Jake and Dinos Chapman are leading British contemporary artists who came to prominence during the 1990s as part of the generation of so-called YBAs (Young British Artists). Since that time they have created a substantial, highly intelligent and challenging body of work that addresses the very heart of human experience and moral behaviour. They interrogate what we value as art, questioning the widely held view that the purpose of art is to be morally redemptive or socially edifying. They ask us to consider what we see as good or bad art – whether 'bad' art really is made by or for bad people – and to probe the assumptions that underlie established aesthetic criteria. They frequently employ subversive strategies through which they question the role of the artist and the complicity of the viewing audience.
The Chapmans' art is characterised by scepticism, parody and irreverence. It combines a vast range of influences, drawn from philosophy, critical theory, psychoanalysis, art history and popular culture. Their work engages with controversial issues including the human capacity for barbarity, war and violence, the 'banality of evil' in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and the perpetual human preoccupation with mortality. It also addresses the transgressive realities of bodily existence as manifested in plastic surgery, genetic manipulation and cloning. A number of works tackle our assumptions about sex and sexuality, including the presumed innocence and asexuality of children, and the proximity between sex and death. Through an aesthetics of horror and disgust, they deal with the instability of moral and ideological belief systems, particularly those founded on eighteenth century Enlightenment thought, Christianity or consumerism. Another recurrent theme is the concept of originality, the validity of aesthetic appropriation and thus the nature of artistic creation itself. The painstaking craftsmanship and evident graphic facility exhibited in their work is played off against their tendency to endlessly recycle (their own and others') ideas.