Jake & Dinos Chapman - A Retrospective At The Saatchi Gallery

By Corinne Field | 03 October 2003
Shows a photograph of a wooden African style mask with black trailing hair and a red trailing beard.

Photo: The Chapman Family Collection, 2002. Courtesy of The Saatchi Gallery, London.

Corinne Field travelled to City Hall in London to see a show that 24 Hour Museum readers should note, may not be suitable for children.

The Chapman Brothers retrospective is the Saatchi Gallery’s latest exhibition, on show until March 14, 2004.

Jake and Dinos Chapman have rocked the art world more than once with their outrageous works. They are experimental and constantly push the boundaries of contemporary art.

So the Saatchi Gallery chose to replace their Damien Hirst show with a collection of the brothers’ key works. Hirst is a tough act to follow. But Jake and Dinos have a style and a fascination for the grotesque and bizarre all their own.

"The job of a work of art is to raise questions about its terms and conditions," said Jake Chapman in an interview with Time Out London.

Shows a photograph of a sculpture depicting a group of joined mannequins wearing nothing except for black trainers.

Photo: Zygotic acceleration, biogenetic, de-sublimated libidinal model, 1995. Courtesy of The Saatchi Gallery, London.

"That’s what we do. We present the viewer with a puzzle. We put an injunction on speedy consumption, by refusing to offer a straightforward aesthetic experience. And to defend the integrity of the work, we produce a bit of turbulence that makes it more than a simple sip – of art."

The Chapman’s work won’t be to everybody’s taste. But the retrospective is a celebration of two artists committed to challenging themselves as craftsmen. Their works are all handmade using a range of materials and techniques.

Disasters of War (2000) is a series of 83 hand-tinted etchings and the critically acclaimed Great Deeds Against the Dead (1994) is a plastic sculpture, on permanent display in the main room. The Chapman Family Collection (2002) is made up of 34 pseudo-African tribal wood carved totems and masks.

Dinos told Time Out, "By the time we die we will have done everything – flower arranging, pottery, origami… We have no signature style; the work is recognizable for its attitude, not its form."

Dinos Chapman, born 1962, studied at Ravensbourne College of Art for a BA. His younger brother, Jake, born 1966, went to North East London Polytechnic. Both brothers were awarded an MA from the Royal College of Art in 1990.

Shows a photograph of a wooden, African style idol with a white painted face. It is clutching a fast-food drink container and carton of chips.

Photo: The Chapman Family Collection, 2002. Courtesy of The Saatchi Gallery, London.

After college they worked together as assistants to the art duo Gilbert and George before breaking out on their own in 1993. This year the brothers have been shortlisted for the Turner Prize.

The Saatchi Gallery is committed to showcasing contemporary art by largely unseen young artists or established artists whose work has been rarely or never on show in the UK.

Saatchi himself is a fan of the Chapman Brothers. He reportedly paid half a million pounds to commission Hell, the exhibition’s centrepiece.

Hell (1998 – 2000) was to be their entry at the Turner Prize. But Saatchi persuaded them that it would be better at the retrospective.

It is a truly impressive body of work that took two years to create. Nine miniature landscapes with bloody scenes of disaster and destruction are displayed in glass tanks.

Shows a photograph of a sculpture depicting two pairs of legs joined together at the body, with a series of heads, also joined, growing out of its top.

Photo: DNA Zygotic. Courtesy of The Saatchi Gallery, London.

The brothers’ cast and hand painted over 5000 figures, skeletons, nazi soldiers, human mutations. They built concentration camps and filled mass graves with hundreds of mutilated bodies. They dreamed up corpse puppeteers to entertain the troops, plants that grow skulls, carnivorous sheep with red eyes and skeletons dressed for chemical warfare.

Hell is unsurprisingly dark and disturbing. But so is all their work.

A selection of their sculptures from the mid nineties, sexless child mannequins wearing trainers, mutated and fused together, joined by torsos and limbs, glued with genetalia, like Zygotic Acceleration (1995) and Tragic Anatomies (1996), are on display.

Zygotic Acceleration is a potent comment on the sexualisation of children in the world of advertising and fashion. The Chapman’s message, as always, delivered with shock and awe.

You expect the special exhibitions at the Saatchi to take you to the limits of imagination and morality. And the Champman Brothers’ extreme art certainly does that.

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