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Jane McAdam Freud, Flesh & Stone, New School House Gallery, York, until August 25
IN the last weeks of Lucian Freud’s life, his daughter Jane made sketches of the artist on his death bed.
For the past year, since those intimate sessions last July, she has been creating a new body of sculptural work that boldly confronts her relationship with her father, together with issues concerning her own identity as both an artist and a Freud.
The resulting sculptures can be seen in the exhibition Jane McAdam Freud: Flesh & Stone at the New School House Gallery, Peasholme Green, York.
Gallery owners Robert Teed and Paula Jackson linked up with Jane through a mutual friend, arts journalist Patrick Kelly.
“Patrick first met her last year and said he had some friends who ran a fantastic gallery in York with a great eye for sculpture and she said she’d be delighted to exhibit here, even though she was already working towards a show at the Freud Gallery in February,” says Robert.
“Some pieces came straight here from that exhibition at the Gazelli Art House in Dover Street, Mayfair, and we also have her most recent Animans and Huminals pieces, which haven’t been shown anywhere before.”
Jane McAdam Freud had grown up – and established her artistic career – known simply as Jane McAdam. She is the eldest of four siblings born to Lucian Freud and Katherine McAdam, and after her mother abruptly left her father when she was eight years old, she moved from Bayswater to Roehampton in south east London, whereupon Jane did not see her father again until she was 31.
Some time afterwards, around 20 years ago, she asked if she could draw him and he told her she could when he was “on his last legs”.
By the time of their reunion, Jane had established herself as an accomplished and complex visual artist in her own right with an artistic practice rooted in sculpture but ranging freely across the disciplines.
“Trained at the Royal College of Art, she creates art deeply engaged with her family history, with Freudian theories of the subconscious and with articulating a narrative of her internal struggle with who she is and what her family name represents,” says Robert.
Several weeks after the death of her father, Jane spoke of how working on EarthStone Triptych, the first of the new series of sculptures, “helps me to keep him alive”.
“It started as a way of coping with losing him, but as the year has passed, the striking thing is how the artistic process has helped Jane to accept her father’s death and begin to move out from under his shadow,” says Robert.
“She normally works slowly but it’s as if the floodgates have opened and the result has been one of her most exciting creative periods – and it’s definitely been cathartic because the series has reached its end, as Jane said on the opening night. So this exhibition is the full stop to it, along with a show that opens in Milan this week.”
The works in Flesh And Stone are full of abundance and uninhibited spontaneity, celebrating life at the same time as confronting death, says Robert.
“Fashioned from a gritty red stoneware clay, the sculptures exude a tactile, sensuous quality that alludes both to the painted flesh of Freud’s portraits and our own ‘feet of clay’,” he says. “In essence they are about earth and how Lucian Freud has returned to the earth, echoing ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’.”
Materially speaking, says Jane, we are all made from matter: “Whether we consider the process of sculpture or the ethereal question of death itself, there’s a powerful link between the works and their universal interconnecting themes.”
She once talked of Lucian as her being greatest supporter but oppressor, a state she felt only in her head, but his death has given her creative freedom, one that will see another burst of work imminently.
This time, however, Lucian will not be the central figure.
“Jane has just come back from a trip to the Middle East that will inspire her new work,” says Robert.
Symbolically, when Jane signed her Duo Head Triptych, the signature part later came away from the sculpture. “It’s like my father is shedding me again,” she told Robert.
• Jane McAdam Freud, Flesh & Stone, New School House Gallery, York, until August 25.