An undeniably introspective exhibition by the Tate filled with a myriad of small pieces letting the work and ideas between these two artists to flow organically. Their combined weight adds substance to how adept they were in conveying themselves and inner core ideas.
Presenting Woodman and Schiele together for the first time on this scale shows their enduring relevance in our modern age, with modern-day issues such as identity, gender and mental health at play.
From the age of 13 and holding her very own camera Woodman started a short and extremely productive lifetime of work as the subject of her own photographic imagery. Best known for using her body as both subject and object, merging herself into her surroundings or becoming blurred due to moving in long exposure times. Fleeting glimpses of Woodman makes the viewer acutely aware of her body and its placement. Quite deliberately engaging the male gaze yet also shunning it, almost provoking a reaction, but on her terms.
Schiele was similar in that he resolutely did things his way. Rebelling against conformity during his own short life. His subject, style and provocative content never changed even when forced to become more commercial. Seeing his portraits altogether highlights the garish lines of colour and unusual compositions – to the left or right, hardly ever centre facing. His models bodies are tight and highly strung. A stand-out piece depicting the head only at the very top of the space shows his penchant for breaking the rules of traditionalism.
As a prominent member of the Vienna Succession, Schiele developed a daring style. His graphical, almost desperate need to draw what he saw clings to your legs like a crying child. And there is a child-like quality of innocence and raw beauty brought to his drawings so it’s no wonder they were frequently labelled as pornographic.
Woodman on the other hand worked in black and white giving her images a subdued and grounded atmosphere. Exuding an eccentric, romantic take on the nude body, one of deep intensity and shrouded in intrigue.
“It’s a matter of convenience, I’m always available.”
Experimenting with historical art ideas about the male gaze and the woman as a mere tool, her scholarship time in Rome focused her attention on influences from classical to surrealist. In Woodman’s ‘Angel’ series she went on to make wings out of white sheets in order to reveal hidden energies in the body. Alternately in another body of work, she uses props such as wrapping sellotape tightly around her legs or crouches behind mirrors to deny the viewer’s gaze.
Despite using different techniques at different ends of the century, Woodman and Schiele offer an up close and personal dialogue with the viewer. Clearly unflinching in their determination to bring about a heightened awareness of the human figure.
On until 23rd September
Albert Dock, Liverpool