Ruins, fragments and traces of the ancient world have fascinated artists for centuries. Early examples include Percy Bysshe Shelley’s romantic poem Ozymandias (1818) – in which a traveller comes face-to-face with a shattered statue – and Louis Daguerre’s eerie painting Ruins of Holyrood Chapel (1824). Today, creatives remain intrigued by ideas of history and decay. Discover four contemporary names whose visually striking works ask questions about colonialism, power and the environment.
Not Vital (b. 1948) is driven by exploration, having established a number of studios across the globe. There is an archaic iconography running through his current show at Museum der Moderne, Salzburg. Outside the gallery, viewers discover a large stainless-steel head sitting in the landscape. It’s a mosaic of pieces that have broken and stuck together again. Inside, a pile of smashed-up sculptures is stacked against the wall in a pyramid, fragments cascading to the ground. Fragments appear again and again like ruins of an ancient civilisation, asking questions about where they came from, and how they came to be here.