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From slimy sculptures to performance pieces, Monster Chetwynd makes art that is always unexpected

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WHO IS MONSTER CHETWYND AND IS SHE AS SCARY AS SHE SOUNDS?

No! Monster Chetwynd is a very friendly artist who wasn’t always called Monster. She was born Alalia Chetwynd in 1973, but she decided to change her name.

In 2006 she became known as Spartacus. In 2013 she swapped Spartacus for Marvin Gaye. Then, in 2018 she decided to be called Monster, because it made her happy. She’s not the only artist who likes changing their name. Monster Chetwynd was inspired by a Japanese artist called Katsushika Hokusai, who changed his name 30 times!

This portrait of her above is called Crazy Bat Lady. It’s a self-portrait featuring a bat on the artist's head. Can you also spot the butterfly?

Would you change your name if you could? What would you change it to?

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What type of art does she make?

Monster Chetwynd doesn’t just make one type of art. She’s famous for her paintings, videos, installations, live performances and sculptures. She created two giant slugs that became Tate Britain’s Christmas lights in 2018.

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Installation view: Monster Chetwynd, Tate Britain Winter Comission, Tate Britain, London, 01 December 2018 – 10 February 2019
Credit: © Monster Chetwynd, courtesy Tate and Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photography: Matt Greenwood & Seraphina Neville

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Wait, did you just say ‘giant slugs'?

That’s correct. Monster Chetwynd became interested in slugs after watching a nature documentary. She discovered that when slugs mate, their bodies glow blue. She wanted to recreate this magical moment, so she made two monstrously-sized molluscs. The two slimy pals, 10 metres in length, were positioned outside the gallery.

She smeared slug slime made from blue and white fairylights over the building. She made the slugs from natural materials like wood and felt.

This meant that after the exhibition they could be recycled. Making art that is kind to the environment is part of her mission.

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Marvin Gaye Chetwynd
Turtle
2015
papier mache, latex, cardboard, fabric
85 x 369 x 350 cm
Credit: © Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London.

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Apart from watching television, what else inspires her?

Monster Chetwynd enjoys watching movies and listening to music. She was drawn to the song Bat Out Of Hell by American singer Meatloaf.

Bats regularly appear in her art, as you can see in Crazy Bat Lady. Monster Chetwynd likes using insects and animals in her work. As well as bats and slugs she’s made a giant papier-mâché caterpillar, a cat bus inspired by the Japanese animation film My Neigbour Totoro (below) and a giant turtle (above).

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Installation view, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, 25 January – 23 March 2014.

Credit: © Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, courtesy Nottingham Contemporary and Sadie Coles HQ, London.

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Cat Bus by Monster Chetwynd
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What is Monster most famous for?

In 2012 Monster Chetwynd was short-listed for the Turner Prize. The Turner Prize is awarded each year to a British artist, She won it for a live performance art piece called Odd Man Out, which lasted for five hours.

In 2019 all four artists who were nominated won the award.

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Performance view, Spartacus Chetwynd, Odd Man Out, Turner Prize, Tate Britain, London, 01 October 2013.

Credit: © Spartacus Chetwynd, courtesy Tate and Sadie Coles HQ, London.

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Odd Man Out by Monster Chetwynd
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What is performance art ?

It may sound as though it belongs in a theatre more than an art gallery but some artists like to create artwork that isn’t flat, or 3D, but is a live experience. It could involve mime where you move but don’t make any sounds, dance, words or music. Many of Monster Chetwynd's performances feature people performing together, but sometimes it's just her.

Her love for performance art comes from her passion for designing outfits for costume parties: she’s also known for throwing the best fancy dress parties. She said:

'My work comes from parties and wanting to have fun. As a kid I didn’t have many birthday parties but the ones I had were really successful. They gave me confidence because it was something that I was doing well.'

If you were invited to one of Monster Chetwynd's parties, what costume would you make to wear?

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Performance view, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Here She Comes, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London, 10 March 2016.

Credit: © Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photography: Martin Argyroglo

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Monster Chetwynd performing
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Is Monster chetwynd going to change her name again?

Maybe! She likes the idea that you could have different names for different times of your life. Often artists go through different phases in their work.

She also just really likes unusual names. She’s called Monster and guess what her son is called? Dragan!

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