Monday 11 December 2017

Rachel Whiteread says her chicken shed sculpture has ‘poetry’

Whiteread said that she felt “slightly exasperated” by questions about whether the likes of a shed can be called art.

Rachel Whiteread's Chicken Shed (John Stillwell/PA)
Rachel Whiteread's Chicken Shed (John Stillwell/PA)

By Sherna Noah, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Artist Rachel Whiteread has condemned what she called”plop art” as she unveiled her new work – a chicken shed.

The Turner-Prize winner, 54, famous for casting the interior of a house in her first public commission in London’s East End in 1993, has a major exhibition at Tate Britain.

A new sculpture – a cast from a chicken shed from Norfolk – went on display outside the gallery as Whiteread criticised a glut of public sculpture around Britain which she said did not interact with local people.

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One Hundred Spaces, an installation of 100 jewel-like resin casts of the underside of chairs on display at Tate Britain ( John Stillwell/PA)

Whiteread said that she felt “slightly exasperated” by questions about whether the likes of a shed can be called art.

“I made House in 1993 so I’ve been coming across this for a long time. I think if you keep plugging away and make good enough work, people will hopefully see there’s some poetry in a shed,” she told the Press Association.

The exhibition includes highlights from the British artist’s work over the last 30 years, including casts – mostly of the surface of the interior – of hot water bottles, chairs, doors, a roof, a sink, mattresses, a staircase and even the surface of a mortuary slab.

She said of her series of sheds, cabins and shacks, which are usually placed in remote locations: “They have to be in the right place. I’m not going to make them anywhere.”

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A woman looks at Stairs on display at Tate Britain (John Stillwell/PA)

Whiteread’s own work for public commissions includes the Holocaust memorial in Vienna, her Fourth Plinth sculpture in Trafalgar Square – a cast of the actual plinth – and 14,000 white polythene boxes for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

But she said: “I’m not a great fan of what I call ‘plop art’, where you plop a piece of work down where it doesn’t bear any relationship to anything else.

“Art has got extremely popular,  and for many reasons that’s great. But I think a lot of public sculpture is ill thought out and put in places that it shouldn’t necessarily be.

“It becomes something then that’s invisible. People don’t even notice it. Art is there for a reason and should be respected and looked at and not just a side show.”

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She added: “The city is completely full of sculptures that no-one pays the blind bit of attention to. Around Parliament, there are figures everywhere

Whiteread praised The Cenotaph as a “fantastic memorial”, but she added: “There are lots of other things that people don’t even notice. They’ve no idea who they are or what they’re for.”

She said of her detractors: “I don’t really care that much. I’m absolutely serious about what I do and feel that I’m creating something with poetry rather than scoff.”

The Turner Prize-winner added: “Sheds are like miniature houses… sheds are furniture for people to dream away their lives in. So it’s become a part of my language.”

Her exhibition includes tiny objects to monumental sculptures, made from everything from papier mache and concrete to resin and aluminium.

:: Rachel Whiteread opens on Tuesday and runs to January 21 at Tate Britain.

Press Association

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