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Bodily functions at the Barbican.Helen Chadwick’s art is often described as visceral. It’s meaty and talks about what it is to be human - our contradictions and opposing forces; male vs female; fleshy, fleeting individuality; and spiritual, universal existence.
Chadwick died unexpectedly in 1996 but her work still seems vibrant. Flower arrangements in The Wreaths Of Pleasure look like genitals and bodily fluids. Cacao, the plopping, poo-like pool of molten chocolate smells so much it makes your stomach gurgle.
Her photos and sculptures are arresting and decorative but also thought provoking. Photocopies of her twisted naked body in The Oval Court lie under golden spheres, as though she’s created her own zodiac. The bronze Piss Flowers fill shapes made where she and her boyfriend weed in the snow.
Heralding the likes of Sarah Lucas and Damien Hirst in subject and disregard for tradition, her once controversial work is a mark of how times have changed. We don’t flinch now, for example, at the image of cervical cells. However, Chadwick’s beautifully absurd and affecting art remains as relevant in today’s world as it did when she made it.
Helen Chadwick: A Retrospective is at the Barbican Gallery until 01 Aug 04.
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