At a recent visit to the V&A, I discovered the Rachel Kneebone’s 399 Days. Visually, it is very emotionally
intense, and the physicality of the porcelain and the tower structure of the work emphasise this. Its rumbles and cracks dip in and out of interweaving limbs and bodies; a static object in flux. There is something of the religious and of the subconscious in the tortured forms, perhaps it is this combination that makes this piece so affecting. Its monumental and frightening, like all good sculpture should be.

Material physicality is something that I’ve been thinking more and more about. Rachel Whiteread’s exhibition contained some interesting objects and a good show for anyone interested in materiality and space. The torso works (castings from water bottles) most interested me as quite contradictory objects. Small and almost anthropomorphic, they appear like a baby; in need of warmth and comfort. Fittingly, exactly what a water bottle could offer. Each iteration is cast from a different material and offers something else. I find the resin casts off putting and artificial, but those made of wax and, to a lesser extent, plaster, feel warmer, more human.

Whiteread’s use of negative space through sculpture is interesting, it asks us to consider what is there through what is not, absence as presence. It speaks of trace and encounter, and a relationship with objects and space.




James Sirrell