Illustrated companion

Bill Woodrow takes discarded consumer products and with amazing imagination and technical skill, amounting almost to magic, transforms them into vivid images of quite different objects while nevertheless retaining the identity of the original. Furthermore, nothing is added: the new object is composed entirely from the material of the old and is always linked to it by a continuous umbilical cord of material. Woodrow is thus performing a form of practical metamorphosis. The products Woodrow chooses for his source material have to be of a type which have the potential, when dismantled or deconstructed, to provide the materials for the new image. He has therefore worked extensively with sheet metal objects such as washing machines and car doors, but has explored a wide range of other domestic consumer goods.

In this work the Indian war bonnet has been constructed from the sheet metal surfaces of a car door, an ironing board and a twin-tub washing machine all of which were found by the artist abandoned in Brixton, South London. In all Woodrow's work there is an implicit social comment in the recycling of the debris of Western consumerism into art, but the extraordinary relationships that Woodrow establishes between the original object and the new often suggest more explicit messages. In an interview on BBC Radio 1 in 1982 Woodrow pointed out that the culture which produced the Indian bonnet has now been sucked into a Western industrialised culture. This sculpture quite literally expresses that interweaving of the two cultures.

Published in:
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.290