'Untitled (Bubble)', by Rachel Whiteread, 2022, lithograph on Somerset white velvet paper. This print is part of a limited edition of 30 prints commissioned in 2022 by the Government Art Collection for The Robson Orr TenTen Award and sold by Outset Contemporary Arts to benefit the Government Art Collection.
Whiteread is perhaps best-known for her sculptural work and her casting of everyday objects that reveal negative spaces as traces of our daily existence. However, drawing and works on paper have always been part of her practice. This print features overlapping circles in different hues of monochrome ink, their outlines varying from faint to smudged.
Describing her process Whiteread explains: ‘I used a different way of making the drawing by using some washing up liquid and … various little tricks which [means] you get a little circle, but you also get this trace. It’s almost like a residue of something, so it could be a residue of a disease or a residue of a memory.’
While the print creates an abstract pattern, it is also richly evocative and is open to interpretation. Commissioned in 2022 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the circles can call to mind the microscopic virus, depictions of which became ubiquitous in the media, or ominous petri dishes. The term ‘bubble’ evokes fragility but also became deeply associated with the pandemic experience in Britain where government restricted social interactions to ‘bubbles’ between households to limit the spread of the virus. And yet, the overlapping rings evoking traces left by bottles or glasses after a party simultaneously hint at more joyful times.
With 'Untitled (Bubble)', Whiteread revisits the motif of overlapping circles that she had explored in 'LOndOn 2012', a print she was commissioned to create to mark London’s Olympic Games. With its multicoloured circles recalling the five interlaced Olympic rings, 'LOndOn 2012' brings to mind the celebratory mood of the event. By contrast, 'Untitled (Bubble)' is monochromatic, invoking a more subdued mood and offering an ambiguous interpretation.