Rachel Whiteread’s drawings exhibited at Tate Britain are a fascinating account that compare sculptures with modern architecture. Sketching furniture with correction fluid, tracing silhouettes of buildings and spaces on graph paper, articulate a deep preoccupation with the way imagination converts one’s two-dimensional seeing into a three-dimensional world. In some sketches, buildings are painted over with varnish, prompting us to consider the inter-dependence of the exterior and the inteior, the outward appearance of an architecture and the interiors or the inhabitants themselves.
There is, typical of her work, no visible sign of human interference, yet the skeleton of these houses convinces one of a living if hidden presence. It is as if the simple lines, shapes and primary colours suffice to render or allude to what’s there.
Tracing forms and shapes with the use of primary materials, grids and minimalist lines, Whiteread’s drawings take on a pristine quality and an unspoken understanding towards urban living. City dwellers, hidden most of the time behind the wall facades of offices, homes and public buildings, are the faceless that populate these spaces. The recurrent motifs of walls, floors, windows and doors convey ritual and repetition.
One especially intriguing dimension her drawings: the meditation on the patterned floor. It teases the imagination, this exposure of the floor behind the carpet, beyond the footsteps it ensures day and night. The image of the textured floor on measured grids, coloured plaster white with correction fluid or varnish painted, hints at the passage of history, that in due course even the weathered floorboard we walk on will fossilise and become part of the past.
See TATE ETC magazine for an interview with the artist, especially her engaging artpiece Place / Village, click here.