After Image poses a direct and simple question: what is femininity? The reply comes from four important woman artists: Cindy Sherman, Ana Mendieta, Francesca Woodman and Simryn Gill. They defy – each in her own way – the conventions of femininity, overturn conventions and tell us that femininity is not a constant. Their series of images challenge the viewer; who or what says what women should be and look like and can anyone or anything dictate it in the first place? They all pose for their own cameras. The works date from the early 70s to the present and key works are included from each artist.
The most famous of the artists in After Image is the publicity-shy American Cindy Sherman (1954). Her work has made her face known all around the world. Like a chameleon she adapts different roles of women, taking on the appearance of a commuter on a crowded bus, the star of a B movie or donning a intriguingly chilling look. She parodies, criticises and claims that femininity in the TV era is a social performance dictated by culture and the media, a daily masquerade in perpetual change.
Ana Mendieta’s (1948–1985) art consists of events, intensive rituals and yearning for her own roots in Cuba, all recorded in photographs and video. She questions conventional female beauty by pressing her face against glass or donning a moustache and a beard, appropriating that element of masculinity at the same time. In the series Silueta, a woman leaves her gradually disappearing mark on the ground or in the landscape; Mendieta’s art endorses the view that women have a closer relationship with nature than men do. Tragically, she died in middle of her work in suspicious circumstances.
Francesca Woodman’s (1958–1981) mysterious, almost surreal images merge classic female beauty with timeless symbolism. Sadly, the passion of this young American expired with her suicide at the age of 22. She often depicted herself as a hazy figure, merging into the background like a ghost, as if denying her physical existence. Her melancholy images often include a symbolic animal, plant or mirror.
Simryn Gill (1959) merges nature and culture. Born in Singapore, raised in Malaysia and living in Australia she yearns for just a scrap of identity. In Malaysia she marches into the homes of people from different social classes to realize that it is not the same thing to be inside than looking in from the outside. In her series Vegetation, she tries to become a Texan by wearing a head-dress made of indigenous plants. Instead of the essence of femininity, Simryn Gill focuses on cultural homelessness.
The exhibition was compiled by the gallerist Glenn Scott Wright from London and was previously displayed in slightly different form at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh.
Guided tours: Free of charge in Finnish on Wednesdays at 17 and on Sundays at 14; in Swedish on every second Sunday of each month at 13. To book a private tour at another time, please call tel. +358 9 310 87003.