La beauté sera convulsive ou ne sera pas. (1928)
In the words of surrealist heavyweight André Breton, beauty will be convulsive or will not be at all. A violent and uncontrollable sense, beauty consumes this convulsive nature fully in the practice of American artist Francesca Woodman. Now open at Sadie Coles Kingly Street, Room sees Woodman’s work displayed alongside the likes of Nan Goldin and Sarah Lucas, in a women-only show exploring the traditionally female arena of domestic space.
While the exhibition traces critical themes of physicality and psychological charges within creatively misplaced rooms, the distinctly haunting photography of Woodman is what seized my mind and immersion. The blurred isolation Woodman captures, often framing her character obscurely within a submissive domestic environment, is uncanny perfection. The surrealist influences are barefaced and bright: hazy shots no larger than eight by ten inches, darkly intimate settings and despondently poetic, the late artist’s practice is depressively consuming.
Woodman’s premature death in January 1981 – a suicide where she threw herself from a loft window in New York City’s East Side – only exploits itself as a catalyst to her melancholic take on the avant-garde. She took influence from the initiating surrealists André Breton and Man Ray, and looked to gothic literature and Greek mythology for further creative awakenings. Her absorbing stills scrutinise feminist protagonists of the domestic space, romanticising and fracturing black and white portraiture for postmodern keyhole curiosity.
Francesca Woodman’s outré photographs convey another world of sorrow and beauty, framing the tormented dispositions of both her own and other female counterparts. A series of her photographs can be seen in the exhibition Room on show at Sadie Coles until 18 February.