Have you ever thought about what is left after you take an object away? Is it a question even worth thinking about? Rachel Whiteread thinks so and has built a whole career on making art from the space we hardly think about by filling those spaces with plaster, concrete or resin to create casts of that which we do not see. Then once that object has been taken away you are left with an impression of something that doesn’t really exist.
Tate Britain is showing the best of Turner Prize Winner Whiteread’s work from 1988’s Torso, a cast of a hot water bottle, right through to this year’s Chicken Shed, which sits out in Millbank Gardens. Inside, the first work we see in the sculpture court is Untitled (One Hundred Spaces), an installation of 100 multicoloured resin casts of the underside of chairs. Entering the extensive gallery space given over to the exhibition we are immediately underwhelmed by a distinct lack of colour, with the majority of the artworks an off white plaster.
The interest comes from trying to work out what space the casts once occupied. Some are quite obvious: the hive was created from honey coloured resin, the stairwell needed no explanation, nor the doors, though Untitled (Book Corridors) confused until I read its title.
As part of this exhibition you can watch a video of her Turner Prize winning House (1993), her seminal work that stood for just 80 days, split the country and changed contemporary art. Whiteread still casts rooms and tables and chairs and hot water bottles and drink cans and pretty much anything that is part of our everyday existence. This exhibition is not for everyone but I do think that everyone should give it a go and try to understand it.
Rachel Whiteread is at Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RG, until 21 January. Times: 10am – 4.30pm. Admission: Adult £15.00, concs £13.10. Phone: 0207 887 8888