Matrescence is the process of becoming a mother. It refers to the physical, emotional and psychological changes which happen after giving birth. As you might imagine, this opens up a vast and complicated terrain, which is explored to great effect in this exhibition. The work runs the gamut in emotional terms from the powerful joy of an appropriated image of Therese Crowning in Ecstatic Childbirth by Hermione Wiltshire (see image) to the grim business of trying to negotiate a termination in Poland, Hippocratic Betrayal by Laia Abril.
Perhaps the most striking work is Mine (2012) by Leni Dothan (see image). It shows a woman in a white shirt kneeling with her arm round a little boy, who is stretching up trying to reach the kitchen knife which she holds aloft. The glittering knife points downwards though which gives the image a frisson of danger. The work is both elegant and memorable.
On the other hand Birth of Barbie by Helen Chadwick (see image) is light years away from the aesthetic pleasure offered by her ravishing Meat Collages. Here the red plastic doll has been stuffed upside down into a sea of bleeding liver. It is a horrible image.
Even more grotesque is Schwanger 1 (Pregnant 1) by Annegret Soltau (see image). She has been disfigured by a crudely stitched and twisted carapace placed across her body which shows her violently disfigured. The dolls of Hans Bellmer seem anodyne by comparison.
The only overtly happy work is the set of three images called Supermatka (Supermother) by Elzbieta Jablonska. She wears Batman, Superman, and Spiderman costumes and the chubby little boy on her knee looks super contented. As a little dig at male adolescent culture it has real charm.
This is such an interesting show and it made quite an impression on me. There is not just a lot to see but also much to think about. It is on for more than another month so I hope you get a chance to catch it.
Matrescence curated by Catherina McCormack is at Richard Saltoun, 41 Dover Street, London W1S 4NS until 21 December