Painting for Pleasure and Profit: A piece of site-specific performance based body art in oil, canvas and wood (dimensions variable) 2006 is the result of five days’ work at the Frieze Contemporary Art Fair where the artists painted portraits of anyone who paid the required fee. The installation comprises over 100 paintings housed in a garret-style studio featuring lurid wallpaper, exposed floorboards and bare light bulbs. It also comes complete with easels, chairs, paint palettes and other paraphernalia, such as electric fans, which the artists required to complete the project.
This endeavour – be it installation or performance – questions the role and status of the artist, grappling with the legacy of Romantic and avant-gardist associations of the artist as a tortured genius which they aim to ridicule and undermine. It ruthlessly parodies the commercialism of the contemporary art world which puts art at the service of global capitalism, whilst also questioning contemporary notions of aesthetic value and artistic patronage. It viciously takes to task the vanity of the contemporary collector, queuing up to pose for a portrait of dubious merit (as well as questionable resemblance or accuracy) churned out in back-to-back 30 minute sittings. The Chapmans’ ‘portraits’ are perhaps inevitably more an excuse for self-expression and the free reign of their perverse imagination than a true representation of the sitters themselves. Despite this it also enables the artists to indulge in the process of painting, a form of enjoyable repetition governed perhaps (like sex) by the pleasure principle.
In this work the Chapmans embrace, quite deliberately, an apparently obsolete form of artistic production – the commissioned portrait. They have bluntly stated their preference for such ‘zombified’ art forms which afford more scope for irony and attack. They also mock more recent and now more dominant forms of art practice such as site-specific installation art, body and performance art.