Daniel Crews Chubb: The Consequences of Play
A new series of epic paintings inspired by London’s iconic Wellington Arch, the Duke of Wellington’s grand Apsley House and Peter Paul Rubens’ painting the Consequences of War will go on display in the Wellington Arch’s Quadriga Gallery from this summer (30 June 2021 through to 12 March 2022).
The six works by British artist Daniel Crews-Chubb (b.1984) - titled The Consequences of Play - reinterpret Rubens’ original painting, which allegorically depicted Europe in the aftermath of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648).
Now housed in the collection of Palazzo Pitti in Florence, The Consequences of War (1638/9) was commissioned by Ferdinando II de Medici, and Rubens included numerous references both contemporary and ancient, to illustrate the dire state of the continent after one of the longest and most brutal wars in human history.
Following three decades of conflict, there were more than 8 million casualties resulting directly from fighting, famine and disease. Holding up a mirror in today’s testing times, Crews-Chubb has turned the themes in Ruben’s masterwork on their head and reinterpreted them within today’s context and through his own artistic vision.
Daniel explains: “History is never one story, it is forever retold, reformed and recontextualized. For this show I was very aware of the context of the venue, and I wanted to explore themes relating to war, victory and heroism. I started to look at art depicting war from the beginning of time until now, looking at it from a purely visual perspective, dismissing any narrative. Then I arrived at Rubens and his painting The Consequences of War. Rubens was the perfect inspiration for this show, as in his paintings – in the melee of man and beast – the narrative becomes unclear. You forget that you are looking at a depiction of war because the movement, energy and colour take over.
The six paintings I’ve made for Wellington Arch convey stances, actions and characters associated with the war theme. Yet in looking at artifacts from different eras, cultures and perspectives I found beauty in a subject that we usually associate with horror and devastation.”
The setting for the exhibition also influences the six paintings. Decimus Burton’s Grade 1-listed triumphal arch (1826-30) which today celebrates the Duke of Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon and is topped by Europe’s largest bronze sculpture, itself an allegory of the Angel of Peace descending on a four-horsed chariot of War, or ‘Quadriga’.
Indeed, in Consequences of Play, the Quadriga makes an appearance in the work, but in Crews-Chubbs’ imagination, it has become a device to drag his characters through time, while also tipping a nod to the history of art and mark-making; from cave painting to expressionism, and his own existence within the digital age.
Commenting on the exhibition, fellow artist and art critic Matthew Collings said: “Daniel’s paintings have a theme specifically suited to this venue, and it’s a very important one for our time - fight war, choose peace. He took Rubens’ frightening allegory, Consequences of War and changed it to Consequences of Play. It wasn’t that the paintings he was going to do would be light-hearted. Let’s counter war with play was his notion. Let’s not have a society based on hate is what he's saying.”
Speaking about his striking set of paintings and the space in which they will be seen, Daniel Crews-Chubb says:
“This was such an exciting and challenging project for me and pushed me, as an artist, to react to a specific space, it’s context and its history. I feel very honoured to be the first contemporary artist to exhibit in this historical monument.”
Toby Clarke, Director of Vigo Gallery who curated The Consequences of Play: “We at Vigo are excited and privileged to be working with English Heritage to present Daniels’s work within the context of such a monumental London landmark museum. A percentage from the sales of works included in this exhibition will be donated to English Heritage, trialing a new partnership model which aims to help institutions, galleries, and artists create sustainable contributions to art and culture.”
Josephine Oxley, Keeper of the Wellington Collection for Apsley House and Wellington Arch said: “Our partnership with Vigo Gallery is an exciting opportunity to bring contemporary art to a historic setting. The Wellington Arch provides a wonderful back drop to Daniel Crews-Chubb’s monumental works. We hope that audiences will enjoy the powerful and thought-provoking paintings which confront us with the themes of war and peace. These themes are universal and relevant.”