Papers of Helen Chadwick

Scope and Content

Helen Chadwick's archive provides a wide-ranging record of her work and life. She was an influential practitioner in the last quarter of the twentieth century and developed a new visual language about identity. The archive is divided into a number of series: the most extensive is material relating to her works of art that consists of preparatory and research material, including a selection of her secondary sources, such as books and journals, also notebooks and sketchbooks and documentation of her major artworks and student work. The second major series is of papers and correspondence which includes records of her practice, teaching and exhibitions. The third major component contains audio-visual material and finally, there are a number of smaller series which include press cuttings and personal papers.In the series of material relating to works of art there is wide coverage of Chadwick's early and student artwork from the late 1960s onwards. This includes much of her textile work and handmade books, including her 'Sofa and Body Cushions', 1974, 'Dressing', 1975, and the 'Satin Fanny Book', 1975. There is documentation of her installation for the Brighton College of Art Degree Show, 1976; the scripts, photographs, a video of and outfits for her performance piece 'Domestic Sanitation', 1976; and photographs, transcripts, technical drawings, notes and other papers for her 'In the Kitchen' performance first staged in 1977 at Chelsea College of Art, London. There is detailed material on the following major artworks: drawings, notes, audio tapes and transcripts of the voices used in 'Model Institution', 1981; character study photographs, artwork and transcripts of recordings for 'Fine Art/Fine Ale', 1981; a large range of material for 'Ego Geometria Sum', 1983, including her family archive, the 'Juggler's Table', research and technical notes, word poems and the curtains used in the installation; design layouts, architectural plans and an album of photographs of Baroque architecture for 'Of Mutability', 1984-1986; preparatory drawings, photographs, and other material for 'Lofos Nymphon', 1987; proofs, photographs, notes and sketches relating to 'Viral Landscapes', 1988-1989; test prints and stencils made for 'Wreaths to Pleasure', 1992-1993; and mainly research papers for the 'Piss Flowers', 1991-1992; and 'Unnatural Selection', 1996. There is also a collection of notebooks, (see 'Turning the Pages' for digital versions and sketchbooks that she used to condense her research, especially in the case of her work from the 1980s.The series of papers and correspondence begins c.1977 and records the diverse matrix of Chadwick's activities. The papers mainly document the extensive showings of her work in group and solo exhibitions, in Britain and internationally. There is correspondence with various museums and galleries, which includes the Victoria & Albert Museum, which was one of her most important patrons, Interim Art and the Zelda Cheatle Gallery, who were long-term supporters and agents for her work. There are papers relating to the organisation of various projects and artist-in-residence placements. Among these are her residency at Birmingham City Art Gallery, 1986, from which she made 'Allegory of Misrule'; the residency in Banff Arts Centre, Alberta, Canada, out of which came the 'Piss Flowers', 1991; and the 'Eve' CD-ROM project for Real World and Peter Gabriel, 1996-1997; amongst many others. There is material relating to her teaching posts at Brighton Polytechnic, the Royal College of Art and others, as well as numerous invitations to teach, lecture and give workshops. There is material associated with the television programme she made for the BBC on Frida Kahlo (a video of this is also in the archive), as well as other appearances in the media. Other papers consist of art and photographic materials and suppliers; applications for funding; her Turner Prize nomination, 1987-1988; the successful campaign to save Beck Road, where Chadwick and many other artists lived, 1988; and papers concerning studios she rented through ACME. There are papers from David Notarius and Zelda Cheatle relating to various matters after her death including posthumous exhibitions, reproductions of her work and her memorial service.There is a large series of audio-visual material. It includes photographs, slides and colour transparencies that record almost all her work. Some of these show the processes of production and installation views at various exhibitions. There are also videos and DVDs of films and television programmes made by or about Chadwick.The smaller series consist of financial and legal papers; personal papers that include passports, CVs, letters, photographs and appointment diaries; private view cards and posters for most of Chadwick's exhibitions as well as private view cards for other artists' exhibitions; a collection of postcards; Chadwick's dissertations; work for her books Enfleshings, 1989, and Effluvia, 1994; a large series of press cuttings which document the critical and popular reception of her work; and selected books from her library which were important in relation to particular works.

Administrative / Biographical History

Helen Clare Chadwick (1953–1996) was an English sculptor, photographer and installation artist. She was born in Surrey on 18 May 1953, the only daughter and elder child of William Clare Chadwick, estate agent, and his Greek wife, Angeline, née Bardopoulou. She was schooled at Croydon High School (1964 to 1971) where she showed an interest in art, geology and geography. She studied at Brighton Polytechnic (1973–6) and the Chelsea School of Art, London (1976–7) and later lectured at the Royal College of Art, Chelsea School of Art and the London Institute. From 1977 she lived at 45 Beck Road, Bethnal Green, on a street of Acme housing for artists. She first achieved national recognition with a touring exhibition called ‘Ego Geometria Sum’ (1983–5), which mixed autobiography with feminism and photography with sculpture. The exhibition was informed by Chadwick’s own childhood and incorporated artefacts and images from her past. Chadwick used a wide variety of materials, such as flesh, flowers, chocolate, fur and even cells from her own body in her work, which was controversial but immensely popular. The provocative nature of her work is exemplified by ‘Piss Flowers’, twelve white-lacquered bronzes of casts made by Chadwick and her partner, by urinating in the snow. In 1987 Chadwick was short-listed the Turner Prize, the first woman so honoured. Chadwick died prematurely in March 1996 at the age of 42 from myocarditis. Chadwick’s work explores gender, sexual identity, repulsion and desire, and continues to influence younger generations of British artists.

Access Information

Available to all registered researchers. The archive is open by appointment only.

Other Finding Aids

The Helen Chadwick archive is partially catalogued at present. Please contact the Archivist for further information.

Archivist's Note

Archive Hub description created by Janette Martin. Biographical information has been extracted from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Related Material

The Tate Archive includes some correspondence with Helen Chadwick.