2015 FIRST@108 Public Art Award: Chassis

20 February 2017


‘To see something truly is to forget its name’ Paul Valery

The Royal British Society of Sculptors (RBS) is proud to announce the completion of Chassis by Tabatha Andrews, an arresting new public sculpture which will soon occupy the main entrance foyer of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London. The sculpture forms part of a commission for the FIRST@108: Public Art Award 2015 which provides the opportunity for one outstanding sculptor to gain a track record in the highly competitive field of public art, and is a temporary addition to the extensive artwork collection which is curated and managed by the hospital’s charity CW+ and aims to improve the patient experience and environment.

Our memory is never fixed – it evolves, like a word in a game of Chinese whispers. Chassis is an exploration of memory; a cabinet of lost and missing things. Located somewhere between theatre set and everyday life, this sculpture invites the public to engage with it – transforming the space around them through touch and movement; providing the viewer with an alternative kind of ‘waiting room’; a place to pause and reflect.

At first sight we encounter what looks like a cross between a domestic wardrobe, a tool rack and an unusual elevator; absurd and humorous in the space it occupies between two escalators. The object could be upside down and back to front; its tactics of reversal and mirroring giving it the feel of a puzzle. Each side has extraordinary, tactile wood-turned handles reminiscent of dumbbells. On grasping the handles and opening the structure, another inner architecture is revealed; empty holes into which objects might have fitted; shapes designed to provoke memory and inspire a sense of play. Inspired by the ‘method of loci’ memory systems of the Greek ancients, Chassis refers to the relationship between mental objects and place. You can never experience both sides of the piece at once, and need to draw on the act of memory to hold the work in your mind. Its materials are left raw; birch ply, beech, steel and cast iron.

The process of making Chassis incorporates digital memory with tactile memory; shapes routed through digital drawing methods at the Fab Lab in Plymouth sit beside objects hand-turned in Cornish beech.

This is the second work on the theme of Memory by Andrews for the FIRST@108: Public Art Award. Andrews spent a year making The Dispensary, her interactive sculpture for dementia patients, which is currently touring the care of the elderly wards (of which there are 4). A short documentary about the making of The Dispensary provides an insight to the artist’s creative process, the medical profession’s response to the intervention, and most importantly, what the patients made of the sculpture.

Additionally, as part of the award, patients who were unable to leave the hospital were given a curated tour of Andrews’ supporting exhibition Altered States in the RBS gallery, facilitated by a remote virtual presence tele-robot, connecting them to the outside world and enabling them to access a cultural venue otherwise inaccessible to them.

Chassis, the final intervention in this extraordinary public art project, will be accessible to everyone (over 1000 people a day in fact), and like all good public art, will humanise our predominantly man-made environment and quietly enrich our lives.

Chassis by Tabatha Andrews can be viewed in the main public entrance foyer of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London from 21st February until end October 2017.

The RBS would like to acknowledge the partnership with CW+ and the generous support of the Mirisch & Lebenheim Charitable Foundation for making this award possible.

Chassis was made with the support of Fab Lab at Plymouth College of Art.

For more information about the award please visit the award page of the RBS website or contact Julie Beech by emailing firstat108@rbs.org.uk 


Notes to editors


About the First@108 Public Art Award 

Initiated in 2009, the First@108 Public Art Award offers sculptors the opportunity to extend their practice into competing for public art commissions. Finalists are taken through the complex public art commissioning process. The winner receives £10,000 towards the cost of producing two large scale sculpture/installations which will be installed in the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, London for a one year period, mentoring from professionals within the industry, and a solo supporting exhibition of their work. 

Past winners of the First@108 Public Art Award have gone on to make their mark in the field. 

Sam Shendi, winner of the 2013 First@108 Award was invited to site his winning sculpture ‘Evolution’ in Lister Park, Bradford. Winner of the 2011 First@108 Award, Jenske Dijkhuis has exhibited his prize-winning sculpture ‘Horizon Pavilion’ at the National Theatre on the Southbank and on the Norfolk coast. Suresh Dutt’s ‘Drawing Cube Blue’, which won the 2010 First@108 competition, was purchased by Canary Wharf Group for its Public Art Collection in 2012. Robert Worley’s ‘Avatar’, which received the 2009 First@108 Award, is on permanent display in Westferry Circus, London. 


About the Royal British Society of Sculptors 

Committed to the pursuit of excellence in the art form, we aim to inspire, inform and engage people with sculpture/three dimensional art. We offer opportunities to see and experience the extraordinary diversity of contemporary work and to learn from those who make it through our exhibition programme. We support sculptors by providing bursaries to newly emergent sculptors, professional development seminars, a mentoring scheme and a growing number of awards and residencies. Established in 1905 as a not-for-profit company (83239), we are a membership society of 600 + professional sculptors and are a registered charity (212513). We are the oldest and largest organisation dedicated to sculpture in the UK 


About CW+ 

CW+ is the charity for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and its two main hospitals, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and West Middlesex University Hospital. CW+ brings together pioneering research, innovation, art and design to transform the experience and outcomes for thousands of patients every day. We achieve our impact through: 

  • 1. Transforming the patient environment and experience through our pioneering art and design programme 
  • 2. Raising funds for ground-breaking research and education initiatives which leads to better treatment for patients 
  • 3. Investing in clinical facilities, innovations and technologies which improve clinical outcomes for patients and are financially sustainable 

cwplus.org.uk | Registered Charity No.1169897 

About Tabatha Andrews 

Tabatha Andrews is a sculptor and installation artist who works with a wide range of materials; from architecture to print, drawing, sound, light and video projection. Her work unsettles the hierarchy of the senses, transforming different sites and contexts, including forests, cathedrals, contemporary architecture and cyberspace. During 2015 she ran an ACE funded project exploring the relationship of sculpture to the senses, involving the blind opera singer Victoria Oruwari and composer John Matthias, with exhibitions at ROOMartspace London and KARST Plymouth. She also showed in the ‘Bideford Black’ project run by Flow Projects and Burton Museum and Art Gallery, Devon, and ‘Fourteen Turns’ at Lubomirov Angus Hughes, London (2016); a show on Duchamp curated by Peter Suchin and Keith Bowler. 

Tabatha Andrews studied at Glasgow School of Art, Slade School of Art and the Skowhegan School of Art, Maine. She was Artist in Residence at Gloucester Cathedral in 2002-3 and has made work for the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust, the Whipple Museum of Science in Cambridge, the Monument to the Fire of London and many other venues. She is currently an Associate Lecturer at Plymouth University. 


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