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Rachel Kneebone

Lamentations 2010

19 November 2010 – 22 January 2011


19 November 2010 – 22 January 2011

White Cube Hoxton Square presented an exhibition of new work by Rachel Kneebone. Over the last few years, Kneebone has created a unique space in contemporary art with her expressive and delicately worked porcelain sculptures. The exhibition was in two parts: ‘Lamentations 2010’ in the ground floor gallery and in the first floor gallery, ‘Shields’ (2010).

‘Lamentations 2010’ is the title for two sets of three sculptures that were created in the pursuit of forms that could express the trauma of death, loss and grief. Kneebone started with the theme of death in the work, ‘As grave as the imagined as frivolous as the eternal’, addressing each of these universal experiences sequentially, in three separate works.

Kneebone confronts grief by casting a female figure at the centre of the sculpture ‘Eyes that look close at wounds themselves are wounded’. In this work, the thick vine-like cord wraps itself tightly round the plinth, serving as both the bandage binding this volatile life force as well as the rope that threatens to choke it to death. This cord mirrors the grip of the ribcage around the figure above - a figure that, consumed with grief, seems to wrench herself apart. While in ‘Mine heart is turned within me a collapsed figure’, head hurled back, appears to emit a silent scream. These figures depart from literal depictions of the body, expressing feelings directly and viscerally.

In the first floor gallery, the six works - the ‘Shields’ - were mounted on the walls. Kneebone reworks her motifs: legs and phalluses protrude and entwine to create gnarled and knotty portals. One shield presents a cascade of legs kicking and tumbling over its bottommost reach, but in every shield the writhing body parts gravitate around a central hole; vines and sinews obscure, or perhaps protect this possible point of entry. The shields are shown alongside a group of ten drawings, ‘A Lover's Discharge’ (2010), and in both bodies of work Kneebone's rearrangement of body parts utilises the slippage between abstraction and figuration, directly addressing the synergy between gender and form.

Kneebone's practice exhibits a wide range of references, drawing on a host of literary sources, from Ovid to Cormac McCarthy's ‘Blood Meridian’ (1985). Her work is also informed by her interest in the surreal and expressive figures found in Rodin's ‘The Gates of Hell', (c.1880-1917), Michelangelo's 'Pieta' (1499) and Hans Bellmer's dolls.

Born in 1973 in Oxfordshire, Rachel Kneebone lives and works in London. In 2005, Kneebone was nominated for the MaxMara Art Prize and in the same year she was commissioned by Mario Testino to make work for his exhibition 'Diana, Princess of Wales' at Kensington Palace. Recent exhibitions include 'The Way We Work' at Camden Arts Centre, London (2005), 'An Archaeology', Project Space 176, London (2007), 'Summer Exhibition', Royal Academy of Arts, London (2008), 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010), Fellbach Triennale (2010), 'The Surreal House', Barbican Art Gallery, London (2010) and she is currently participating in the Busan Biennale 2010, South Korea.

A fully illustrated catalogue, with texts by David Elliot and Elizabeth Neilson accompanied the exhibition.

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