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. The Helen Chadwick Archive has been consulted by a number of researchers developing work on Chadwick's artistic practice, and items from the collection have been loaned to museums around the world.
This collection forms a part of the Henry Moore Institute Archive, which comprises over 260 collections containing a diverse range of material relating to British sculptural practice from the eighteenth century to the present day. 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 has been digitised and is 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, for example '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.
The sixty-fourth issue 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 a Gallery 4 display in 2004. Our Research Library holds a number of publications on Chadwick, including, in our Special Collections copies of the magazine Ambit.