Louise Bourgeois’ Awakening

Raimon Ramis, “Louise Bourgeois.” 1990. Courtesy the artist and Telegrah.

From yesterday’s Observer there is a fascinating article about the “epidemic”, “affliction” and “nocturnal literacy” that is insomnia. Included is a bit on Louise Bourgeois (Season 1), who the journalist Kate Kellaway coins the “Queen of Insomnia.”

She has been an insomniac since 1939 and, even in old age, has fierce things to say about it: ‘I am insomniac, so the state of being asleep is paradise. It is a paradise I can never reach.’ Yet, between November 1994 and June 1995, she produced a remarkable body of work, The Insomnia Drawings. Some are soothing abstracts – Bourgeois described working on them as ‘a kind of rocking and stroking and an attempt at finding a kind of peace’. Others are sharper, more figurative (of water, houses, the figure of a woman). These are a way of dealing with traumatic experience (she had an abusive father, a traitor of a stepmother and, in her youth, tried to drown herself).

Curator Ann Coxon of Tate Modern believes insomnia is crucial to Bourgeois: ‘She has to keep herself in that traumatised place to keep creating such amazing work.’ What I find most interesting is that for Bourgeois art is an alternative to sleep: her drawings process trauma as dreams are supposed to do.

To read Kate Kellaway’s entire article, please click here.