Helen Chadwick was born in Croydon, South London, studying at Brighton Polytechnic and later at Chelsea School of Art in London. Her contribution to contemporary art was both original and intensely personal, characterised by the use of her own body as both subject and object. Few artists embraced the means of modern technology - the photocopier, light projection, large format Polaroid, computer and microscope - in such a distinctive way. After leaving art school she began to make soft, organic objects based on parts of her body. Direct and intimate, she translated these sculptures into live performances. Early autobiographical works depicted her development from birth to maturity. Later more complex installations comprised photocopied images of her body suspended in a sea of organic forms, emphasising the sensuality and transience of physical pleasure.
A constant theme in much of Chadwick’s work had been the questioning of boundaries, both physical and cultural. A series of ‘viral landscape’ photoworks involved a computer generation of Chadwick’s cellular structure overlaid onto images of the natural coastline. A later series using the Polaroid presented the viscera of the body in an extraordinary examination of the function, form and fetish of internal organs. One of the last series she undertook before her premature death from a congenital heart defect was the Wreaths to Pleasure: 13 circular cibachrome prints that combined elements of art and technology, mixing and merging the organic and toxic, fluid and static, clean and dirty, with clusters of flowers settling on the surface of various domestic fluids. The circular dish reminiscent of Petri suggested that a culture could be grown as well as acquired. She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1988, and had a widely acclaimed solo exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 1994 which included a fountain of hot bubbling chocolate, Cacao, and Piss Flowers, sculptures made by casting the holes left by Chadwick and her partner urinating in the snow. The same year her work was shown at the São Paulo Bienal.