Author: Parveen Adams
I was asked to write about the work of the Chapman brothers just as a large Chapman show opened at London’s Saatchi gallery in 2003. I knew and admired the work and this timing was a pure gift. As I returned again and again to confront the enigma of Hell, my responses fluctuated to and fro – between the lightening thought that this was comedy (though it did not make one laugh) and the negation of this thought. The alternative for me was never tragedy – something in the work does not permit such a hypothesis even in the absence of a stable reading. And to say that we are confronted by a scene of violence simply doesn’t match one’s experience. I am not sure, even today, just what to say about Hell. But perhaps I have made some headway by working with the idea of comedy in relation to two other works by the Chapmans, works whose effects rely entirely on the relations established to two sets of etchings by the eighteenth century Spanish artist Francisco de Goya y Lucientes. This relation to Goya is a totally explicit one as you will see. It is this relation that allows me to understand the Chapman’s work in terms of the structure of comedy.
Keywords: Hanged, Drawn, Quartered, Goya Chapman’s