Yesterday, with some extra time in London, I visited the Tate Britain to see the Rachel Whiteread exhibition. I went in with no real prior knowledge to her work, therefore I was able to experience it with fresh eyes.
When walking through the large doors concealing the exhibition, I was first hit by the blinding bright white light that encompassed the exhibition space. Whilst walking through the space the first piece that took my interest was the encased casts, of what looked like a hot water bottle. After reading the side notes the pieces were named ‘Torso’. A hot water bottle is something we can all relate to, as its an everyday object that can be found in most homes. We relate to it as something warm and comforting, the materiality juxtaposition of the multiple castings Whiteread has made out of concrete, yellow dental plaster, polyurethane resin, rubber etc. Another piece I thought was effective in composition was the resin mattress that was slumped against the wall, again similar to ‘Torso’, the playing around with materially was effective and made the viewer read the object, and its purpose completely different depending on its materially.
I feel the least effective pieces in the exhibition were the doors that were propped up against one wall. I felt for three dimensional pieces the felt rather flat. I think this was due to the lighting in the space, that I personally thought didn’t make the exhibition as successful as it could have been, and held some of the pieces back. Whitereads work is all about sculpture and form, which I feel should include spacial elements like shadowing. Yet the stark lighting really bleached out the whole space, and didn’t emphasis any of the pieces. Especially when looking at the transparent coloured acrylic pieces, they would have been given life and been that more effective if light was introduced to create reflection. Another piece that would have benefited from light and shadowing to bring its shape out even more was the casted stair ways. Its form is so strong, but by adding shadowing it could have added that extra dimension, that the whole exhibition slightly lacked.
Overall the individual pieces of the exhibition were beautifully crafted with small detailing that gave them a character, and each piece had its own character portrayed through its materiality.