Francesca Woodman (4 stars)

Francesca Woodman

Picture courtesy George & Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman created a remarkable body of work in her short life (she committed suicide in 1981 at the age of 22), some of which can currently be seen at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s Artist Rooms. This beautifully presented showcase of 27 silver gelatine prints offers a broad perspective on her work as the missing link between the calligraphic emotional reality of Ralph Eugene Meatyard, and the more obvious modern comparisons of Cindy Sherman and Richard Price.

Following a rough chronology from 1972 to 1980, the exhibition opens, appropriately, with an untitled photograph of Woodman passing through a gravestone. Self-portrait and psychosis are touchstones in much of what follows.

‘Self Portrait Talking to Vince’ is rawer – Woodman, mad-eyed and alone engages with someone off frame, a curtain tie in her mouth like some self-medicating Hannibal Lecter. As her place of creation changes from America to Europe darkness descends, the apogee of which is her ‘Self Deceit’ series, in which the naked Woodman shields behind a mirror in a paint-peeled room.

The series recalls Joseph Beuy’s feral anthroposophist 1974 installation ‘I Like America and America Likes Me’ in all its beastly terror. Humour seeps through in the final photographs. One suggests that had she lived she may have spent her days posting LP Face images on Flickr to keep the black dog at bay.

Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 13 Jun

Francesca Woodman

  • 4 stars

Francesca Woodman is one of the most distinctive photographers of the last 50 years. She died in 1981 aged just 22, but during her brief yet extraordinary career she created an enduring body of photographic work that continues to fascinate and influence today.

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