Aspex Portsmouth

Ego Geometria Sum, Helen Chadwick

Ego Geometria Sum was the first part of a series of sculptures and wall works entitled The Labours, and had its first ever showing at Aspex in 1984. The subject is autobiographical while the media consists of sculpture combined with photography. Ten plywood objects spiral out of the ground to form a curve of growth from the smallest recording birth, to the largest recording the artist aged 30. 

With each sculpture the wood has been painted with photographic emulsion so as to reproduce a representational image. Object and image are fused together; a simplified model of a child’s piano, for example, is imprinted with a photo of a keyboard. The nude adult figure of the artist has also been incorporated into each object as a second photographic image. This is to convey the shaping of personality by childhood possessions; and by the past itself. In each sculpture the body is physically constrained by a material object. A selection of personal memories is presented on the different sides of each sculpture; often in humorous juxtaposition.

The statement for the exhibition, as written by the artist, is as follows:

‘Suppose one’s body – isolated in solitude – could be traced back through a succession of geometric solids, as rare and pure as crystalline structures, taking form from the pressure of recalled external forces…

the incubator, laundry-box, font, pram, boat, shoe, wigwam, bed, piano, desk, horse, temple, door…

and if geometry is an expression of eternal and exact truths, inherent in the natural law of matter and thus manifestations of an absolute beauty, predestined of divine origin…

then let this classical model of mathematical harmony be infused with a poetry of feeling and memory to sublimate the discord of past passion and desire in a recomposed neutrality of being’.

For the first time this installation was seen alongside a new body of related work, created in collaboration with the photographer Mark Pilkington. The ten photographs depict the artist grappling with each sculpture, symbolising the ‘wrestling of her past’. The smaller sculptures were easy to hold, with the struggle becoming greater as the sculptures became larger. Previously constrained by the object she now stands liberated outside of it, with a power to act upon the past.

Helen Chadwick  (Born 1953)

Helen Chadwick’s work consists of large mixed-media installations linking sculpture and architecture and incorporating photography and sound. She studied at Brighton Polytechnic (1973-76) before completing her MA at Chelsea School of Art (1977), and was a selector of the Hayward Annual (1979) whilst teaching at Brighton, Birmingham and Portsmouth Polytechnics. Following Ego Geometria Sum, the artist exhibited Model Institution, an installation about unemployment consisting of reconstructed interview booths at a DHSS office, at the Orchard Gallery, Londonderry. The artist also partook in the Berlin exhibition Industrulisation 1984.