By a friend’s suggestion, I paid a recent visit to the Freud Museum, which turned out to be unexpectedly inspiring. So, I thought I’d document it here as an interesting find and a worthwhile place to visit if you get the chance.
On a leafy road near Finsbury Park, Sigmund Freud’s last home contains some exhibition rooms, a beautiful garden, and one particular room where he had worked by himself and with his patients. In this long, dimly lit room were his analytic couch resplendent in rugs and cushions, a heavy library full of science, art, history and language, some da Vinci and Rembrandt prints, and most compellingly a vast collection of small and strange artefacts that he had collected in Vienna, most of a vague human shape but others in shapes of implements and other odd forms.
There was something magnetic about the artefacts: somewhere in between a simple nugget of natural material and a recognisable subject, they said so much more to me than a fully realistic, detailed figurine. I felt that they held a much larger presence than their material reality: it was not so much the objects’ iconic meaning, or that they were around twenty centuries old, so much as the sensation that one got from that particular kind of half-formed figure. When you can’t quite put your finger on it – on its scale, it’s form, it’s expression – this is where I feel a visceral experience, a particular sense of time.
I keep coming back to Bridget Riley’s essay entitled ‘The Artist’s Eye: Seurat’ (1992), where she wrote,
‘we cannot sometimes be sure of the identity or even of the actual forms we are looking at [in Seurat's work]. To put it another way, by confronting us with an experience just beyond our visual grasp, with something unfathomable, the im-perceptible in short, Seurat asks: What is that we are looking at? … he fabricates the answer to the question by holding up a sort of mirror; and what we see is ourselves looking.’
It is this ‘seeing ourselves looking’ that intrigues me and drives my creative practice. Seeing those strange artefacts at the Freud Museum spurred me on to the British Museum, where I found many eroded stone works and reliefs, many from the Parthenon and others from the Nile Valley, some of which had become so worn that they held both the pure materiality of crumbly stone and the smoothness of a carved image, alternately in and out across the stone relief picture plane. There was an amazing sense of flicking back and forth between two things, and again, I became aware of the process of seeing, and how we make sense of our perceptions.
Above is a drawing I made just prior to the visits, where I was really interested in creating a sensation for the eye, and below is a drawing made on my return, where I looked to figure out a way of describing a surface-object that could create a kind of visceral sensation. I’m excited about following these paths and seeing where they might lead.