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"After Image: Simryn Gill, Ana Mendieta, Cindy Sherman and Francesca Woodman"
2003-08-02 until 2003-09-27
Fruitmarket Gallery
Edinburgh, , UK United Kingdom

Opening Saturday 2 August, 2003, After Image brings together the work of photographers Simryn Gill, Ana Mendieta, Cindy Sherman and Francesca Woodman, in a show which crosses three continents and spans four decades from the 1970s to the present, touching on issues ranging from self-definition to cultural belonging.

After Image features UK premieres of work from Cindy Sherman’s Masks series, 1996, and Simryn Gill’s Dalam, 2001 and Vegetation, 1999, alongside the most substantial showing to date of the defining works of Ana Mendieta and Francesca Woodman (both deceased).

Curated by London-based curator Glenn Scott Wright, After Image is accompanied by an ambitious education and events programme including talks by Simryn Gill and Glenn Scott Wright.

As part of After Image, Simryn Gill’s Vegetation will be exhibited at the Habitat Edinburgh store, 2 August – 27 September. Habitat is sponsor of the After Image Education Programme.

Simryn Gill makes objects, collections, constructions and photographs which are expressions of ‘how to be in a place’. The works often examine the idea of ‘being an insider and outsider in many places at the same time’.

Gill borrows across scientific, sociological and art historical categories to question singular or correct modes of description and order, challenging received ideas and traditional frames of reference.

Dalam (malay for deep; interior; inside), 2001, is a series of 258 snapshot-sized photographs installed in a frieze-like band encompassing 24 metres of gallery space. Documenting living spaces of Malaysian homes, the photographs were made during travel across Gill’s native home, the Malaysian Peninsula, a place ‘that is inside me but also one from which I have been removed for a very long time’. Gill knocked on doors of total strangers who were persuaded to allow her in to photograph  their living rooms, creating an archive of images that speak of the absent occupants and also, of the artist.

Vegetation is a series of five black and white photographs in which the artist assumes a ‘flawed disguise’, using native plants as a clumsy camouflage for merging into in the Australian, Singaporean and Texan landscapes – the latter resulting from a residency at ArtPace Foundation for Contemporary Art, Texas. The photographs are a self-confessed ‘conceit’ of the artist’s. They allude to anthropological and botanical documents and, particularly in their latent humour, to surrealist photo-collages from the 1930s.

Gill is a Malaysian artist of Indian origin, born in Singapore. She has travelled extensively, spending time living in India and the UK, and is currently resident in Sydney, Australia. Her work has recently been the subject of a major survey exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, and has been seen in several major international group exhibitions including Cities on the Move, Hayward Gallery, London 1999, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Hou Hanru, and the 2nd Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, 2001.

Ana Mendieta used her body and organic materials to explore a desire for integration with the natural world. Often site-specific, her work was created in performance, film, photographs, earth works, drawings, sculptures and installations, arranging and documenting sometimes ritualistic processes of transformation and confronting issues of birth, sexuality and death.

After Image presents three suites of images from the series Facial Hair Transplants, 1972/1997, University of Iowa, together with Ocean Bird Wash Up, 1974, a performance-based work documented by the artist on Super 8 film. The photographs are significant works, described by the artist as a turning point in a quest for her images ‘to have power, to be magic’, in which Mendieta changes herself into a man through the application of facial hair.

Cuban-born, Mendieta was sent by her parents into exile in the United States at the age of 12 in order to escape the Communist Revolution. The trauma resulting from life in an Iowa orphanage and her sense of racial isolation informed much of her work. Mendieta died in New York, in 1985, the result of a tragic fall from an apartment window.

Ana Mendieta’s work is currently the subject of the retrospective exhibition Body Tracks, Fries museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, excluding the work featured in After Image.

Cindy Sherman is a profoundly influential artist whose work involves the subjection of her own body to her photographic exploration of female representation, reorienting our thinking about cultural icons and notions of beauty.

Famously, she has said of her images, ‘I am trying to make other people recognize something of themselves rather than me’, declining to title any of her works since the creation of the series Untitled Film Stills, 1977-1988, considered a contemporary art classic. In this series Sherman impersonates female stereotypes from B movies and classic Hollywood and foreign films of the 1950s and ‘60s.

To date, Sherman has worked across twelve ‘series’ of loosely themed images, photographing herself, and latterly dolls, artificial body parts and human surrogates, as fashion models, gothic fairy tale characters, subjects of Old Master paintings, disaster victims, sex objects, surrealist masks, the West Coast nouveau riche and clowns.

After Image presents 10 photographs by Cindy Sherman, four from the series Untitled Film Stills, 1977-1988; two from the Fashion series; one from History Portraits, 1988-1990, and three from Masks, 1996-2001.

A survey of 10 years’ work by Cindy Sherman is currently being shown at The Serpentine Gallery, London. This exhibition excludes the work featured in After Image.

Francesca Woodman photographed her body, in relation to space and objects, often reducing it to a blur and rendering it absorbed or engulfed by the surrounding environment. The results were psychological rather than physical portraits.

Born in Colorado, Woodman studied at Rhode Island School of Design, including an Honors year spent at the school’s Rome campus, and became heavily influenced by surrealism, particularly the work of Man Ray and Breton, and Italian Futurism.

The artist’s fascination with photography began at the age of 13 when she began taking her own portraits. From these emerged an apparition-like sense of dissolution within the frame that was maintained within Woodman’s work until her suicide nine years later in 1981. ‘I am interested in the way people relate to space,’ Woodman said.

Employing a slow exposure speed, the artist photographed herself jumping, bending, waving and stretching often in empty rooms – the intimacy and preciseness of her imagery imbuing her work with a haunting ‘vintage’ quality. After Image features 25 works by Francesca Woodman, many of which have only recently released from her archive.

Francesa Woodman’s work is currently on show at Galerie Drantman, Brussels. This exhibition excludes the work featured in After Image.

Francesca Woodman,
Providence RI, 1975-78
Courtesy George and Betty Woodman

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