissioned for the International Slavery Museum’s Martin Luther King celebrations at Liverpool’s Canning Dock waterfront. Twist features a new series of sculptures created from a variety of ropes and other materials; one large-scale rope work, several smaller rope sculptures, a collection of photographic prints, and further new works from the artist’s signature Hull series.

In 2022, Vandy relocated her studio to a site adjacent to the Ropery at Chatham Historic Dock Yard – an establishment that has preserved traditional rope-making, still using original machinery from the 19th century, of which the oldest dates back to 1811. This led the artist to explore the matter and properties of rope, as she began to delve into the material’s historical importance and symbolic implications. Used, from ancient times, in constructions of all kinds, rope became essential to the burgeoning maritime industry, thereby becoming inextricably involved in the building of empires and the colonial history of slavery.

By binding, sewing, and manipulating her materials, Vandy celebrates rope’s versatility while still alluding to and playfully subverting its many historical associations. This series of rope sculptures was inspired by Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, ‘Dancing in the streets’, which locates the phenomenon of ‘collective joy’ as central to the origins of dance. Other contributing sources can be found in hunting rituals and the African spirit dances that transformed into carnival masquerades in the African diaspora.

Vandy’s vivacious curvilinear sculptures challenge the typical representation of the female form –historically subjected to the male gaze – to provide a more positive depiction that associates female abstraction with empowerment. Works such as Dynamo Woman, explore similar territory. Vandy engineered giant sculptures made of a wide strip of spiralling copper – the element central to the electro-dynamic revolution that powered the later industrial age – which besides representing tornado-like guardian spirits symbolise the vital energy of the female form.

In her rope ‘figures’ the strength and supple flexibility of the twined materials extend this idea by evoking suggestions of the ‘Grain Mother’ deity figure, the harvest guardian, who represents continuity and the survival of humanity. These ancestral and atavistic themes manifest in the large-scale ‘Rope Mother’ figure, which acts both as template for and energetic focus of the smaller dancing rope works that surround her.

The vital, energetic forms are composed by shaping and hand-sewing sections of rope together, before tying off and binding the loose ends with twine or copper wire. Other rope sculptures subtly integrate incongruous found objects: cogs, pipes, washers skipping-rope handles, etc. While the title given to each playful sculpture names a particular dance, taken altogether, the twisting, twirling forms appear as freeze-frame captured moments of a single gyrating body dancing to the movement of time. Alongside these sculptures, a new selection of Vandy’s striking Hull series will be shown, exploring the trade significance of indigo.

The artist draws upon traditional talismans, amulets and charms to transform these model boats into ‘masks’ adorned and animated with various materials including rope, fishing floats, and feathers. By creatively combining both found and handcrafted objects; by continuously experimenting with different materials; and by striking unanticipated echoes from these never-before-seen forms, LR Vandy’s remarkable assemblages, on close examination, animate the field of contemporary sculpture with haunting echoes laden with insight into issues of continuing relevance today.

LR Vandy was born in 1958, in Coventry, England. She lives in Hackney, London, and works in Chatham, UK. Vandy’s sculpture series These Women, consist of twenty-one individual, dynamic sculptures, each one a different variation of bold geometric elements. A large Jesmonite sculpture from the series Superhero Cog-Woman, acting as a tribute to women throughout time, was selected to be shown at Frieze Sculpture 2019, Regents Park, London, UK.

LR Vandy made her sell-out debut with October Gallery at 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London in 2018, which was followed by her highly anticipated first solo show Hidden at the Gallery in June 2019. The artist’s work was also exhibited as part of the exhibition Get Up, Stand Up Now, 2019 at Somerset House. She is represented in many private collections and her work European, in 2015 was acquired by the British Museum.