Until the 23rd of September this year, Tate Liverpool is giving you the opportunity to visit a brand new exhibition, displaying the works of Austrian artist, Egon Schiele and American Photographer, Francesca Woodman. 10 years after Tate’s Gustav Klimt exhibition, this new display of work takes inspiration from Klimt and marks another decade of Tate’s valuable presence in Liverpool. Exploring all aspects of ‘Life in Motion.’
This unique exhibition looks at how these two artists focus on portraying different perspectives of the human body. Famous for his elongated figures and experimentation with angles of the body, Schiele’s drawings are arguably his most interesting work. Woodman’s photography is particularly fascinating in the way it portrays the relationship between women and their bodies, working in black and white and incorporating subjects into their surroundings.
Both Woodman and Schiele started producing artwork at a very young age. One photograph shows Woodman at the age of thirteen, capturing her transition into adolescence, shying away from the camera but powerful in her control over it. In other works, Woodman’s interest in Gothic literature contributes to ghostly figures, timeless in their movement, as well as experimenting with glass mirrors and other structures to manipulate the body.
Woodman and Schiele’s work encapsulates not only the physical state of the subject, but also their state of mind. Schiele was arrested for the abduction and seduction of a minor in 1912, but only ever charged on the grounds that he exhibited ‘erotic’ drawings in a place accessible to children. The female body is quite literally explored from all angles in Schiele’s work, so naturally poor old law enforcement got a little upset.
As well as Gothic influences, Woodman also explores renaissance and baroque motifs in her work during her time in Italy. The angel series displays the female body as an ephemeral figure between earth and heaven, in constant motion. Woodman’s grad-show pieces are placed at the end of the exhibition, conceptualising resurrection and transition through studying the body alongside a swan. The swan has become a profound motif in a range of feminist works, these particular photographs reminded me of Angela Carter’s novel: Nights at the Circus.
While Woodman considers the surroundings of her subjects part of her artwork, Schiele’s figures are separated from their backgrounds. This preference in style emphasises the body’s complexity, and Schiele’s facination with disproportionate limbs and the contorted framework of the body. It is often difficult to tell which angle Schiele is drawing his subjects from, for example a woman drawn from above may appear to be upright rather than lying down, encompassing the concept of bodies in motion, despite the still image.
Tickets for the exhibition can be found here.