PHOTOGRAPHY REVIEW * * t * *
Helen Chadwick’s art is exquisite and haunting. Susanna Beaumont reviews the work of the artist who died earlier this year
On the wall set in perspex hang seven circular cibachrome photographs. The central photograph shows a human eye. its vision glazed by a cataract. Yet what we see are thin red capillaries traversing the white ofthe eye like threads of crimson silk set against dull fabric and the cataract. moon-like. against the night-sky darkness of the pupil.
Nebula is one of the last works by one of Britain's most brilliant artists. Helen Chadwick. who died suddenly last March. Completed while she was working at the Assisted Conception Unit at London’s King‘s College Hospital. the work includes micro- photographs of pre-embryos and dandelion clocks. Arranged on the wall like a giant necklace. it is an elegy to fertility and the fragility oflife. And like l7th century raniIas paintings. at blindness to the preciousness of life: ‘what the eye doesn‘t see . . .‘ In Monstram'e — the name is taken frotn the vessel used to hold the host. the body ofChrist. for veneration — there are again micro-photographs of pre- embryos. Glistening. they appear as jewel-like objects. but this is life stilled.
Chadwick‘s work had long been concerned with the sacred and the mundane. Challenging the accepted aesthetics of beauty and taste. she has made the obscene delightful and the beautiful crude. In her earlier work front I99 I . Loop The Loop. also on show at Portfolio. she has welded the beautiful with the ugly — golden blond hair is curled around a section of intestine. But here the pinkish innards. bound in translucent membrane. appears more exquisite than the shiny braid of hair.
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Last works: iielen Chadwick’s Gameo Cyclops
With Cyclops Cameo. a photograph of a deformed cyclops baby is set within a circular piece of wood painted with spiralling bands of colour. Like some outsize kaleidoscope. the eye is drawn to the backlit photograph of a revolting spectacle of freakish form. Of course we would prefer to forget but we are intrigued to look. Chadwick's work touches a nerve but so very beautifully. I Still“ lives Portfolio Gallery. 220 l9| l. until 2| Sept. Mon—Sat l0am—5.30pm; Sun noon—4.30pm. £l .50 (75p)
Some say the Fringe is cultural vandalism oi the psychological variety, so it makes a change to witness the physical alternative. For the second weekend, autside Art, the site-speciiic sculpture exhibition in Queen Street Gardens, has been raided by unknown assailants and several public-art works destroyed. Ironically the aiiected works may have been improved and this could be the periect example oi the power oi audience intervention.
George Wyllie’s This Is The Captain Speaking, tor instance, started lite as a propeller-driven single-seater plane constructed from tubular steel and rugged white netting. The irony oi title and object (it oiiered no hope oi ever taking oti) has been ilown to its logical conclusion - a crash-landing
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Art on the outside: A steel sculpture by Gas White irom several toe-capped ieet.
While Sylvia Stewart’s Social Strata was once an earthwork intended as a symbol oi co-operation, Strata seems to imply hierarchy, so pulverising the tower (which resembles a cross-
section through a termite hill) and leaving only earth on the ground seems particularly apt.
But lite goes on. Untouched, there are cracking pieces to be glimpsed. iiigel lioss’s Axis is one. Two curving, wooden beam extend, cross and disappear into the ground. Tapping into subterrannean energy iorces, the work tapped into me as well.
Outside Art organiser and exhibitor Aeneas Wilder successiully exploits the best site, a pond with a richly vegetated island in the centre. There you’ll see a lite size tigure made irotn 50,000 colour beads usually used to build molecular structures in chemistry class. Visually exciting, conceptually strong, thinking about his Garden of Earthly Delights still sends a shiver down my atoms. (Paul Welsh)
Outside Art, Queen Street Bartlett, 556 6137, until 31 Aug, MorHiat Man-5pm.
I Gallum Innes A stunning retrospective of work by Edinburgh-bom artist lnnes. shortlisted for last year‘s Turner Prize. lnverleitlt House. Royal Botanic Garden. 552 7/ 7/. until 6 Oct, daily 10am—5pm.
I ilelen Chadwick A poignant exhibition in the light of Chadwick‘s death earlier this year. Undoubtedly one of Britain's most interesting artists. Stilled
Li res shows her photographs exploring in-vitro fertilisation. See review. Portfolio Gallery. 220 I9] I . until 2/ Sept. Mon—Sat
I Own-5.30pm; Sun noon—4.30pm. I Giacometti A blockbuster of an exhibition. celebrating the famed creator of the bronze walking figure and one of the greats of 20th century art. Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art. 556 892]. until 22 Sept. Mon—Sat
I 0am—5pm; Sun I I ant—5pm. £4 (£2.50).
I Reckoning With The Past Nostalgia plus an amusing line in irony in a show of contemporary art from China. Taiwan and Hong Kong. F ruitmarket Gallery. 225 2383. until 28 Sept. Mon-Sun
I Barbara Es: Haunting and dreamy photographs taken using a pin-hole camera by the New York artist. Stills Gallery. 225 9876. until [4 Sept. Tue-Fri I lam—6pm; Sat Ham—5pm.
I Gateway To The Silk Read First showing in the West of an exquisite collection of ceramics, sculpture and bronze works from China. See review. City Art Centre. 529 3993. until 5 Oct. Mon—Sat Mam—5.30pm; Sun noon—5pm. £3 (£2).
THE LIST’S TIPS FOR FESTIVAL ART
The List 23 Aug-5 Sept l996 59