Masks: Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun Exhibition Visit

On Saturday 13th, me and the LoT-D girls went to see the Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Which was focused on masks and identity, as well as gender.

“Under this mask, another mask. I will never finish removing all these faces.”

Claude Cahun, 1930

This exhibition brings together for the first time the work of French artist Claude Cahun and British contemporary artist Gillian Wearing. Although they were born almost seventy years apart and came from different backgrounds, remarkable parallels can be drawn between the two artists. Both of them share a fascination with the self-portrait and use the self-image, through the medium of photography, to explore themes around identity and gender, which is often played out through masquerade and performance.’


After the exhibition I asked the LoT-D Girls to summarise some of their feelings on the show, which showed a variety of self portraits by Claude Cahun, who took on a gender neutral name and Gillian Wearing’s mask series in which she puts on silicon masks of family members, and recreate photographs.


‘Presently existing in the past

Mask under a Mask

Shadows and empty spaces’

Zoe, one of the LoT-D girls, also reflected a lot on the curation in the gallery, and how the lighting added to her experience, for example in a room showing Gillian Wearing’s polaroid’s of herself taken over many years she commented how our shadows appeared as we looked around – like ‘shadows of former selves’.  

She summarised the exhibition as being about how ‘even under masks we are still wearing a mask.’



Alice, another LoT-D Girl, commented she much preferred Claude Cahun’s work, and found Gillian Wearing’s work to be ‘self obsessed’ and felt less engaged once she knew Gillian Wearing had not made the masks. She did comment on Wearing’s polaroid series though, taken from 1988-2005, and how the fact the photos weren’t made to be shown originally, and were for personal reflection made them more special and engaging.


‘Transformation into gender – neutral figure

Masks to adopt an alter ego

Other personalities 


Trapped bodies

Female Identities ‘

Above are Berrivan’s relfections, the other LoT-D girl present.  We all talked more about multiple selves, and versions of self – were the artists putting on another identity or was it already an aspect of their identity? We also talked about how these things could shift over time. The idea that a ‘past self’, might feel like another person to us entirely.

 LoT-D Girls and Rebecca Lindsay – Addy, Live on the Drive Artist


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