For the first time in Europe, Vital will show an extraordinary group of monochrome portraits, one of them made especially for the gallery and measuring 12 metres long and four metres high. These will be accompanied by large chased-steel heads that mesmerically absorb and reflect light, as well as large heads in ceramic, shown outdoors, made in the southern China town of Jingdezhen, for centuries central to the production of imperial porcelain.
Working with craftsmen around the world, from steel-chasers in Beijing and glass blowers in Murano, to Tuareg silversmiths in Agadez and papermakers in Bhutan, Vital does not have a recognisable ‘style’, although his works often reference nature and anthropomorphism, a relationship to home and to travel, and the surreal. Vital captures and materialises his ideas spontaneously, and to the highest quality, resulting in imaginative spaces, which might be an enlarged camel pelvis in stainless steel, or a house which disappears underground at the touch of a button.
Central to his work is an exploration of the spatial, economic and cultural contexts of his homes and workplaces. One adobe pyramid in Aladab, Niger is a ‘human sculpture’ – a structure in which students shelter and learn, and on which they can sit, sing and pray, transforming the artwork into an open-air schoolhouse (or vice-versa). Vital's multiple Houses to Watch the Sunset
are precisely that, drawing out the extraordinary qualities of the places in which they are situated, while simultaneously giving work to local people.