'Bicameral’ by Conrad Shawcross
On 7th November 2019 ‘Bicameral’, a major new public sculpture by the celebrated British sculptor, Conrad Shawcross RA, was unveiled at Chelsea Barracks. This reveal marks the first artwork to be installed as part of an ambitious programme of public art commissions created for London’s newest neighbourhood.
Bicameral reflects the rich botanical history of Belgravia, with the nearby famous Physic Garden, and pays homage to the use of materials and commitment to craftsmanship at the heart of the new Chelsea Barracks.
Made of anodised aluminium, standing 8m tall and with 693 component parts - which cascade down in scale as they radiate out - Bicameral is an unprecedented structure, created entirely without welding using techniques drawn from Japanese wood joinery.
The man, the maker
Shawcross has established a reputation as one of the most exciting and highly sought-after artists of his generation. Bicameral is the latest piece of artwork to join Conrad’s well-established series of public commissions, including Paradigm at the Francis Crick Institute, London and the upcoming Manifold (Major Third) 5:4 at the new Liverpool Street station for Crossrail.
Shawcross commented: “The name Bicameral came from ‘The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind’, by Julian Jaynes; Jaynes’s book theorises that consciousness evolved out of the use of language, particularly metaphors. The sculpture is a progression of bifurcating and trifurcating elements that fan out from a stem loosely forming two hemispheres or sides.
“The work is in some ways an Arcadian symbol for reason, humanity, rationalism, progress, whilst the abstract modular structure oscillates between recognisable natural systems such as neural pathways, a set of lungs, or even a schematised tree itself, but in the end it remains elusive to definition.”
Bicameral marks a thrilling new strand of work for Shawcross, an artist renowned for his beguiling sculptures, which are a breathtaking blend of mathematics, philosophy and the natural sciences.