Equestrian statue

Jesse Darling (1981 - )

mild steel, 4 wheels, metal chain

  • About the work

    Equestrian Statue was made in 2015 during Jesse Darling's residency at Wysing Arts Centre in South Cambridgeshire. Constructed from bent pieces of steel rod, metal chain and a set of found, used pram or toy wheels, its first appearance is one of abandonment. Placed on a low-level plinth, Equestrian Statue ironically challenges the historical tradition of celebrating (usually male) military or political leaders and achievers in monumental public statues of bronze or marble, elevated from the street on high plinths – such as Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. In contrast to these historical sculptures erected to symbolise power (almost always patriarchal power), Darling's sculpture shaped into a small horse, has the pathos and vulnerability of a broken child's toy. 

    The forlorn rough appearance and unfinished state of Equestrian Statue contrasts with the more familiar heroic representations of leaders and rulers. This work is part of the artist's ongoing investigation into institutional structures of power. The simplicity of its form and its spindly steel frame that has an almost graphic linear appearance recall the stylistic forms of early to mid 20th century European Modernist art, particularly Picasso's sculptures and drawings of animals. Situating this work within the broader consideration of dominant Modernist aesthetics in European and American art, Darling’s practice deftly challenges another kind of power structure, that of the cultural dominance of artists, dealers and tastemakers throughout the history of modern art.In an interview with Tate in 2018, Darling commented on the revisited themes in their work:

    I think the consistent thread is that everything is connected and everything is vulnerable. The connection engenders violence as well as support. The interconnectedness of things is full of trouble but it’s what there is; nobody gets out of here alive and nothing is too big to fail.

  • About the artist
    Jesse Darling is an artist working in sculpture, installation, video, drawing, text, sound and performance. Their work is broadly concerned with what it means to be a body in the world, though what that means is both politically charged and culturally determined. Their practice draws on their own experience as well as the narratives of history and counterhistory. Darling’s recent projects include participation in 'May You Live in Interesting Times', the 58th Venice Biennale, Venice (2019), a solo show, 'Crevé' at Triangle France - Astérides, Marseille (2019), and a solo presentation, 'The Ballad of Saint Jerome' for Art Now at Tate Britain, London (2018).
  • Explore
    horse, toy
    Materials & Techniques
    steel, mild steel, metal sculpture, carbon steel, wheel, chain
  • Details
    Equestrian statue
    mild steel, 4 wheels, metal chain
    height: 96 cm; width: 97 cm; depth: 41.5 cm
    Purchased from Arcadia Missa, with funds raised from print sales from the Robson Orr TenTen Award, a GAC/Outset Annual Commission, 2019
    Arcadia Missa, London UK; from whom purchased by UK Government Art Collection, 12 December 2019
    GAC number