Rachel Whiteread / England b.1963 / Twenty-five spaces 1995 / Cast resin / 25 blocks: 43 x 30 x 30cm (irreg., each) / Purchased 1996 with funds from the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Rachel Whiteread

Rachel Whiteread
Twenty-five spaces 1995

Not Currently on Display

Since casting her first sculptures in the late 1980s, Rachel Whiteread has employed a range of different materials including plaster, concrete and rubber in her art practice. In Twenty-five spaces 1995, the artist has cast the spaces underneath 25 school chairs in a transparent resin. The grid-like arrangement of the blocks refers to minimalist sculpture, but also reflects the layout of a school classroom. The spaces between the blocks invite viewers to move around them — audiences are able to experience the work from many different angles.

Twenty-five spaces is a fine example of the artist’s use of displacement, with each component a cast in pale blue resin of the space beneath a chair. Whiteread has stated her belief that there is a correlation between such domestic items and our physicality — which draws comparisons back to traditional concepts of figurative sculpture. However, there is a sense in the artist’s work, that her casts incorporate more than solidified space, that they are bound up with unspecified dualities: identity and loss, mutuality and incompatibility, the male and female of electrical circuitry, for example. This sense of inversion is apparent in Twenty-five spaces, wherein the tight formation of the work’s lay-out is mediated by the irregular transparency of each block. The installation gives a sense of past occupation, evoking memories of classrooms and neighbourhood churches.

Born in London, Rachel Whiteread gained her arts degree at Brighton Polytechnic, 1982–85, and followed this training with a Postgraduate Diploma in sculpture at Slade School of Art, London, 1985—87. Regarded as one of England’s leading new generation sculptors, Whiteread has produced a distinctive body of work since the late 1980s.

Using a direct casting technique to reveal the negative, she manipulates apparently mundane domestic items to produce pieces that surpass their original identities. At once alluding to the traditional sculpting process of lost wax casting in bronze, and yet moving beyond an immediate corporeality, Whiteread instead focuses upon the subject itself becoming lost. She has worked extensively with this technique, first in plaster, and more recently in rubber, concrete and resin. The imprint or subject left by the missing form, remains present in the materialised space created by the casting process. The sculptures that emerge are the inverse repositories of associations as much as the now displaced original objects.