‘Empiric’ – Rachel Chapman

24 May 1997 — 13 July 1997

‘Empiric’ presents the work London based sculptor Rachel Chapman. Chapman has a unique approach to manipulating her chosen materials, a personalised style of manufacture, which combines the cool authority of formal symmetry, with a passionate and brutal organisation and filling of space. Through the use of surprising combinations of substances, such as soda crystals, Vaseline and food colouring, she creates artefacts which bristle with a form of hostile familiarity, invoking both a warped domestic environment and the human body. A level of detail is achieved through a laborious process of evolution and the transformation of materials over time. The artist’s studio becomes a science laboratory, the creative process an empirical investigation.

The results are visually elegant: ‘Mantle’ – a large star-shaped floor piece comprised of IV-like bags filled with pink fluids and delicate soda crystals; ‘Graft’ – a PVC form filled with materials tainted with surgical, pretend Caucasian coloured which echoes the title and evokes the surface of the human skin; and ‘Derma’ – a wall piece alternating glass and discs of muted, crusty peaches and pinks. The epidermis in this case is formed from a clinging deposit, a random residue resulting from the evaporation of Chapman’s chosen materials: cornflour, salt, water, food colouring.

A conceptual thoroughness permeates the work; Chapman has explored the possibilities and boundaries of her media. Her processes are measured and hidden as she engages in the tactile bullying of an array of insubstantial materials, demanding that the viewer wrestles meaning from them. Chapman’s sculptures capture the tensions between interior and exterior, bodily and sterile, feminine and non-sexual. In the balance between these elements the works achieve an uneasy beauty.

Rachel Chapman studied at the Royal College of Art, London, and recently exhibited in ‘That’, Art In General, New York, which was described as a compliment to Damien Hirst’s ‘Freeze’ exhibition of 1988.