Jane McAdam Freud’s Psychological Sculptures Recall Her Family Legacy
Imagine a surreal forest on a lost planet, with creatures strung in wire, their heads and feet indiscernible, heavenly orbs pivoting about their own axes and objects trapped inside these mesh-like structures. This is the fantastical world of Jane McAdam Freud’s 15 psychological sculptures, which can now be found at Gazelli Art House in London.
The artist is the daughter of Lucian Freud and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud, whose influences are imminent. Though the simultaneous tenacity and fragility of the chicken wire in her present series is a radical departure from the weight and voice of her previous clay and bronze works, the subject matter remains the same. The forms elude easy classification, gesturing at the similarly subtle, amorphous nature of earthly dramas: the mess of human relationships, the gargantuan projections of desire, the short-sighted wish-fulfillments, and the skewed perspectives of the present.
Titled “Mother Mould,” the show is a homage to the artist’s mother: the container, the structural integrity, often invisible to the final cast, a shadow in a dimly lit room. The exhibition’s eponymous piece is a large newspaper ball made of smaller balls of newspaper, a synecdoche of sorts, lying on the floor coated in tape that reads “fragile.” Its cast counterpart, Poetic Encounter (2014-15), hangs directly opposite it in black mesh. They co-exist together in duality and unity. They watch like the human eye, the mother’s breast, the egg, the globe, the sun, one earthly, one idealized circle.
McAdam Freud’s philosophical, psychological approach to making art is encapsulated in the play of material and its symbolism. “I have used openwork galvanized steel wire which is pretty hard to handle and to form a working relationship with; through metaphorically taming it I willed this otherwise prickly material into shape, into solidity,” she recently told Artsy. “To make structures that are stable and self-supporting involves the process of crumpling and twisting, cutting and shaping this non-solid almost ethereal stuff. This description could also be applied to the process of constructing a psyche, perhaps from the very beginning (as in the case of an infant). The resulting semi-transparency of the built-up forms give one the impression of seeing both the inside and outside at the same time, together, as integral to each other.”
In this there is a sense of the therapeutic, that the complex transparency of our inner and outer beings might give way to cathartic relief, to loss filled anew. The wire, barbed in appearance, evokes a sense of violence and still a fragile femininity, through the incorporation of baby shoes, bottles, work gloves, watering canisters, and pieces of hair. This assortment of objects denies meaning, insisting, instead, on the free association of feeling contained within these vessels. Though McAdam Freud herself refers to her affinity to pairings, the show, more interestingly, begins to break this dialectic, giving way not to a unified whole, but to multiple interpretations.