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January 3, 2018

Plaster, Rubber, Resin, Concrete. Discover Rachel Whiteread at Tate Britain

by Julieta Lucca

Art can be difficult to cope with if you are not a seasoned consumer.

I bet at some point or another, we have all stood in front of a sculpture with a dead blank stare, consciously nodding while internally freaking out. The thing about art is, there’s no right or wrong. Whether a piece makes you angry, sad, happy or excited, there’s not a right or wrong way to feel about art.

What prompted me to visit Rachel Whiteread’s exhibition at Tate Britain was a post on Instagram, a picture of her piece Untitled (One Hundred Spaces), 1995 which consists of a collection of 100 component parts arranged in a perfect grid.

Each piece is a coloured resin cast from the underside of a chair. When I first saw the Instagram picture, I had no idea who Rachel Whiteread was, nor what the pieces represented, the reason why I didn’t research any of her work prior to visiting the exhibition is perception.

Once you know something, you know it. Knowing pieces of information can change your perception, including the way something makes you feel and whether you agree with it, like it or not.

Untitled (One Hundred Spaces), 1995 is one of the most unlikely pieces of art I’ve ever loved and the way the collection is displayed inside Tate Britain makes the installation even more special. What’s best, this piece is not part of the ticketed exhibition, which means everyone can enjoy it.

Don't read the captions

I often tend to look at art without reading the caption sitting next to it. If the piece is interesting to me or I want to learn more about it, I note down the title and any other piece of information I may need.

With exhibitions like this one, I find it easier to just show up and go around the room, looking, absorbing, thinking. To me, the best way to enjoy art is to show up with a blank mind. I personally enjoy the moment I’m entering the room because my eyes make a quick scan of the room and I’m probably thinking, “what the fuck is this?”. If I knew exactly what to expect I wouldn’t have been blown away and that is one of the best things about art.

Rachel Whiteread’s exhibition at Tate Britain is a curation of her most notable work including public commissions and some of her earliest works.

The use of materials like plaster, rubber, resin and concrete is quite refreshing in the sense that they all come together in a way that feels right. What’s even more interesting, her pieces transmit authoritativeness in the sense that they stand alone in their own right. They don’t need anything else to help them stand out. They are incredibly powerful as they are.

Sitting together in a line and under a glass box, one of my personal favourite collections is the Torsos. These are made, by pouring materials such as resin, plaster, wax and concrete into hot water bottles or enema bags, and then removing the outer cast from the set material.

I could go on a long tangent and discuss the underlying socio-cultural messages throughout the exhibition and by proxy the whole of Whiteread’s work, but sometimes it’s easier to just love something because of how it makes you feel regardless of its purpose or the artist’s objective.

In turn, I’d like to hear from you, whether you’ve visited the work and what you thought. ◼

Rachel Whiteread at Tate Britain

12 September 2017 – 21 January 2018


Adults £17 | FREE for Members

Tickets can be booked in advance online or by telephone on +44 (0)20 7887 8888

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