Connect>Create 2008

A personal response to art of Helen Chadwick

In Coitus, she has painted the daisies black to stop their sexual ability to attract pollination; they look like two eyes staring out. At first glance you seem to be peering into a hole made through a splash, the opposite to what one would expect. The daisies and their leaves are surrounded by blue, a colour that Chadwick uses frequently in her works. References are made to it as being the colour of the unknown, transcendence, blueprints, cosmic space, sea, air, bruising, cold, blue movies, feelings. It is neither gravity nor perspective. The image, Coitus, is beautiful, yet uneasy on the eye. She plays with and teases the viewer, yet gets across a very powerful message about HIV and AIDS (Chadwick, 1989).


Chadwick always used new and refreshing ideas, pushing boundaries, confronting sexual taboos - making people question. Maybe that is why she became one of the first women to be short-listed for the Turner Prize in 1987 and is still an inspiration to the young British artists of today. Tracy Emin is another controversial artist who also uses her naked body in works and was short listed for the Turner Prize. Her often shocking, personnel accounts compel the viewer. ‘My Bed’ was short listed for the Turner Prize in 1998. This was a very personnel work on ‘taboo body functions.’


By Joan Heron, student from the BA (hons) contemporary Fine Art, Hull School of Art and Design 2009.


Further reading:

Chadwick, H (1989). Enfleshings. New York: Aperture foundation.

Chadwick, H. Stilled Lives. London: The Arts Council of England.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Ferens Art Gallery, Hull | 
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