Mark Wallinger defies laws of gravity with exhibition at the Freud Museum

Mark Wallinger. Picture: Karolina Urbaniak/Freud Museum

Mark Wallinger. Picture: Karolina Urbaniak/Freud Museum - Credit: Archant

Zoe Paskett speaks to the Turner Prize winning artist about his new Freudian exhibition

There aren’t many famous sofas throughout history. But there is one familiar to most, and it sits now in red brick Hampstead house with two blue plaques on the wall.

The chaise longue resides now at the London home of Sigmund Freud, inventor of psychoanalysis, who lived at number 20 Maresfield Gardens with his family in the final year of his life

Freud has inspired many an artist and many a playwright – the latest in this long list is Turner Prize winning Mark Wallinger, who has brought his exhibition Self Reflection to the museum.

Nominated for the Turner Prize in 1995, Wallinger won in 2007 with ‘State Britain’, a direct representation of Brian Haw’s decade long Parliament Square peace protest.

He created his installation with the help of hundreds of photos and 15 people over the course of six months.

“It was happenstance when the Tate gave me a call saying that someone had dropped out,” he says.

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“They’d contacted me and a couple of other artists and asked if we had any ideas so I came up with something fairly rapidly.

“The very night after I proposed it the police came and took all of it away so then it became a sort of necessary act to keep it in the public eye.”

Wallinger’s most recent UK exhibition took place at Hauser and Wirth and was titled ID – an ambiguous nod towards both self-identification and Freud’s term, id, which refers to the infantile, unconscious, impulsive part of the human psyche.

The artist’s fascination with Freud has influenced his work long before this collaboration was thought of.

“I’ve been in analysis for the last couple of years so it’s quite a personal involvement and personal journey.”

The exhibition, curated by Natasha Hoare, consists of four pieces, one of which is a mirror placed on the ceiling of Freud’s study.

“I wanted to estrange everything in here as well as confirm the positions,” he says.

“Mirrors are weird things because they can always surprise you when they shouldn’t do. They suck in every last vestige of what’s in front of them.

“Someone walks effortlessly across the ceiling and even gravity changes.”

“It’s part homage and it’s part a way of trying to see something anew really and trying to place yourself within a scene that’s real and unreal at the same time.”

The enormous mirror reflects every corner of the room, from the patterned carpet to the figurines on the desk and books on the shelves.

Wallinger creates a physical iteration of the psychoanalysis patient’s self reflection, building on Freud’s musing that the doctor should, like a mirror, simply reflect the patient back on themselves.

Through the window, in the garden stands one of Wallinger’s self portraits, which will be a permanent addition to the museum. The sculpture is a letter ‘I’ built to Wallinger’s exact height from glass reinforced polyester and set upon concrete base, titled Self.

“We have this word ‘I’ which is a personal word for ourselves which, paradoxically, we share with everyone else,” he says.

“We live in an age where we write to each other more than ever seemed likely when I was growing up.

“We thought phones would be the big thing and now everyone is emailing constantly.”

Self is based on an engravers font and has a strong serif creating the base and peak that encompass the sculpture.

Wallinger has created a series of self portraits over the years, another of which hangs in the museum.

“I’ve always imagined what it would be like to be a patient in Freud’s study,” says Wallinger.

“It was great to be invited to make something out of this incredible study.”

Self Reflection runs until 25 September at the Freud Museum in Hampstead.

Mark Wallinger will give a talk about his work on 19 September, doors 6pm for 7pm start.