Until the appearance of her giant spider at the opening of Tate Modern and the retrospective staged there two years ago, Louise Bourgeois was an artist with an international reputation whose work - much of it involving fabric and dealing with ideas about being a woman - was rarely seen on these shores. Now, at the Hayward Gallery, comes Annette Messager, another female French artist with an international reputation whose work etc, etc.
Messager once claimed, "I am the peddler of chimeras," and the Hayward's rooms are full of curious and grotesque half-creatures. There are rows of dead birds wrapped in tiny capes, fabric body parts that inflate and deflate, puppets, pelts and soft toys pierced with crayons. There's a lot of pain here but, curiously, a sense of fun too. This is playing as a child might play - instinctively and often cruelly, but on a grand scale. Like a child, Messager's fantasies and compilations of toys have the aim, overt in her case, of discovering her own personality.
As in much of her work, the idea is not particularly subtle. Titles such as Collection to Find My Best Signature and How My Friends Would Do My Portrait show that this is all about identity of the most atavistic kind. Indeed, she sees herself as a series of personalities, from handywoman to trickster, artist to collector, and her pieces are produced by these separate selves.
In theory, this is a leaden way of articulating a commonplace but the works themselves do not hector the viewer. A sampler embroidered with proverbs, a collection of marriage announcements from newspapers with Messager's name superimposed over the bride's, assorted sewn and knitted hangings may all refer to women's traditional roles, but seen together it is the breadth of techniques rather than the message that is most intriguing.