Monster Chetwynd

Toxic Pillows

19 Oct 2019 - 15 Mar 2020
work in collection

In the world of Monster Chetwynd (London 1973) a cheerful sort of chaos seems to prevail. The British artist who was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2012 is mainly known for her carnivalesque performances, the sets and costumes of which she designs herself. When carrying out these appearances, which are marked by improvisation and spontaneity, she collaborates with a group of professional actors, friends and members of her family.

In 2006 Alalia Chetwynd (the name given to her at birth by her parents) chose a new name for the first time: Spartacus. Inspired by the eponymous film by Stanley Kubrick, about the legendary leader of a slave uprising against the Romans, she considered that name more suited to her position as the head of a theater company. Later she switched it to Marvin Gaye. A greater contrast with the surname Chetwynd, which among the British brings to mind to associations with large-scale landownership, is practically inconceivable.

Experimentation characterizes Chetwynd's practice as an artist. Aside from performances, she creates installations, sculpture, video works and paintings. Sometimes pieces of stage sets crop up, after use, in large relief-like paintings. The animals of papier-mâché in Salamanders (2018), recently acquired by De Pont, were specially made for the work however. Chetwynd also gives three-day workshops in which the participants themselves have a go at creating these types of figurative sculptures of papier-mâché.

A completely different approach to painting can be seen in Chetwynd's series Bat Opera. The series of refined small paintings set in classical frames is full of references to art history – from eighteenth-century rococo portraits and romantic landscape painting to the films of Michelangelo Antonioni. As is frequently the case in operas, the mood alternates between the lightheartedand cartoonish and the melodramatic and gloomy. But sometimes Chetwynd's performances, too, have dark overtones. The contrast between the individual portrait of a bat and the swarms of bats that swoop down menacingly – the individual versus the group – is another recurrent theme in her work.

In the exhibition at De Pont, Chetwynd's first in the Netherlands, visitors will see  the various aspects of this versatile oeuvre.