My sweet gourd

Anthea Hamilton: Tate Britain Commission 2018

The Squash, Anthea Hamilton, 2018

I arrived in the Duveen Galleries at 1.30pm, eyes peeled for someone dressed as a vegetable. It was eerily empty and clinical, save for a small ceramic pumpkin on a shelf with a sign ‘Gone to lunch’. I suppose even a squash needs a break.

The entire floor of the Duveen has been covered in white tiles, which are also used to form plinths, platforms and what look like baths or plunge pools – the kind you might see footballers or rugby players sharing post-match. This is the pristine, almost laboratory-like setting for Hamilton’s performer to inhabit, wearing their choice of gourd-inspired costume for the day – apparently there are seven options, each one inspired by the patterning on a variety of squash or pumpkin.

When The Squash returned from lunch, it struck me how small he looked in the huge gallery – a diminutive, green-and-orange, pointy-nosed human-vegetable hybrid. Moving slowly, gracefully and deliberately, the character examined his surroundings, rambling vine-like over, in and around the various structures, much like a pumpkin growing in a veg patch. Here, though, The Squash is an alien, tentatively trying out his new environment, exploring what it means to be other-worldly. The Tate sculptures selected by Hamilton to co-inhabit the space appear dumbstruck amid the performance: a lumpen, static audience for the ever-moving Squash. However, Leighton’s The Sluggard and Laurens’ reclining Autumn set up a real dialogue with the artwork, their languorous poses reflecting the performer’s movements. It’s surprisingly mesmerising and rather beautiful.

Anyway, back to that sign. If it was up to me, it would have read ‘Gone for a pea’. (And that’s just one of the reasons why, unlike Anthea Hamilton, I’ll never be nominated for the Turner Prize.)

The Squash, Anthea Hamilton, 2018


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