Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Lucian Freud

In 2016 the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) opened the Lucian Freud Project, dedicating the whole of the Garden Galleries (a small building) to the work of Lucian Freud for the following five years. I had seen that exhibition, which included paintings, works on paper, and prints along with copper plates that he printed. It was great to see so much of Freud's work in one place, but I wondered how IMMA planned to keep this exhibition fresh over the extended period.

Interestingly and intriguingly, IMMA decided to invite guests in to curate exhibitions around the specific collection that was on loan. The first of these exhibitions opened in mid-February; "The Ethics of Scrutiny" was curated by artist Daphne Wright. I went to the exhibition two weeks ago, totally curious as to how curation was going to change the exhibition. It was fantastic! 
 The first small gallery was a pleasant portent of things to come: dimly lit and reverent, on one wall there were some watercolour botanical drawings by Sigmund Freud (Lucian Freud's grandfather) and in the middle of the room a horizontal display case containing a number of reproductions of Emily Dickenson's "envelope poems". On a further wall was a small painting of Freud's that scrutinised the us, the audience, daring us to look closer. Each room that followed was a sparse but intense exploration of the curatorial theme. Wright made this a multi-media exploration with lightbox reproductions of Gwen John paintings and the sound of exhibition hub-bub in one room, and a reading from a short story in another. I especially was interested in Wright's subversion of what is normally thought of as a "male gaze" as she included artwork and writing by women.

In the large basement gallery, there were a lot of Freud's paintings for individual examination and two video monitors taking centre stage in the room. The videos were clips of John Berger in Ways of Seeing, his 1970s BBC series. In the clips he was analysing the historical view of the female nude.

In several rooms upstairs, Wright again juxtaposed work by other artists with key Freud works relevant to the theme of scrutiny. I loved seeing Kathy Prendergast's bronze sculpture Little Bouquet (2007), a piece of family history & memory, and also seeing a plant on the window ledge whose didactic informed that it was grown from a cutting of a plant belonging to Sigmund Freud. There was an audio of plant biologist Ottoline Leyser discussing plant intelligence.

In the final room there was a sculptural work by Thomas Schutte (which could be seen as portaits of an artist) and Freud's moving self-portrait. Doubly moving was the sound of Bernie Brennan singing the Nine Inch Nails' song Hurt, much in the style of the legendary Johnny Cash's brilliant cover of this song.

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