‘We’re making work that contradicts the idea that art is inherently good and based on idealism.’
Jake Chapman in conversation with Sarah Kent.
The Chapmans make work that examines cultural and historical stereotypes, using acerbic and surreal humour to question the status quo of hegemonic iconographies. They have described their practice as a way of establishing ‘how and whether we are allowed, or able, to show moral views’ and this exhibition addresses such subjects, challenging collective fears and anxieties through a selection of highly confrontational and culturally dislocating works.
Monumental in scope and minute in detail, ‘The Sum of all Evil’ (2012-13) occupied the entire ground floor of the gallery and is the most densely imagined diorama installation that the artists have produced to date. The fourth in a series of ‘Hell’ landscapes – the first and most well known of which, ‘Hell'(1999), was destroyed in a warehouse fire – the work features a multitude of intricately modelled Nazi soldiers, along with various characters from the fast food chain McDonald’s, committing violent, abhorrent acts set amid an apocalyptic landscape within four glass vitrines. Darkly humorous, ‘The Sum of all Evil’, as its title suggests, is imaginative rather than descriptive: a summation of all the worst possible ‘evils’, violence runs amok in a trans-historical and a-temporal arena.
The first floor gallery featured four new diorama sculptures which expand on the themes from ‘The Sum of all Evil’. In one vitrine, the instantly recognizable, bathetic character of Ronald McDonald is depicted as a melancholic fisherman on a crumbling jetty, his legs peacefully dangling over a lake thickly tangled with dead bodies. In another, a burnt out McDonald’s restaurant appears like a relic of contemporary consumerism, a ghostly reminder of its once ubiquitous global presence.
The exhibition also included a series of found paintings that the artists have in their words: ‘reworked and improved’. Painted originally by unknown artists, the paintings are either religious in theme or portraits where their defacement is nonetheless subversive, bringing to mind questions of hierarchy, value and context in much the same way as their previous, transgressive reworking of Goya’s famous ‘Disasters of War’ etchings did in the work ‘Insult to Injury’ (2003).