Helen Chadwick: 'Wreaths to Pleasure'

8 Sep 2012 – 17 Feb 2013

Exhibition in the Upper Sculpture Study Gallery, Leeds Art Gallery

Chadwick's innovative series of photographic 'wreaths' reveal a hidden world of visual and sensorial pleasures.

Helen Chadwick: 'Wreaths to Pleasure' charts the creative and practical processes of 'Wreaths to Pleasure' (1992-3), a series of thirteen circular photographs mounted in coloured enamel frames. Each image captures a sculptural composition formed of a heady mix of substances and materials, photographed from above. Delicate flowers are suspended in transient states, poised between life and death, in a variety of organic and toxic liquids ranging from tomato juice to Windolene.

This display presents Helen Chadwick's (1953-96) preparatory material for the 'Wreaths' alongside examples of finished works. It is drawn principally from The Helen Chadwick Archive, which was generously gifted to Leeds Museums and Galleries by the Helen Chadwick Estate in 2002.

Chadwick's notebooks and sketchbooks demonstrate the conceptual development of the 'Wreaths', while large format test prints and stencils, on display for the very first time, reveal the physical construction of the sculptures, as well as the artist's working practices and commitment to the perfect image. A selection of Chadwick's notebooks have been digitised and are available to view online using Turning The Pages.

Chadwick often referred to the 'Wreaths' as 'bad blooms', explosions of form and colour that are simultaneously seductive and repellent. These sculptural arrangements reference bodily forms, a concern Chadwick explored throughout her work.

Her early performances and installations, for example 'Ego Geometria Sum' (1982-83), used the artist's own body; later she collapsed boundaries between exterior and interior, incorporating bodily fluids, flesh, and plant matter to represent and explore human biology, in work such as 'Unnatural Selection' (1996). The 'Wreaths' are photographed as if viewed through a microscope: they could be interpreted as sexual organs or cells and suggest manipulation of micro-organisms in a laboratory.

Issue 64 of the Henry Moore Institute's journal Essays on Sculpture focuses on material relating to Helen Chadwick's 'Ego Geometria Sum' (1982-3). 'The Juggler's Table', a series of card models and loose-leaved photos, one of the three parts of the final version of 'Ego Geometria Sum' was featured in My Personal Museum: Ego Geometria Sum from the Helen Chadwick Archive, a Gallery 4 display in 2004.

The Helen Chadwick Archive forms a part of the Henry Moore Institute Archive of Sculptors' Papers, which comprises over 260 collections containing a diverse range of material relating to British sculptural practice from the eighteenth century to the present day. Our Research Library holds a number of publications on Chadwick, including, in our Special Collections copies of the magazine Ambit.

Venue details

Venue address

Henry Moore Institute
The Headrow
United Kingdom
T: 0113 246 7467

Opening times

Galleries: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm

Research Library: Monday to Saturday, 10am - 5pm; Sunday, 1 - 5pm
Archive of Sculptors' Papers: Tuesday to Friday, by prior appointment

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