The National Portrait Gallery’s retrospective of works by Lucian Freud has been a remarkable success with visitors flocking to see the many portraits of the late artist. It is timely that Gazelli Art House pairs their new exhibition Family Matters with works by Jane McAdam Freud as interest in the Freud family peaks.
The Gazelli Art House provides a stunning backdrop for the collection of sculptural works on display. Family Matters explores McAdam Freud’s relationship with her immediate family and close friends, but most particularly the connection with her father. The terracotta Earthstone Triptych installation 2 (2011) occupies a relatively secluded place in the back of the gallery. Here the lights are a bit dim and an extensive mirror covers the back wall giving a mysterious atmosphere to the space. A narrow portrait bust of Lucian Freud stands in the centre brazenly defying the boundary between two and three-dimensional space. At a slight diagonal a similar portrait lies in pieces on the floor. Initially titling the work a triptych seems a bit bizarre as there are only two pieces comprising the work, but the mirror reveals that the standing portrait has different faces – one alert and awake, the other peaceful with eye closed – much like a two-sided coin, McAdam Freud includes three faces. The placement of the mirror encompasses the viewer in the work inviting (or perhaps forcing?) the viewer to consider his or her own familial relationships and those family members now gone.
The works upstairs demonstrate a greater breadth of McAdam Freud’s artistic practice and offer insight into the emotional reaction of the artist to the death of her father. A collection of drawings show Lucian Freud at the very end of his life, moments undoubtedly personal now exposed publicly. A more light-hearted collage of photographs combines the face of the artist and her father to create unusual fusions of the two into one entity. Further expanding on this, the sculpture Merged Portrait (2012) combines the faces of both Freuds into one making an androgynous, cross-generational single Freud. This work was created using the artist as a model “to emphasise their genetic similarities as well as their emotional and professional connections.” Well executed, but not particularly beautiful, this portrait is rather unsettling in the ambiguity it depicts – perhaps grandfather Sigmund would have had something to say about this work.
In a small gallery upstairs, McAdam Freud honours a close friend, expanding the definition of “family” to include others with whom we maintain close relationships. This particular woman was a hoarder collecting mountains of things that would seem pointless and eccentric to any outsider. Acknowledging this disorder, McAdam Freud fills the gallery with a strange array of objects, including a small refrigerator containing wax figures from the past two decades of the artist’s career. A refreshing infusion of colour is added with a wooden door belonging to this friend featuring a stained glass window and the key inside the lock. Having collected this door allows McAdam Freud of maintain a piece of her friend much as the collection of portraits allow the artist to immortalize members of her family.
Everyone has family and these relationships shape who people become. Sometimes individuals choose their own paths, and sometimes the future seems predetermined. But, after viewing this exhibition, it seems the question remains, could Jane McAdam Freud’s work exist independently of her family?
Jane McAdam Freud: Family Matters, 25-04-2012 until 29-05-2012, Gazelli Art House, 39 Dover Street, London, W1S 4NN. www.gazelliarthouse.com
Credits: Us 2 (2011) Photos used with permission from Jane Brown and Simon Barber
Copyright the artist
Text: Emily Sack