My favourite thing: Daniel Chadwick

The artist and inventor talks about the legacy of his father, Lynn, and his favourite Perspex sculpture

My mother bought this sculpture in Miami in the 1970s. She found it in the back room of a gallery that was staging a show of my father Lynn Chadwick’s work. She said she had bought it for the children but I remember it being kept on a high shelf. It was too good for us, really.

Sadly, I don’t know who created it. Nobody does. It’s a fantastically beautiful thing, especially with light coming through it. It’s on a windowsill in what we call the Star Chamber, a little room with a vaulted ceiling painted with stars where we keep my father’s most significant works.

I call it ‘the blocks’. The pieces are separate and can be moved: sometimes I find the children have rearranged it into a tower or a regular block, although I like it jumbled up randomly. It’s a very influential piece for me – it completely informed my love of working with transparent acrylic.

Perspex is an endlessly contemporary material. I use it all the time. It doesn’t move around or swell up. You can work and rework it indefinitely. I make everything out of it – shelves, chairs, tables, windows… even our bathroom. The only reason I got my first job with the architect Zaha Hadid is because I had a talent for working with Perspex.

I tried almost anything to not study art. We were conscious that my father was lucky to be an artist and it was a tough world. From living in a rented cottage without electricity or running water he won the International Sculpture Prize at the 1956 Venice Biennale. He was taken on by Marlborough Gallery, which represented Francis Bacon and Mark Rothko.

I like to put my father’s sculptures with my own. They go well. His are massive but the technique is delicate. Mine are light and float above his. I’m still trying not to be in the art world. I like to do things my own way. I get very nervous when I’m in front of anyone important in the art world: I tend to get drunk or take off clothes or both!

I always have at least 10 projects on the go. I do art but I also invent things. Theoretically, the inventions will provide a continuous income stream that will keep the roofs on Lypiatt Park, the Cotswolds house my father bought after his Biennale success. It is the mother of all burdens but you can’t complain because when the light comes through the windows it is mind-blowing.

The house is my gallery. People come here to see and buy my work. My father painted the whole place white and, when we moved in, it had gone slightly yellow so I redid it. It took two years and a lot of paint. My father whitewashed it because he was a modernist and didn’t want his eyes distracted by the skirting board being one colour and the wallpaper being another. You can’t look at sculpture with lots of horizontal lines breaking up the space behind.

Interview: Alice Hancock
Portrait: Grant Scott

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