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Rachel Kneebone

399 Days

18 July – 28 September 2014


18 July – 28 September 2014


White Cube Bermondsey

144 – 152 Bermondsey Street
London SE1 3TQ

The largest and most ambitious single installation the artist has yet produced, 399 Days consolidates and extends Kneebone’s practice, developing her unique formal language and exploration of the human condition.

In this large-scale monochrome work, a series of highly detailed porcelain tiles with intensely worked figurative scenarios are constructed to form an intricate architectural sculpture. The work follows on from Kneebone’s earlier large-scale installation entitled The Descent (2009), but whereas The Descent sought to communicate fear through making its visceral equivalent in beauty, 399 Days endeavours to create a sense of ‘nothingness’ through an overabundance of form and an excess of detail. Huge in scale, it makes reference to such iconic architectural monuments as the 19th-century plaster cast of Trajan’s Column in the Victoria and Albert Museum and Zoroastrian Towers of Silence, but uses its own immense size to enact a dissolve of meaning and, simultaneously, its own complex form to express formlessness.

As always with Kneebone’s sculpture, the body is ever-present although here it frequently appears fragmented, abstracted or collapsed. Blurring the boundaries between the conscious and the subconscious, the real and the imagined, the work sets up dualities between the micro and macro, life and death, everything and nothing, placing emphasis on the physical expression of ideas and a process of active looking whereby the whole cannot be grasped in one single measure. Informed by the writings of Bataille and RD Laing (and, in particular, his 1970 work Knots), 399 Days visibly embraces the uncontrolled, exploiting the natural capabilities and restrictions of porcelain to create areas of highly controlled figuration against freer, expressive areas of modelling which allows the tactile qualities of the material to be present. This physical manipulation of clay, evident at the top of the sculpture where the structure appears to dissolve away, creates an emphatic push/pull with both material and form; a highly singular and complex language that both attracts and repels the viewer.