“A work of art is kind of expected to form some sort of social relation between the object and the viewer, so that the viewer is supposed to get something out of the object… We're trying to avoid the idea that that’s possible. Which is impossible… and that leads towards the levels of hilarity and extremities in the work,” - Jake & Dinos Chapman
As part of the 1980s movement of Young British Artists, alongside artists like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, the Chapman Brothers have spent the last two decades selectively exploring the darker side of existence and gleefully pushing people’s buttons along the way. Their work ranges from nightmarish sculptures of childlike creatures with penises for noses and buttholes for mouths to vast, miniature hellscapes of mass carnage, Nazis, debauchery and suffering, to the Shitrospectives in which they’ve taken their most famous pieces and remade them into smaller crappy cardboard versions – it’s clear that the duos work resonates with a shock culture.
Just as their work is intentionally provocative and confrontational, it’s also challenging: throwing life’s horrors in your face and making you question your own limits and what exactly makes something art. While the subject matter they often broach – morality, religion, sex, death, art history, and consumer culture – may have been touched upon by other artists countless times before, the way they approach it is with a specific, unredeeming, all-out assault on your senses that you can’t help being consumed by.
But while the way they approach their subjects and artwork in general may seem heavy-handed, the key element that distinguishes the Chapmans' work from the doom and gloom is how hilarious it all actually is. By doing things like juxtaposing KKK outfits with rainbow socks and Birkenstocks, the Chapmans continually diffuse moments of horror with humour. The reaction the viewer has – whether it’s horror or hilarity – is as much a part of their work as the sculptures, paintings, and drawings themselves.
Jake & Dinos Chapman are internationally recognised star players of the contemporary & conceptual art worlds.