A new and striking commission from artist Monira Al Qadiri is unveiled on the Southbank Centre’s iconic Riverside Terrace, launching the second year of a three-year commissioning partnership with the Bagri Foundation.
Monira’s iridescent sculpture Devonian, which portrays the exploitation of nature and fragility of our reliance on fossil fuels, continues this year’s programme of prominent outdoor installations at the Southbank Centre, providing free access to art for all.
Devonian, which borrows its name from the Devonian period in natural history, features the bodies of ancient sea creatures whose fossils are used for fuel and plastics via petroleum. The shimmering sculpture can be seen on the Riverside Terrace from 5 August to 6 November 2022.
The word Devonian comes from Devon, England, where the old red sandstone containing these fossils was first studied. Many of the oil deposits being extracted in the Northern Hemisphere were formed from the remains of animals, plants and microorganisms that existed on Earth during this era, nearly 400 million years ago. This period is also referred to as ‘The Age of Fish’, which is renowned for the development of thousands of species of fish, crustaceans, shellfish and marine plants.
In Monira’s colourful sculpture, the now extinct species are revived. These fantastical, almost alien-like creatures have been turned into a series of illustrative motifs on eight separate aluminium panels. Connected by a turquoise-coloured structure that evokes the idea of the sea, each panel is painted in a different shimmering hue that changes subtly over the course of a day.
Monira crystallises the moment oil was created by animating the bodies of its original creators using her signature iridescent colours that have an oil-like sheen. Devonian visually connects the past and present of these Devonian remains, questioning their place in our collective future.
Monira Al Qadiri, says: “I’m honoured to have been selected for the Bagri commission. To be able to show my work at the Southbank Centre is such an important milestone for my artistic journey thus far. I hope that the public who pass by to see my work find the topic I am highlighting crucial to think about and consider during these shifting times that we live in.”
Ralph Rugoff, Director at the Hayward Gallery, says: “For the Hayward Gallery’s second Bagri Foundation commission, Monira Al Qadiri has produced a stunningly playful and very timely sculpture that will engage visitors of all ages. With its thought-provoking reference to the ancient geology of the UK and our destructive addiction to fossil fuels, Devonian is a vibrant and very relevant addition to the Southbank Centre’s programme of outdoor art.”
Devonian is the second of three new annual commissions presented by the Hayward Gallery in partnership with the Bagri Foundation over three years (2021-2023). Aimed at providing artists from, or inspired by Asia and its diaspora with the opportunity to create a prominent public commission, this initiative adds to the programme of public outdoor art installations and exhibitions across the Southbank Centre’s iconic site. From the Waterloo billboard to the Riverside Walk and Terrace, the buildings and outdoor spaces across the Southbank Centre have long been home to a diverse range of artistic works.
Based in Berlin, Monira Al Qadiri (b. 1983) is a Kuwaiti visual artist born in Senegal and educated in Japan. Monira’s multifaceted practice spans sculpture, installation, film and performance and explores unconventional gender identities, petro-cultures and their possible futures.