Mad Bad and Sad: Women and the mind doctors

Visit to Freud Museum exhibition

This was an opportunity that I could not miss, a exhibition covering a topic I am particularly interested but presented in such an exciting way. Contemporary artwork that explores mental health issues in all the various forms placed directly within Sigmund Freud’s rooms. By putting artworks like this within a very specific context it gives non art goers a much better opportunity to understand and appreciate art. They are given a starting point which a modern gallery space does not provide. I found this very exciting and quite liberating, it would be wonderful if this could be done more often.

The artists included within this exhibition were:

  • Alice Anderson
  • Louise Bourgeois
  • Helen Chadwick
  • Tracey Emin
  • Elliott Erwitt
  • Jane Fradgley
  • Isa Genzken
  • Susan Hiller
  • Sarah Lucas
  • Francis Upritchard

One of my favourite artists is Louise Bourgeois and any opportunity to see her work is fantastic. The particular piece exhibited here was ‘The Fragile’ consisting of 36 separate panels. Made in 2007 when Louise Bourgeois was 95 years old it is a self portrait and document of her life that explores her feelings of motherhood and vulnerability. These are prints from her drawings made on fabric. Some are digital prints and some are screen prints. Some seem controlled and strong but others seem to scream and writhe in frustration. There are several images depicted with multiple large heavy breasts as both a reference to breast feeding but also referring to breasts as a sexual object.

You can view this work here:

One of the artists who I didn’t already know but found fascinating was Alice Anderson. Her work consisted of a bookcase completely wrapped in a very fine copper coloured fibre. This was accompanied by a short video of her wrapping the piece. For me, watching her, reminded me of patients rocking backwards and forward in an asylum or any constantly repeated action by some one who is mentally ill.

Along side the artwork this exhibition also had a room devoted to archival documents and items from the treatment of specifically women with mental health (or not) problems. There were examples of restraints and strong clothing as well as documents, photographs and film, all of which was quite chilling in some places.

This was a wonderful opportunity to see a wide variety of work from different artists exploring themes I am fascinated about, both from an artistic point of view but also for my ongoing research.