I have always found something about Louise Bourgeois' work daunting, not unreachable or unreadable, rather a psychological block within myself. Something within does not want to relate to it and refuses to open the doors for an internal dialogue. A fear that the eternal optimist inside might be corrupted by allowing a rapport with her work.

In this wary frame of mind, I entered Hauser and Wirth where Louise Bourgeois' new show resides. However, weary due to a heavy dose of antibiotics my immune system was weak, the work found no resistance and was free to penetrate my defences. Sublimation (2002), a series of collages on sugar paper, seized me with its beauty and I was overcome by its power for more than an hour without a break or release. The 'book' Sublimation is made into diptychs, on one side abstract shapes of pastel colours, on the other the artist's own handwriting in charcoal. It recounts an event she had witnessed; a story of deceit and fear as a boy is overwhelmed by his parents' arguing and copes with these tragic events by cleaning up with a broom what they had broken. Ultimately though, the tale is of the artist's own reason for being: she concludes the 'book' with 'I feel that if we are able to sublimate...we should be thankful...the artist is blessed with this power'. The drawings are of anthropomorphic shapes which echo breasts and vaginas and mirror in their line the two sculptures (both Untitled, 2004) hanging from the ceiling. These are made out of shiny, bulky aluminium shapes. Rather then seem discordant they complement the low 'tech' of the drawings and demand a dialogue between the two. One cannot help but see in them a three dimensional representation of the confusion and chaos felt by the two participants of the event told in the drawings around them.

Not content with the psychological overload of Sublimation, the show carries on through to the underground level. Leaving Hauser and Wirth main room opulence behind and walking down the stairs, I am hit with a smell of ammonia and dampness. Images of thrillers and horrors are conjured up and I wonder if perhaps I have gone the wrong way. The feeling of trespassing and having stepped in a forbidden area is further emphasised by the coming into view of what used to be the vault. Co-ordinating my way around the heavily reinforced door, another surprise awaits: a series of felt tip drawings entitled Be Calme (October 1st-31st). They are in strong contrast with the dirt and filth of the surrounding space by being encased in white frames and placed within a dazzling white room. They sing against the pristine walls with their saturated, concentrated colours. I find myself retracing the obsessive lines, drawn into the world that created them and wondering if they are somehow interconnected with the work upstairs. Who is speaking now, the artist or the little boy? Hypnotised by the hatching of verticals and horizontals marks, I find it hard to tear myself away and I quietly thank the antibiotics for having opened an entry point for Louise Bourgeois wonderful work.

Gaia Persico



Top: detail of Sublimation, 2002, mixed media book of 15 pages, colored pencil and gouache on paper, 104.6 x 147.7 cm.

Above left and right: Untitled, 2004, aluminium, 182.9 x 106.7 x 116.8 cm.

Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth Zurich London,
image Louise Bourgeois.

Hauser & Wirth Zurich London, 196 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9DY, UK.