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YBA's in Focus: Sam Taylor Johnston, Bram Stokers Chair II, 2005

I absolutely love this print by artist turned director Sam Taylor Johnston. You may know her as the director charged with directing the first in the 50 Shades of Grey franchise or the hit Nowhere Boy BUT before her sensational films were released to the world – Johnston was part of the group known collectively as the YBAs.

“I wanted to become an artist because it meant endless possibilities…art was a way of reinventing myself.” STJ

The work is part of the series Bram Stocker’s Chair, which shows the artist in different states of falling in and over a chair in the centre of a bare room.

The series can be classed as self-portraiture and yet, the artist never shows her face throughout the series. The series is believed to be a reaction to Johnston trying to find her sense of self after she recovered from not one but two bouts of cancer in the late 90s/early 00s.

Sam herself states that the series - “finds a way to show the fragile interior supports of exterior grace” something which women in particular relate to. A fine balancing act between internal and external identity issues and something we are always fighting with.

When asked why her face is hidden in each work, Sam stated she was “hiding the grimacing pain – because I think that destroys the photograph”.

The poses were achieved by the artist suspending herself in a harness and then digitally removing it after the desired pose was achieved. The pain she refers to above is her personal pain undergone in trying to complete the series. Sam even made a behind the scenes series which shows her in the harness trying to achieve her desired shots.

The series is called bound and I would highly recommend having a google to see it.

I think this work is beautiful and completely emphasis with the artist and her loss of / battle with identity; something

2020 has made us all either face up to OR put a face on.

What do you think of the work?

Jo McLaughlin

April 2021


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