Art Review: Stephen Chambers @ Royal Academy Of Arts

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 74 months ago
Art Review: Stephen Chambers @ Royal Academy Of Arts
Stephen Chambers RA
 The Big Country (detail), 2012
 Screen print, 56 x 76 cm
 �© Stephen Chambers
 Published by the artist
 Printed at the Print Studio, Cambridge
Stephen Chambers RA The Big Country (detail), 2012 Screen print. © Stephen Chambers. Published by the artist. Printed at the Print Studio, Cambridge
Key 1-75 installation01
 Stephen Chambers RA
 The Big Country (installation shot, work in progress), 2012
 Indian ink on paper
 �© Stephen Chambers
Stephen Chambers RA. The Big Country (installation shot, work in progress), 2012. © Stephen Chambers
Stephen Chambers RA
 The Big Country (detail), 2012
 Screen print, 56 x 76 cm
 �© Stephen Chambers
 Published by the artist
 Printed at the Print Studio, Cambridge
Stephen Chambers RA The Big Country (detail), 2012. © Stephen Chambers. Published by the artist. Printed at the Print Studio, Cambridge

We're big fans of the Artists Laboratory. It gives Royal Academicians the chance to move away from their signature style and experiment with artworks that they normally wouldn't exhibit. Stephen Chambers is the sixth artist to take part and he's taken a screenprint and blown it up to gigantic proportions – at a similar scale to Hughie O'Donoghue who preceded him.

The Big Country is named after the film of the same name, though more people are likely to know of the theme tune than the film itself. Chambers has recreated the scene of frontier settlement in his vast 'tapestry' spread across over 75 screenprints. The scenes that unfold range from settlers building houses to a rider falling off his horse, giving it the sense of an epic made up of lots of individual tales. The silhouetted figures are reminiscent of those seen on ancient Grecian urns, and like them these figures also seem to be setting out a historical record of events.

Peppered throughout this tapestry are the names of ports from which settlers set off to colonise the new world, from Sydney to Spitsbergen. To ensure a realistic portrayal of this colonisation and to show that it wasn't all a light hearted adventure, Chambers has also featured some African ports that fed the slave trade. This contrasts with some of the cartoonish antics and grounds the work in the real world.

There are also some smaller works by Chambers in this exhibition but these pale in comparison to the scale and impact of The Big Country. This is another Artist's Laboratory that's worth a side trip but we do feel that once again a separate admission charge isn't justifiable.

Artist's Laboratory 06: Stephen Chambers RA – The Big Country is on display in the Weston Room, Royal Academy of Arts until 2 December. Entrance is free with an exhibition ticket or £3 otherwise.

Still on at the Royal Academy is the excellent Bronze and the RA Now auction exhibition.

Last Updated 25 October 2012