Home Truths to the Public Eye

The Photographers’ Gallery, 16 – 18 Ramillies St, London W1F 7LW.

Exhibition goes through to January 5th 2014.

November 14, 2013
by Helton Vilar
Hannah Putz, Untitled.

Hannah Putz, Untitled.

An interesting approach to motherhood is proposed by ‘Home Truths,’ the current exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery. Artists have been invited to pose with their children, most of them unclothed, in different scenarios. The exhibition is curated by Susan Bright.

This is an emotional and intimate portrait, perhaps too intimate at some points. Sometimes contemporary art tries to explain how is to be a mother or, in some cases, to be a son. We do not need to go back centuries to say this a recent topic of artistry; since Michelangelo’s La Pietà, art has played out a drama to describe the problem of human conception and also responsibility. In the 1980’s, American artist Jenny Holzer wrote a tearing poem Mother and Child, in which she elucidates the pain and restlessness of an inescapable and unique connection; a deep and deadpan territory.

Possibly, things have changed since then. Jenny Saville from the Young British Artists generation has already painted, with her Lucian Freud style, faces and bodies from her own motherhood experience. Luckily, artists presented at ‘Home Truths’ show us how this storytelling can be something more simple and sincere. As the Berlin artist Fred Hüning has done – she previously ‘documented’ her intimate life in other works, but now the foreground of her pictures are extended to her baby, who becomes the unconscious protagonist of her artwork.  A similar effect is invoked by the Spanish artist Ana Casas Broda, who uses a special and delicate photographic treatment inferring a naked body communion, with her two boys.

Other artists continue the narrative, giving pictures of what motherhood appears to be. This is not only on being a mother as subject, but also a collective experience of body and space. Elinor Carucci shows the feeding of a baby (body); Elina Brotherus and Janine Antoni present the mother/woman into the house (space). Each of these narratives could easily serve as the initiation of other stories and relationships.

American photographer Leigh Ladare brings a shocking portrait of his mother, having sex. An ex-model, Tina Ledare looks comfortable in front of the lenses. She represents the resurgence of the post-natal woman; now, it is time for her son to depict her rebirth. Some may call this final piece of the exhibition a controversial one, whilst others can see it as a way to reconnect these roles. It is a fact that Home Truths stretches the concept of motherhood over time, far away from the poetry of ’embracing the baby.’ Now it get closer to the ultimate universal transition of life; Woman becomes Mother. This exhibition demonstrates the ongoing battle.

Photography has the power of telling whilst preserving the authenticity of the author, even when presenting the most basic roles of the humanity. If much has been spoken about “public art”, this slice of reality could easily be named ‘private art’, when even exhibited for public eyes. These artworks don’t lose their intense and raw sincerity, to which the audience seems to pay some sort of respect.