Doris Salcedo is best known for ‘Shibboleth’ – the giant crack that ran the length of the Tate Modern’s turbine hall that famously resulted in a few adventurous (or clumsy) viewers getting stuck in it.
The White Cube in Mayfair now features two more of her large installations – albeit not on the same scale as the 548ft Shibboleth. Violence, torture and death in her native Colombia serve as inspiration for Salcedo’s works but rather than simply raising political awareness, her installations address life, death and every stage in between.
The ground floor gallery features a massive delicate shroud. Only on closer inspection do you realise that it’s made up of thousands of rose petals in a state of semi-decay that have been sewn together. We viewed it as a reminder that even when beauty fades, what remains is still substantial – a tribute to the victims of torture.
Downstairs evokes a mass burial site with coffin-sized tables upturned on compost as green shoots appear to force their way through the wood and continue to grow. As well as depicting rebirth through death, the individuality of each table symbolises that people retain their individuality even in death and are more than just a statistic or a news headline.
Though the circle of life and death is a favourite of many artists, including Damien Hirst, Salcedo’s approach is more subtle and personal to her. The installations take some time to fully sink in, but they are all the more powerful for it.
Doris Salcedo is on display at the White Cube gallery, Mason’s Yard until 30 June. Entrance is free.