One of the most remarkable aspects of Francesca Woodman’s astounding photographs that she produced between the ages of 13 to 22 is that it forms such a cohesive body of work. There is no juvenilia (in the sense of immature work that shows future potential), no false starts or dramatic u-turns. It appears that as soon as she took her first self-portrait at 13 that she had her own unique vision which she followed for the next nine years, never wavering and never deviating from once.
Growing up in an artistic household, both her parents are artists, the precocious Francesca had a thorough grasp of Dada and Surrealism by the age of 11. Francesca acknowledged the influence of Surrealism on her work, particularly Man Ray’s portraits of Meret Oppenheim and Andre Breton’s seminal Surrealist novel Nadja which was accompanied by photographs by J. A Boiffard. One of her early photographs features herself dressed up as Alice In Wonderland, the influence of which upon the Surrealists cannot be over-estimated. Also evident is the influence of the Gothic novel. Francesca favoured slow shutter speeds and long exposures which resulted in a blurry, ghostly images inhabiting the ominous, decrepit buildings where she set her photographs.
The above photograph was taken during her student year in Rome. A stunningly stage-managed yet otherworldly self-portrait, her posture hanging from the door lintel suggests both an ascending angel and a crucifixion. This is not the only question this magnificently enigmatic photograph raises; every object in the room seems to hold a coded significance.
Tragically Francesca, suffering from depression which was exacerbated by a broken relationship and the lack of recognition that her work had received, committed suicide by jumping from a New York loft window at the age of 22.
Let’s us drink and play a game
It might set us free
Matching and mixing
Till we’re maxed all tapped out
Spun around oozing sugar
The sickening unto death sweetness
Of invading all pervading lust
We will ache for all tomorrows
To come and then some
But it’s OK, it’s alright
Let it reign
An era of indolence
Till the waters rise
To wash it all away
Then its time to rise and shine
Start again fresh and clean
With newly laundered souls
And sparkling crystal eyes
A touch that thrills to the slightest tremor
In the nearest galaxy
And hear the rhythm section
Of the spheres and the stars
Shimmering points of light so tight
As they improvise upon creation
This is really some concoction
Drink to the depths this witches brew.
The startlingly titled and utterly bizarre photo-series Ode to Necrophilia by Hungarian-Mexican photographer Kati Horna, featuring as a model the brilliant Leonora Carrington, was published in the short lived but innovative Mexican avant-garde magazine S.NOB in 1962.
Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Hungary in 1912, Horna lived in Berlin and Paris before moving to Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War where she was empoyed as the official photographer for the CNT-FAI. Her groundbreaking war photographs that intimately portrayed the effects of the conflict on the civilian population was frequently featured in Spanish Anarchist journals Umbral and Tierra y Libertad as well as internationally. In 1939 she fled with her husband the Spanish anarchist José Horna, first to Paris then to Mexico. Mexico was the first choice for a number of left-leaning artists and intellectuals escaping Europe’s nightmare slide into fascism. It was here that she met Remedios Varo, the wealthy art patron Edward James, Benjamin Peret and later Leonora Carrington.
S.NOB was founded by literacy radicals Salvador Elizondo and Juan Garçia Ponce and featured works by the Mexican avant-garde and European emigres with Edward James helping with funding to ensure artistic freedom. It ran for seven issues in 1962.
Below is a selection of images from the series. A quick note regarding the umbrella, which would appear to refer not only to Lautreamont’s famous dictum in Les Chants De Maldoror, ‘As beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table’, but also to one of her many outstanding photographs of the Spanish Civil War, Rally at Via Durutti, which I have also included.
After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Bordeaux, Jean-Marie Poumeyrol taught mechanical draughtsmanship before being let go from this occupation for failing to pass the nude drawing exam, receiving an ‘F’ in this subject at the same time that his disturbing and morbid erotic paintings were becoming highly prized collectors items.
Allied with the artists of fantastic realism, H.R Giger and Sibylle Ruppert are two notable examples of the style that I have previously written about, Poumeyrol developed his style away from erotica, painting mysterious interiors devoid of human beings but filled with the ghostly traces of absent inhabitants, noticeably numerous fetishistic drawings adoring the walls. The hushed surroundings are bathed in a peculiar pellucid light; gradually the hint of horror that these paintings undoubtedly contain reveals itself in the eerie calm of these meretriciously rendered spaces
Below is a selection of paintings covering various stages of his career. Information is rather scarce regarding dates and titles, surprising for such an excellent artist of singular vision, however that is the vagaries of reputation and fame.
There always comes the moment
When you receive the confirmation
Of what you half intuited all along
No more evasions or denials
The truth is written on the wall
Writ large and quite plain to see
You are entangled within the trap
Held fast now there is no escape
It was all a set up a complete illusion
A vast conspiracy centred on you
Always and forever you alone
How can you ever begin to fathom
The depths you are plunging into
You never even knew it was a game
Until I showed you the aces in the hole
And demanded payment or satisfaction
So many questions you wanted to ask
But crumpling beneath the realisation
Of all I had in store you remained silent
Submitted docilely to my desires
However perversely strange or subtle
All your striving had come to naught
Think of this as a complete education
Now maybe you will understand
What I would sacrifice for pleasure.