The first time we showed Francesca Woodman’s work was in 2007 in a series of artist pairings, alongside the Richard Serra film included in part 43 of ‘The Unseen Masterpiece’ yesterday. On the face of it there’s quite a leap from one to the other, but behind the machismo of Serra’s lead-catching hand there’s a sense of yearning in the film which chimes with the spirit of Woodman’s photography. Incidentally, at the time of making the film, Serra was a friend of George and Betty Woodman, Francesca's parents, and was a regular visitor to their household, although Francesca herself would have only been ten at the time.
Like Smith/Stewart whose work preceded Serra’s in this sequence, Francesca Woodman used her own body as the principle subject and material her work.
Despite her early death aged 22, in 1981, she created an extraordinarily mature and absorbing body of work in which ideas of presence and absence and longing are entwined in fragmented and haunting images.
We made a solo exhibition of Woodman’s photographs in 2009 and more recently alongside Zanele Muholi, Oana Stanciu and Cindy Sherman in 2019. In 2011 we included a few examples alongside an exhibition of paintings partially inspired by her work by Alison Watt. This exhibition ‘Hiding in Full View’ – was accompanied by fragments of a sonnet on Woodman, written by the poet Don Paterson and painted onto the gallery walls. One of them seems especially appropriate: “We don’t exist – We only dream we’re here – This means we never die – We disappear”.