Helen Chadwick

Barbican Art Gallery

Ego Geometria Sum (I Am Geometry), 1983, is the title of the first body of work to have earned Helen Chadwick significant attention. Leonardo, who inscribed his ideal male body in the overlapping figures of the circle and square, would undoubtedly have been pleased to have made such a statement, but it’s harder to know what the intellectual reduction involved in geometricizing the human form implied for the English artist, who died in 1996 aged just forty-two. Mark Sladen, the curator of this first retrospective, follows critic Michael Newman’s interpretation of the work as evoking a “classical and rational heritage,” but one might equally see in it a quasi-Romantic alienation. Its ten large plywood forms are highly schematic reductions of everyday objects—a boat, a couch, a baby carriage—covered with ghostly photographic images, many of the artist herself, nude. The organic body hardly

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