Nick Hackworth

Chapwomen, Modern Art Inc

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

Would you like your pussy stretched? If not, keep it away from the Chapman brothers.

To begin with, it was children. They trawled the seas of paedophilia and fished up anuses and penises with which to adorn their fibreglass child mannequins. Then they mined a rich seam of apocalyptic fantasy to create Hell, the huge tableaux of writhing Nazis engaged in a vast sadistic and cannibalistic orgy that proved to be the centrepiece of the Apocalypse exhibition at the Royal Academy.

Now it’s cats. Across seven smallish oil paintings from the I’m Deliberately Naff school of painting the Chapmans have depicted a gallery of feline freaks. Stretched Pussy depicts what might once have been a cute little moggy, its face at the centre of the canvas while all its features have been stretched to the sides of the frame until they become mere streaks of colour racing towards the edges.

Arachnokitty is a handsome cat with a cluster of spider eyes on its forehead, while in Pussy in the Middle, two furry kittens lie contentedly asleep, apparently reconciled to the fact that their heads have been spliced together by some malign genie.

This straightforward exercise in the depiction of the Freudian uncanny — which holds that that which is truly disturbing is not that which is alien, but that which was once familiar rendered unfamiliar — loses much of its power because the works are shoddy, the canvases warped and the paint flatly applied. But perhaps the Chap- mans (or Chapwomen as they choose to call themselves on this occasion) are doing us a service. These furry little blighters consume more than £695 million of cat food a year and spend their lives farting around to their heart’s content. Perhaps it’s time someone picked on them.

Modern Art Inc, 73 Redchurch Street, E2, Thursday to Sunday 11am-6pm (020 7739 2081). Until 1 July.