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Exhibition Review – Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask at the National Portrait Gallery from 9th March to 29th May 2017

Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask at the National Portrait Gallery brings together over 100 works by French artist Claude Cahun (1894–1954) and British contemporary artist Gillian Wearing (b.1963). Whilst it may be seen as an unusual collaboration being born 70 years apart, however both artists share similar themes of gender, identity, masquerade and performance.

Cahun was affiliated with the French Surrealist movement and associated with André Breton and Man Ray, despite these associations her work was rarely exhibited during her lifetime.

Gillian Wearing won the Turner Prize in 1997 and has exhibited extensively in the United Kingdom and internationally.

Although the scale of the photographs between the two woman varies greatly, the themes are remarkably similar. Cahun and her partner, the artist and stage designer Marcel Moore created a series of photographs where Cahun is depicted wearing masks and costumes and developing Surrealist representations. She plays with different aspects of her appearance by shaving her hair and wearing wigs and often challenges the traditional notions of gender roles.

Wearing’s photographic self –portraits are much more complex by incorporating recreations of her as others in a range of guises, In one series she becomes her immediate family members using prosthetic masks.

Both sets of photographs illustrate the two artists’ fascination with identity and gender and the art of performance and masquerade.

Wearing is not only influenced by Cahun but reconstructs some of Cahun’s self-portraits.  Wearing’s Me as Cahun holding a mask of my face is a reconstruction of Cahun’s self-portrait Don’t kiss me I’m in training of 1927.

Specially created for the exhibition in tribute to the surrealist work of Claude Cahun, My Exquisite Corpse is Wearing’s own version of a parlour game played by the Surrealists in which each participant draws on a sheet of paper, folds it to conceal the work and passes it to the next player for their contribution. For this composite portrait of herself, Wearing invited fellow artists Gary Hume and Michael Landy to collaborate, with Hume creating the head, Landy, the torso, and Wearing the legs.

Also shown for the first time in the UK is Rock n’roll 70 wallpaper (2015-16), a computer-generated impression of the artist aging.

This fascinating exhibition explores the many themes of gender, identity, masquerade, performance and the idea of the self.  Although separated by 70 years, both artists provide often disquieting portraits that reflect how identity and the idea of the self are intrinsically linked. This has never been so topical with concerns that the creation of online persona are often at odds with ‘real life’.

Our Video Review available here

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

To find out more about the exhibition, visit the National Portrait Gallery website here.

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Exhibition Review : Performing for the Camera at Tate Modern – 18th February to 12th June 2016

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Tate Modern explores the relationship between photography and performance in their exhibition, Performing for the Camera.

Since the invention of photography in the 19th century, the genre has been concerned with showing art and performance, the exhibition brings together over 500 images spanning 150 years which document  performance works such as Yves Klein’s Anthropometrie de l’epoque blue 1960, a live painting event using the bodies of naked women, as well as key 60s performances by Yayoi Kusama, Marta Minujín and Niki de Saint Phalle.

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Some of the earliest works in the exhibition look at the way that photography began to used showing famous performers acting out their characters from the stage. Photographs from Nadar’s studio in 19th century Paris show the famous mime artist Charles Deburau acting out poses as the character ‘Pierrot’ and famous actress Sarah Bernhardt in a series of roles.

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Later works drawing on this same idea include Harry Shunk and Janos Kender with their photographs of dancer, Merce Cunningham in 1964. Eikoh Hosoe’s Kamataichi, a collaboration with the choreographer and founder of the Butoh movement Tatsumi Hijikata in 1969 is one of the first to have given equal authorial credit to the performing subject and the photographer.

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Ideas of self-identity are explored through works by Claude Cahun, Man Ray and Cindy Sherman, as well as projects like Samuel Fosso’s African Spirits 2008 where the artist photographs himself in the guise of iconic figures. The exhibition also looks at the ways that portraiture has been used by photographers like Lee Friedlander, Masahisa Fukase and Hannah Wilke.

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Marketing and self promotion have always played a major part in photography and recent masters of the form, artists Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol illustrate how identity can be formed and distorted for a particular event.

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In many ways, most of the exhibition illustrates the photographer and the photographed as two separate entities, however, the modern world of social media and selfies offers the subject as photographer which raises a series of questions about the lines between photography and performance. A recent work staged on Instagram by Amalia Ulman illustrates the ways that people are using their poses for photographs to seemingly find ways of validating their identity.

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Performing for the Camera is an interesting and thought-provoking exhibition that explores the relationship between photography and performance. From the earliest days of photography, there seems to have been an element of performing for the camera. Over the last 150 years, this performance has led to a wide range of applications from serious performances to more informal humour and improvisation. The exhibition provides of plenty of evidence that photography’s influence has grown considerably till it has now become a constant presence in the lives of millions, many now recording their own and others performances each day.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

Performing for the Camera

Tate Modern: Exhibition

18 February – 12 June 2016

Adult £16.00 (without donation £14.50)

Concession £14.00 (without donation £12.70)

If you would like further information or book tickets, visit the Tate Modern website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here