Rachel Whiteread at Tate Britain

Exposing the invisible.

Rachel Whiteread at Tate Britain
Sensation Exhibition Poster RA – Why Not Associates (1997)
Sensation Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts (1997)

What drew me into the movement — the group, the individual artists and the overall style of art—was this shock value and specifically how they used it to express their strong ideas, messages, thoughts and feelings; as a young and curious art student I soaked it all up.

There are many artworks by the YBAs that are internationally known and celebrated but as much as they are loved, they are as equally hated; for some their style or even the idea of conceptual art is too extreme and/or too far removed from what society deems as ‘art’. The Stuckist movement was set up to promote the idea of traditional figurative painting and was a counter-movement to the YBAs and conceptual art in general as they saw it as ‘ego-art’. Famously at the Sensation exhibition in 1997, Marcus Harvey’s painting of the Moors Murderer Myra [Hindley] was damaged multiple times with protests happening against the show and in particular this painting. Myra and many other artworks and artists are not appropriate to share here.

Rachel Whiteread – House (1993) Documentary (26 mins)

One of the book’s characters describes this as “the worst thing in the world varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.”

Although this is a fictional room in the novel, the concrete cast iteration by Whiteread is the physical representation of Orwell’s literary words. The space inside what was the room is now represented as a solid form, similar to Ghost and House. Every element of the room’s surface is visible; from small cracks in the walls, gaps in-between skirting boards and floors and detailed textures of the room’s previous materials and life.

Rachel Whiteread – Untitled (Room 101) (2003) | Untitled (Room 101) (In exhibition)
Rachel Whiteread – Untitled (Stairs) (2001) | Untitled (Stairs) (In exhibition)

“It’s something that I’ve been trying to do for about eight years. What intrigued me about the staircase is that I felt it could be turned on its side … when I was first thinking about making [it] I didn’t necessarily want to illustrate it as a staircase … I wanted to try to do something a bit less literal. I made models of the staircase, which helped me realize that I could actually turn things around … I wanted to try and flip the architecture a little bit. I wanted to change the way one might think about how you walk around or through something … when we first put the staircase work up in the studio … I was struck by the sense of physical disorientation it gave me.”

The process has changed the normal image of stairs into an abstracted shape, an unusual geometric composition which looks like it should be right but it isn’t: a mental conundrum, when looking at it you are “trying to envisage the original structure from which the new object has been derived.”

Rachel Whiteread – Stairs (2003)
Rachel Whiteread – Untitled (Pink Torso) (1995) | Untitled (Yellow Torso) (1995)
Rachel Whiteread – various Torso artworks (In exhibition)
Rachel Whiteread – Due Porte (2016)

“the sculpture oscillates between abstraction and reference. It shifts from being an accumulation of mute cubic forms to a shimmering index of everyday life.”

Rachel Whiteread – Untitled (100 Spaces) (1995) (in exhibition)

“I wanted to preserve the everyday and give authority to the forgotten things, stopping it in time and casting it in something solid.”

Additional images from the exhibition



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