Artist biography

English sculptor, photographer and installation artist. She studied at Brighton Polytechnic (1973–6) and the Chelsea School of Art, London (1976–7). She lived and worked in London, and lectured at the Royal College of Art, Chelsea School of Art and the London Institute. Chadwick's innovative and provocative use of a rich variety of materials, such as flesh, flowers, chocolate and fur, was hugely influential on a younger generation of British artists. Her strongly associative and visceral images were intended to question gender representation and the nature of desire. This theme was continued in Model Institution (1981), an ‘architectural-sculpture' of five drab booths as would be found in a Social Security office, intended to reflect on the high unemployment and economic frustrations of the time. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s her work became richer and more direct in impact. A fountain of thick chocolate called Cacao carried associations both of excessive physical desire and pleasure, at the same time being base and nauseating. Desire and repulsion also converged in Piss Flowers (bronze, cellulose lacquer, 12 parts, 1991–2; various priv. cols, see exh. cat., 1994), in which casts were made of cavities produced by urinating in snow. Evoking the infantilism and use of chance by the Dadaists, as well as the provocative and politicised work of contemporary artists such as Andrés Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe, Piss Flowers represent transgressive behaviour as equally beautiful and disgusting. Chadwick was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1987.

Of Mutability: Helen Chadwick (exh. cat., London, ICA, 1986)
Effluvia: Helen Chadwick (exh. cat., essay M. Allthorpe-Guyton, London, Serpentine Gal., 1994)

10 December 2000

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