About Rachel Kneebone: 399 Days

The YSP Chapel housed the awe-inspiring 399 Days by Rachel Kneebone. Named after how long it took to make, the monumental, ceramic, sculpture is the artist's most ambitious project to date. It is over five metres in height and comprises 63 exterior panels, each made by hand and fired in a kiln. Each panel features exquisite details. The artist alludes to the human body through legs that seem to be moving, alongside abstract and organic forms such as orbs and flowers.

Porcelain is a refined form of clay, which been used to make objects for thousands of years. Kneebone has developed a unique type of sculpture, mainly in porcelain. She does not have any assistants, but makes everything herself. She has grown to accept and appreciate the unpredictable nature of the material and the firing process. She says: “I am quite reassured when a work explodes because I think that means I am pushing the boundaries of the material. My work moves around metamorphosis, change and simultaneous states, so nothing about it is fixed.”

The contemplative space of the Chapel allows for another view of 399 Days, at height from the balcony. Here you can also see drawings from Kneebone's Ovid in Exile (2016) series. Ovid was a poet banished from Rome around 8 CE, for reasons that have become shrouded in mystery. Kneebone is interested in the subject as an insight into human behaviour. The drawings also show a different aspect of her work, and how it relates to her sculptures.

There are three new sculptures, which seem to grow from the Chapel walls. Eddy, Pulse and Whorl are all inspired by the movement of water. Roll (2017) is a sculpture shown in the dark-wood panelled vestry. The energetic, organic, elements seem to be bursting out of a tomb. The relationship between life and death is something of interest to the artist. It is especially relevant in the Chapel, where people have marked life events from the cradle to the grave for centuries.

399 Days has been shown in the sculpture court of the V&A and at White Cube Gallery, London. Exhibition supported by White Cube Gallery.