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Indepth Arts News:

"Sam Taylor-Wood: Films and Photography"
2002-01-26 until 2002-04-01
Stedelijk Museum
Amsterdam, , NL

On show at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam from January 26 to April 1 are photographs and films by the English artist Sam Taylor-Wood (b. London, 1967). A selection of the recent works she exhibited at the end of 2001 in London, will be supplemented in Amsterdam by a number of films and photo- works of the nineties. It will be the first major solo presentation in the Netherlands to be devoted to this representative of the Brit Pack.

Vulnerability, emotionality, alienation and loneliness are recurring themes in Taylor-Woods films from the early nineties onwards. In Brontosaurus (1995) a nude man dances in slow motion to melancholy music like an introverted faun, both ecstatic and subdued. The face of the woman in Hysteria (1997) displays extreme emotions. There are no sounds, so the viewer cannot be certain whether she is moved by joy, despair or both. Mute (2001) is (literally) a silent film: a young man sings a passage from an opera but the sound has been erased. His face and gestures convey violent feelings and the image is so expressive as to conjure up the suggestion of music.

The exhibition also shows selections of earlier series and recent photo-works. Five Revolutionary Seconds V (1996) is a panoramic photo whose sequences of moments and situations in a room relate it to film. Like the other works on the series it was made in the apartment of friends from Londons artistic beau monde. Often completely incongruent scenes showing people devoid of mutual contact, lost and decadent, form images of 360º, more than seven metres in length. The alienation they evoke is reinforced by sound, fragments of conversation, brittle and disturbing.

The Soliloquies (from 1998 on) as well as Taylor-Woods photographs of the past year refer in form and subject-matter to painting. The construction of the Soliloquies recalls altarpieces and consist of a large painting with a small panoramic photograph below. Soliloquy III is a reconstruction of Velasquez The Toilet of Venus (1650); in the panorama we see naked figures in an interior, engrossed in erotic acts. Venus herself sits in the background, lost in thought.

The relationship between the two images is puzzling: does the panorama depict the inner world of the woman gazing into the mirror, or is she an enlargement of one of the figures on the predellaNULL

Sam Taylor-Woods is undoubtedly one of the least extrovert members of the Sensation Generation, a group of British artists who created an international furore in the nineties. While Tracey Emin (whose work can be seen at the Stedelijk later this year) thematizes her own life in an unmediafied manner, Taylor-Woods prefers to represent her experiences by resorting to classical symbols, often derived from (religious) paintings. Mortality and transiency are the themes of photos like Bound Ram and Self Portrait as a Tree, images whose powerful symbolism is not entirely devoid of pathos. But this melancholy self-image is countered by the provocative, erotically charged Self Portrait in a Single Breasted Suit with Hare. The title is an unmistakable reference to the disease she overcame but at the same time, viz. the hare she is holding up, a frank avowal of (erotic) lust for life.

Over the past few years Sam Taylor-Woods work has been shown in several major international and solo exhibitions in venues which include the Fondazione Prada in Milan, the Centre National de la Photographie in Paris and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid. In 1997 she was awarded the Illy Café Prize for the most promising artist, and in 1998 she was nominated for Englands prestigious Turner Prize.

Sam Taylor-Woods show at the Stedelijk is accompanied by a Cahier with an article by Hripsime Visser, curator of photography.

Sam Taylor-Woods
Self Portrait as a Tree

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