Chapman Brothers and Craigie Aitchinson at The Jerwood

The brilliant thing about the Chapman brothers show at The Jerwood at the moment is that Craigie Aitchison’s Crucifixion is there too.

In the Chapman brother’s amazing construction ‘The Sum of all Evil’ people are a mass of depersonalised maggots inflicting horrible suffering on each other.  In a kind of dark mirror to nice hippy ideas about ‘oneness’ this one mind is pure cruelty. In the context of modern day slavery, child abuse, terrorism and capitalism’s merciless extremes it’s an understandable vision of reality. The scale is breathtaking. It has literally thousands of incidents going on- and every incident is vile. I found it genuinly horrible and upsetting. It reminded me of how I felt seeing Francis Bacon’s ‘Figures at the base of Crucifixion’ paintings when I was a kid: it’s telling me something I really don’t want to hear.

Everything about it comes out at you and tries to impress and shock with all the vile detail. It’s disgustingly perfect and everyone should go and see it. It’s a spectacle, suited to a shadowy tent at a gothic fairground.

I wandered upstairs and found ‘Crucifixion’ by Craigie Aitchinson. Unlike the ‘Sum of All Evil’ this is one revery of personal suffering. It speaks of years, decades, centuries of sadness. Incidents come and go but this simple blue remains. This isn’t the holocaust it’s the thought that follows. This is one scrap of a person left to die alone in the endless blue. It leads you away somewhere where as The Chapmans poke out at you.

‘The Sum of all Evil’ doesn’t explore sadness: it’s the drama of the moment of cruelty.The Craigie Aitchison is the endless sadness that follows. It adds to the subtle sad music that people make about suffering that tries to make suffering not so bad.

I think it’s fantastic that these two works are on show in the same place: two extraordinary artworks about suffering that illuminate each other through their differences. But I’m glad the Craigie Aitchison will still be here in Hastings long after the Realms of The Unimaginable have left.

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