Anna Chromy evolved from surrealist oil paintings to sculpture in 1993 and is the creator of large-scale public sculptures, mainly in bronze and marble, which have been installed in a number of notable sites in Europe and China. Despite the fact that the majority of her works appear to be hyper real in the delineation of the human body, and eminate from subjects related to Greco-Roman mythology like the fables of Orpheus and Sisyphus, Chromy cites one of her principal influences as surrealism. These influences are shown in a number of sculptures which depict human bodies with shrouded faces, missing limbs together with wheels detached from vehicles. Chromy has turned to marble as the cloth for her latest and largest sized public sculpture, the Cloak of Conscience, which raises numerous concerns regarding classical and modern sculpture.
<I>Now, at last, Phineus regrets the unjust fight, but what can he do? He sees the figures in diverse attitudes, and recognises the men, and calling on each by name, asks his help. Disbelieving, he touches the bodies nearest to him. They are marble. </I>
Ovid, Metamorphosis, Book v
The massive scale of Chromy's Cloak of Conscience, and the pure whiteness of the Carrara marble, with its origin at the quarry of Michelangelo, surely recalls what some academics have referred to as an'excess'in reference, for example, for the art of Bernini: flesh and towel created from rock - the exact opposite of its original material properties. This has also been known as the'art of petrifaction', recalling Ovid's story of the way animism and'diverse attitudes'of some marble sculptures are present in a way that they could be wrongly recognized as legitimate human beings, even in a scenario of war, which is usually a reverse function in dealing with the conventional ambiguity of sculpture.
The intention of sculptors such as Michelangelo and Bernini was to achieve the possibility of marble showing as both solid and lucid at the same time and imply a plasticity and weightlessness that is radically opposed to its material quality. However Chromy references this custom with an inversion of the illusion of stone as flesh and fabric. There is not a positive sight of the human body with which we are able to engage in the illusion of soft tissue, which almost always needs at least partial nudity. As an alternative the work is covered with the folds of fabric and the omitted presence of a body, which suggests weight - so much weight in fact that it could be construed as a dwelling (or an'archi-sculpture'to use Chromy's term) even a'chapel', and as such it perhaps offers more that resembles the application of marble in architecture than in sculpture. As an inversion of Rachel Whiteread's procedure of creating positive volumes from negative space, Chromy delivers a negative space out of a solid volume: the human body. The actual marble consequently becomes a material of strength, a structural material, as opposed to one which gives us the impression of weightlessness - a very different approach to Chromy's works in bronze, that seem to defy gravity by portraying the animation of the human body.
All of this appears to serve very well Chromy's intention of developing a post-humanist work whose very solidity centres the sculpture in a direct connection with earthbound material concerns rather than the extraterrestial subjects of ancient Greek mythology or even the particular ethical principles that are derived from the Judaic-Christian humanist traditions that put the body at the centre of the representation. In this way this art is liberated from the original gendered inspiration as representing'old woman weighed down by suffering'- there is an illusion of a body (anybody) and the cloak envelops an unseen place which viewers must fill with their own bodies and interpretations.
The Cloak of Conscience