Sculptor Jane McAdam Freud on war, family and getting to know her great granddad Sigmund
PUBLISHED: 06:38 23 October 2014
Award winning sculptor and artist Jane McAdam Freud is the daughter of artist Lucian Freud and great-grand-daughter of Sigmund Freud.
Her exhibition Dance of Disapproval War Works runs at the London Jewish Cultural Centre until November 10 and includes works created while she was artist in residence at the Freud Museum in 2005/6. She talks to Features Editor Bridget Galton about art, family and legacy.
BG: Where does the exhibition’s title come from?
JMF: Dance of Disapproval for the part of the exhibition for the LJCC, was inspired by the fact that Ivy house was once the home of the famous ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova. She came from humble beginnings and I identified with her in many ways. Mostly in the way she suffered disapproval due to fitting into society, nice and neatly. In this time of world conflict one cannot help thinking about what conflict may be or mean. My way is to look at things with a non-didactic lens, without judgment. I chose to look at conflict in terms of approval and disapproval as it is related to why we go to war.
The war works title is because of two things. Firstly, the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. The second very practical reason is that my works are split across two venues. Two of my sculptures were on show until Sunday (c19th) at the Freud Museum in Hampstead in their exhibition Why War?
BG: Many artists draw on their biography for inspiration and yours seems particularly fertile ground for exploration – what is the relationship between your work and your family background?
JMF: We are what we are and everyone does what they have to in the sense of what they are driven to do. Rationalisation seems to me to be a way of justifying that drive. I feel driven towards the family theme. I don’t feel it is my place to question it while it provides me with so much inspiration. A physical manifestation of this is that, with my inheritance, I’ve renovated and brought back to life a house in Freud’s birthplace, Pribor, in the Czech Republic (formerly Freiberg in Austria) less than 100 yards from the house where he was born. I love the connection between past and the present.
BG: Did you have any reservations about accepting the artist in residence role at the Freud Museum and how did working among Freud’s collection of art and antiquities influence you?
JMF: I was already going into the museum regularly and making drawings from Freud’s collection so it seemed a natural transition when the museum board offered me the residency culminating in the exhibition Relative Relations. During those 20 months, I studied Freud through his sculpture collection, looking at what he collected, at how and where he placed them and what he may have been trying to say via these installations. I got to know my ancestor as a great-grandfather who was also interested in sculpture (albeit in the collecting antiquities sense). I held and contemplated those same ancient works he held and contemplated while formulating his theories. It was an incredibly transporting experience!
I began to understand why he has inspired so many artists from the surrealists to the conceptualists, Dali to Kosuth. Freud was I feel, one of the first conceptual artists and the placements of his collected works in their pairs and their groups can unquestionably count as early installations.
BG: The exhibition marks the 75th anniversary since Sigmund Freud’s death. He only lived in Hampstead for a year yet had a huge impact and the area has become a hub for psychoanalysts – how do you view his legacy?
JMF: After reading his letter to Einstein I think he would have expected nothing less than the fact that we are at war again. He recognised those aggressive forces and after all as he pointed out, in his incredibly eloquent way, it is easier to fight than to think let alone talk! His legacy is bound up with showing us a way to talk.
BG: Have you ever felt the Freud name placed an undue burden or expectation upon you?
JMF: A burden is perhaps too strong a concept but I do find that people project what they think or feel about Freud onto me sometimes, which I have somehow got used to and now understand, so I take it lightly.