The Chapman Brothers are English visual artists, well known for their deliberately shocking subject matter. They began collaborating in 1991 and have worked in a variety of mediums, including fibreglass and plastic, to make sculptural works. However, they are also known for their etchings.
Whilst researching etching I came across a series of etchings the Chapman brothers made by reworking/’improving’ William Hogarth’s series of eight paintings (later he also made them into etchings) entitled ‘A Rakes Progress’ (images below). This painted series was the main inspiration for Grayson Perry’s ‘The Vanity of small differences’. Hogarth tells the story of a man named Tom Bakewell. Tom is a young man who inherits a fortune from his miserly father, spends it all on fashionable pursuits and gambling, marries for money, gambles away a second fortune, goes to debtors’ prison and dies in a madhouse. Perry’s character was named ‘Tim Rakewell’.
The Chapman Brothers have doctored the original series by Hogarth, by ‘defacing‘ them. They have made the faces of the people grotesque. Some of the faces are somewhat humorous like a snowman, others are more disturbing, such as animals/monsters and almost gruesome faces.
‘Dino’s and Jake’s Progress’ 2007
These doctored etchings and Grayson Perry’s tapestries are two examples of different ways of taking inspiration from existing artworks. One has taken the format of a series of images depicting a story, and the other is almost mocking the original by completely altering your impression of the work, by making it ‘shocking’.
What’s interesting to me is that both Perry and the Chapman brothers have used bright/bold colours in their recreations. Personally I don’t tend to use bright, garish colours in my work, I prefer a more neutral/subtle tonal range. I wonder if their choice of colour was in an effort to create a more ‘modern’ look for their work in comparison to Hogarth. Are bright colours considered ‘modern’? It is possible that Hogarth’s colour scheme was originally brighter, but has faded over time. Colour is a powerful tool in art in terms of impression, association and symbolism. I am interested in pursuing pattern within my project, moving on from William Morris and beginning to explore the semiotics of pattern. Colour is extremely likely to play a large part in that.