An exhibition of Louise Bourgeois and Gideon Rubin is presented in the ornate surroundings of the Grade II Listed chapel of All Saints House, Fitzrovia. Curated by Beth Greenacre, the artwork is accompanied by a sound intervention by Nicolas Godin of musical duo, AIR.
The All Saints Chapel was the first purpose-built place of worship for the Society of All Saints Sisters of the Poor; rich in cultural and historic interest the chapel houses a wall painting from 1861 of the Crucifixion with attendant female saints by John Richard Clayton. The fresco, along with the convent’s purposeful history, which accommodated a women’s order, whilst serving as a space for women, provides a poignant context in which to house the work of Bourgeois and Rubin. Though working across different periods and from differ- ent perspectives both artists have, or had, a career-long exploration of the human form, particularly women’s bodies, exploring the important role that memory and time plays not only in the creation of art, but also in how we understand ourselves, the world and our surroundings.
Painting and art making for both artists is a therapeutic process. Louise Bourgeois was in psychoanalysis for much of her adult life which in turn influenced her artistic practice that she described as a parallel "form of psychoanalysis”. For the artist, art offered privileged and unique access to the unconscious, as well as being a form of psychological release. And although a professed atheist, Bourgeois stated that she had “a religious temperament” when describing the emotional and spiritual energy that she poured into her work.
Louise Bourgeois sublimated her emotions and childhood traumas into her practice, whilst Gideon Rubin’s haunting faceless characters in muted tones, which are sourced from other peoples faded photographs, old magazines or film stills, imply a sense of loss and melancholy, of remote memories. The erasure of facial features could be seen as a violent act and Rubin has periodically addressed the painful reality of the erasure of cultural and social identities throughout our own recent history. However in each artists practice turmoil is enveloped in the creative act of making. Both acknowledge the power of art as social prescription, as a means to mitigate past wounds; to understand, acknowledge and amend.
The exhibition included a new series of paintings by Rubin based on stills from 'Mädchen in Uniform', the 1931 film by Christa Winsloe, alongside three significant sculptures by Bourgeois from the late 1940’s to the 2000’s. Many of Bourgeois' breakthrough works were from the 1940’s, including those made from scavenged and carved wood that are then cast in bronze, such as Woman with a Secret, which like Brother and Sister from 1949 represent the artist’s interest in the human form and relationships but also in traditional techniques. A third work, Arch of Hysteria from 2000, explores the body in sewn fabric and refers to the work of French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, best known for his pioneering work on ‘hysteria’.
Music acts as a conduit between the psychological and visceral and a brand new audio work by French musician, Nicolas Godin becomes an integral element of the immersive exhibition. In response to the artists practices and to the architecture of the chapel - which historically would have been animated by sound - the soundscape is conceived to create a space that is both physical and reflective.