Artist biography

English sculptor, draughtsman and printmaker. She studied painting at Brighton Polytechnic (1982–5) and sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art (1985–7). Employing traditional casting methods and materials that are commonly used in the preparation of sculptures rather than for the finished object, such as plaster, rubber and resin, she makes sculptures of the spaces in, under and on everyday objects. Her art operates on many levels: it captures and gives materiality to the sometimes unfamiliar spaces of familiar life (bath, sink, mattress or chair), transforming the domestic into the public; it fossilises everyday objects in the absence of human usage; and it allows those objects to stand anthropomorphically for human beings themselves.

Whiteread's choice of subject-matter reflects an awareness of the intrinsically human-scaled design of the objects with which we surround ourselves and exploits the severing of this connection, by removal of the object's function, to express absence and loss. Her early work allowed autobiographical elements. Later works move towards the expression of a universal human position, and their titles become correspondingly more prosaic.

Whiteread is one of the few artists of her generation to have produced monumental public sculptures. In 1993 she was awarded the Turner Prize just after creating House (1993; destr. 1994, see House) a life-sized replica of the interior of a condemned terraced house in London's East End made by spraying liquid concrete into the building's empty shell before its external walls were removed.

Bibliography
House, ed. S. Morgan (London, 1995)
Rachel Whiteread (exh. cat., intro. S. Morgan, interview I. Blazwick; Eindhoven, Stedel. Van Abbemus., 1992–3)
Rachel Whiteread: Sculptures (exh. cat., Amsterdam, Stedel. Mus., 1995)
Rachel Whiteread: Shedding Life (exh. cat., essays F. Bradley and others, Liverpool, Tate, 1996–7)
Rachel Whiteread (exh. cat., text by A. M. Holmes, London Anthony d'Offay Gal., 1998)

OCTAVIA NICHOLSON
10 December 2001

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