The Chapmans have created numerous miniaturised ‘hellscapes’ – panoramas of apocalyptic destruction and totalitarian genocide – as well as scenes of horror movie carnage or Warhol inspired car crashes in which ‘death and disaster’ abound. These works owe a debt to pre-modern masters such as Hieronymous Bosch as well as to Goya and media images of actual mass slaughter. The toy soldier Disasters of War 1993 – Room 2 – can be seen as a precursor to the works in this room.
These highly detailed miniatures and models of scenes of death and torture manifest the spectacle of violence that characterised the last century. They also address the idea of ‘compassion fatigue’ that is experienced following over-exposure to images of excess violence or suffering. The Chapmans relate this to the consumption of art within a culture dependant on a ‘pathos habit’ which demands ever more violent images to feed it for the same compassionate catharsis. They employ excessive detail and endless painstaking work as a tactic to address the invalidity of the notion of originality in art, which means that there are never any new ideas, only more work to do – endless and fruitless repetition.
Etchasketchathon 2005 revisits children’s art though the form of colouring books, which, like Disneyland, the Chapmans see as an example of the ‘misanthropic’ aspects of contemporary society: examples of the lies we tell to and about children. Like a dog returns to its vomit twice 2006 returns to the theme of aesthetic originality and to Goya, this time his series of Caprichos (‘caprices’) in which he catalogued the ills and hypocrisy of his own times. The Chapmans’ additions to this series are in keeping with the original – a commentary on human folly – more like an homage than irreverent vandalism.