Cornelia Parker’s Rorschach (Endless Column III) and Rachel Whiteread’s Untitled (Plinth) are currently on display at Vestry House Museum and Gardens in Walthamstow Village as part of Ways of Seeing, a partnership between Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019 and the Government Art Collection.

Rorschach (Endless Column III)

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About the works
Suspended on wire, hovering just above the floor, Rorschach (Endless Column III) by Cornelia Parker, consists of 14 flattened silver-plated objects, each of which were crushed by a 250-ton industrial press. Parker’s experimental approach in the creation of this work links to her interest in undoing things – altering states of an object in order to work with what remains.

Endless Column III, in the artwork’s title, refers to the sculpture’s arrangement of suspended works in a line, its structure echoing a monumental sculptural column of the same name completed by the sculptor, Constantin Brancusi, in Romania in 1938. The suspended forms in Parker’s work include trophies, candelabra, a salver, and cutlery, objects that she regards as traditional signifiers of British class and etiquette:

Silver is commemorative, the objects are landmarks in people’s lives. I wanted to change their meaning, their visibility, their worth, that is why I flattened them, consigning them to all the same fate.

As to Rorschach, this alludes to the famous psychological test created by Swiss psychiatrist, Hermann Rorschach (1884–1922), who folded an inked piece of paper in half to create abstract symmetrical blotches. The test is used to interpret a patient’s subconscious mind by prompting them to see meaning in free floating, abstract or non-representational images. Parker creates her own Rorschach pattern in 3D, where the objects mirror each other on a central axis. She leaves it to us to make our own interpretation of a visual experience that can be enjoyed without verbal or written translation.

Untitled (Plinth) is a one-tenth scale maquette for Rachel Whiteread’s sculpture Inverted Plinth, which was shown on the western plinth of Trafalgar Square in London in 2000 as part of The Fourth Plinth Project, conceived in 1998 by the Royal Society of Arts to occupy the empty plinth with works commissioned by the Cass Sculpture Foundation.

The simplicity of the form – a resin cast of the Trafalgar Square plinth placed upside down on the plinth itself – is typical of Whiteread’s work, transforming an unremarkable form into an object of beauty and contemplation. The translucency and texture of the maquette affect the play of light upon it; at times it appears to glow with reflected light.

The idea came from the artist ‘spending time in Trafalgar Square observing the people, traffic, pigeons, architecture, sky and fountains.’ She said that she ‘became acutely aware of the general chaos of London life’ and ‘decided that the most appropriate sculpture for the plinth would be to make a ‘pause’: a quiet moment for the space.’ The plinth, which is easy to overlook as part of the square, is transformed into an object of beauty and contemplation.

About the artists
Cornelia Parker was born in Cheshire. She trained at Gloucester College of Art and Design, Wolverhampton Polytechnic and completed her MA in Fine Art at the University of Reading. Early in her career, she received scholarships including the British School at Rome Award in 1989. One of her best-known works is The Maybe (1995), an installation in which the actor, Tilda Swinton, slept in a glass vitrine for seven days at the Serpentine Gallery. Nominated for the Turner Prize in 1997, Parker has exhibited her work widely in major solo exhibitions including shows in London, Gateshead, New York and Auckland. Her public commissions include One More Time for St Pancras International Station (2015); and 2017 General Election Artworks for the Palace of Westminster (2018). She was appointed an OBE in 2010 for services to British art.

Rachel Whiteread was born in London. She graduated from the Slade School of Art in London in 1987, and is widely known for her sculptures of the negative spaces of common domestic objects. She gained international fame in 1993 for House – the concrete cast of a terraced house in Bow. The work attracted much exposure and public debate after it was destroyed by the local authorities shortly after Whiteread was awarded the Turner Prize that year. Whiteread went on to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale four years later in 1997. Her work featured in the controversial exhibition Sensation: Young British Artists in the Saatchi Collection that opened at the Royal Academy, London, and toured to Berlin and Brooklyn, New York. Internationally recognised, Whiteread has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions and completed prominent public commissions. Major exhibitions of her work were held at Tate Britain in 2017; and at 21er Haus, Vienna, in 2018. Whiteread was awarded the International Medal of Arts from the U.S. State Department in 2017; and in 2019, received a damehood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, for her outstanding contribution to British culture.

Waltham Forest Borough of Culture 2019
This ambitious collaboration turns the borough into a gallery with 33 internationally renowned artists displayed in 28 unexpected locations. Vestry House is open Tuesday-Sunday, 9am-10pm, with these works on view until 31 August.