My thoughts on the recent Rachel Whiteread exhibition

It was a marvellous opportunity to explore the recent Rachel Whiteread exhibition at Tate Britain. I have always found her art fascinating and there was a range of work, spanning her career, on display.

Whiteread was the first woman to win the Turner Prize with her casting of House in 1993. The artist casts the space inside or around everyday objects or architectural structures. She uses materials like plaster, rubber, resin, concrete and metals to do so. Through her method, she explores the human imprint on the everyday environment.

I was delighted to discover the cast of a room in the middle of the exhibition space. Untitled (Room 101), 2003, is a plasticised plaster cast of a room in Broadcasting House that is believed to have inspired Room 101. The room also inspired George Orwell’s chamber of horror in his publication Nineteen Eighty-Four. The only material remains of the room now is Whiteread’s casting. It could be argued that she has not only captured the physical imprint, but locked away all its memories aswell.

My delight was fuelled further when I came across a glass cast of a doll’s house. Ghost II, 2009, stands playfully in the room with its partly-translucent walls and winding staircase. It drew on childhood memories of sunny afternoons lost in play.

The curator also included some of Whiteread’s preparatory drawings which again shows the depth of research undertaken by the artist. Untitled (Stairs), 2001, is cast from a former textile warehouse (which was a synagogue before that). Whiteread is drawn to the spaces of a building which receive the most use and retain the markings of daily life. For this artwork, she was wanting to commemorate the former residents of the building. She was also aware of the many waves of immigration forming part of London’s history and was hoping to capture this memory in her cast.

Capturing a space in time or a space from a time, and putting its form on display, has been at the centre of many a philosophical debate. Whiteread’s Untitled (One Hundred Spaces), 1995, consists of coloured resin castings of the underside of found chairs. Made up of 100 components, they are arranged in a grid. I thought it would be fitting to leave you with the artwork of an everyday object which forms part of the moments of philosophical thought and debate.

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