Rachel Whiteread

Study (Blue) for ‘Floor’


Not on display

Rachel Whiteread born 1963
Correction fluid, ink and watercolour on paper
Support: 425 × 585 mm
Presented anonymously in memory of Adrian Ward-Jackson 1994


In 1992 Whiteread was awarded a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) fellowship, and spent a year living and working in Berlin (she is normally based in London). Here she began to make drawings as an accompaniment to her sculptural processes. These are not instructions for the translation of an idea into three-dimensions, but drawings in their own right, which express and reinforce themes vital to her sculpture. She principally worked in white correction fluid on graph paper, using ink and watercolour or gouache for definition and other textural effects. The drawings recreate, graphically (or in two dimensions), the physical nature of her solid plaster, rubber and resin casts. Graph paper, of the sort used by architects and designers, provides a logical framework for mapping space. Set onto its grid, forms created by a thick application of white correction fluid are densely opaque and convey the sense of blocking out space enacted by many of Whiteread's sculptures. Generally the artist first drew the outline and contours of a form in ink, then filled them in, often layering correction fluid over a wash of gouache, while it was still damp, to create a bleeding or blending of colour into or under the whiteness of the correction fluid. The organic nature of this process reproduces the effects of colour texturing in the cast works, where differences in surface texture result in subtle coloration. Often the thickness of the fluids painted onto the paper has puckered it, resulting in the paper being pulled into the centre of the painted surface.

Whiteread made several 'floor' drawings derived from the parquet floor of her Berlin flat. Some, drawn with a ruler, follow a regular geometric linearity, and represent the parquet as a three-dimensional structure to be laid on another structure; others, drawn free-hand, become irregular surface textures reminiscent of hand-woven textiles. Study (Blue) for 'Floor' represents the floor as structure as well as pattern, conferring a presence as object on the surface material. Because it is made up of many thin pieces, parquet is ideally suited to Whiteread's exploration of spatial relationships. In this drawing the parquet transcends its status as floor covering and suggests a three-dimensional structure which could, like the Floor sculptures (see Tate T06769 andT07219), function as a walkway or a platform. Titled a 'study' for a floor, this drawing conveys the idea of the Floor sculptures, without providing a direct reference to any of them (in terms of structure or pattern). Instead it provides an elucidation of Whiteread's relationship to her materials and the geometric order fundamental to her processes.

Further reading:
Friedrich Meschede, Rachel Whiteread: Gouaches, exhibition catalogue, DAAD, Berlin 1993, pp.16-17, reproduced (col.) p.54

Elizabeth Manchester
October 2000

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Display caption

Whiteread is best known for her sculptural casts of hidden interior spaces, such as the underside of a chair or the gap beneath floorboards. This drawing relates to her sculptures in its suggestion of space. It was inspired by the parquet floor of a flat she was living in at the time. The thick texture of white correction fluid gives it solidity, while the graph paper, of the type used by architects, adds to the impression of three-dimensional space. The repeating patterns in Whiteread`s work echo abstract, Minimalist art, but her subjects remain rooted in everyday life, as here in the reference to the floor.

Gallery label, September 2004

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