Monday, 21 February 2011
"Maybe the existing forms of art for the ideas men have had are inadequate for the ideas women have."' Susana Torre, 1976
An Exhibition of contemporary Women Artists who practice in Wales, celebrating the ideas they have in 2011
Curated by Ruth Cayford.
Artemisia Gentileschi lends her name to this extensive exhibition, which brings together the work of numerous women artists currently active in Wales. She was not only an extraordinary Renaissance artist, but also occupied a key role in the recovery of women artists’ history begun by feminists around forty years ago, who sifted through centuries of neglect, not only to uncover forgotten women artists, but perhaps more importantly, they identified shared expressions for the women artists yet to come.
Art’s forms and content have not been without issues for women artists, since both had been defined by male artists. It took a further ideological leap for women to shift from battling with exclusion to a positive questioning of approaches to creativity, emerging from a wish to express their differences, differently. That women might re-define art’s practice by exploring what had hitherto been invisible or defined as ‘not art’, produced some provocative work. Stylistic innovation was perhaps not the most important of these differences, the ‘ideas that women have’ most certainly was. It became clear that historical frictions bound in to the two roles - woman and artist - presented them with unique challenges. What has become clearer now, is that these challenges have enriched their work.
Women’s greater participation in art has transformed art, flipping the subtly nuanced labels sometimes used to relegate their work to obscurity in the Fine Arts (charming, decorative, domestic) entirely on their heads. Refusing hierarchies, they have explored (using that old feminist adage) the personal with the political, intimacy with the allegorical, sensitivity with edginess, the fragile with the dark, fantasy with fetish. In short their creative strategies are as diverse and multi-textured as women themselves, and are abundantly evidenced in this exhibition.
The complexity of human relationships, including self-identity, is navigated through memory and fantasy, and is just as likely to be intensely personal as it is universally symbolic. Desires for connection are also explored through responses to place or location, and might reference the landscape of history, or even pre-history, or the personal space of the domestic. The body, that well contested area, is still of immense importance to a number of the artists here, particularly evidenced through performance based art; its potential for ritual significance seems endless. Drawing is clearly immensely valued as a visualising tool, but no more so than stitching, printing, constructing, photographing, filming and mark making from the fragile to the urgent.
But never forget that whilst our recognition of the ideas and creativity which women have brought to art may seem a recent understanding, in truth Artemisia was already there; it is recognised that her intense portrayal of powerful women differed from interpretations by her male peers. The contest we now face, in a time when arts education is seriously threatened, is that of ensuring that the gains women artists have made in the past forty years are never underestimated and continue to influence art. This exhibition is a timely reminder that Artemisia’s legacy needs to be wholeheartedly celebrated.
Head of School of Contextual Studies & Fine Art.
Swansea Metropolitan University.
Featuring Sue Williams, Rozanne Hawksley, Catrin Webster, Di Setch, Dilys Jackson, Virginia Head, Rebecca Spooner, Adele Vye, Fern Thomas, Amanda Roderick, Gemma Copp, Anna Barrett, Jacqueline Alkema, Corrie Chiswell, Becky Adams, Susan Adams, Kathryn Ashill, Kathryn Campbell Dodd, Heather Eastes, Annie Giles Hobbs, Ruth Harries, Penny Hallas, Mary Husted, Daphne Hurn, Ann Jordon, Tiff Oben, Luned Rhys Parri, Jane Taylor, Miranda Whall, Dawn Woolley, Sue Hunt, Rebecca Gould, Eirian Llwyd, Lisa Jones, Nicola O’Neill, Ruth McLees, Bella Kerr, Helen Booth, Jean Walcot, Jo Alexander, Wendy Couling, Su Roberts, Janet Walters and Lisa Tann.
The Exhibition continues until April 9th.
For more information please contact:
Aaaahhh, the life of an artist... Sitting in my warm studio, looking at the view of sea and sky through my large picture window, and with galleries and buyers knocking on my door every day. Great eh? Why would anyone choose to be anything else?
Sadly that dream is usually a little different from reality. Not to say that my work isn't in demand, but the time in between exhibitions and shows can be anything but plain sailing.
I've been having a good ol' think about this, as I've just left an Arts and Business event where I engaged in some full on networking to promote my May exhibition. At least twice I was asked about the amount of painting time I get in my studio each week, and I guess the answer to this is that some weeks I don't get very much at all.
The life of a practising artist is often less about the art and more about the business of art... something I was never taught in art school. There is nothing glamourous about it (well, ok, perhaps the occasional opening night is a little swanky), and there is definitely nothing easy about it. Indeed, the longer I'm an artist, the more I believe that half the battle to a successful career comes down to bloody minded persistance.
There is sometimes sadly very little art making going on in my studio, but instead there is a lot of serious business: marketing, researching, writing proposals, meetings, accounts, admin, packing and posting, the list goes on! Sometimes it feels as thoug my life could be filled with these tasks and I would be completely busy without making any art at all!
At first this can all seem pretty daunting. I wanna be an artist to create! I didn't sign up for an office job! But wait, what's the point of making art if you have nowhere to put it and no one gets to see it? Very few of us would say they had a fulfilling art career if their work never came out of storage. So that's why I ended gritting my teeth and getting down to the serious job of making myself into a one-girl business.
And guess what? I found that I enjoyed it! I'm an artist but I now I am also confident as a business. Let's face it, when looking for work, us artists are often also in direct competition with other arts professionals such as designers and architects, who usually have extremely polished and professional images. How can we expect to be treated equally, no matter how good the quality of the art we create, if we are not prepared to get our image and other skills up to scratch?
So why choose this life?
Do it if you are compelled to make art. Do it if you want to work really hard at something you love. Don't do it if you think it's an easy life or all about making art. Don't do it if you think it's a quick track to fame and riches.
|New work for Artemisia show|
I love to paint and I love to create so the fact I can work hard and turn it into a career has always been what I wanted to do. But to prove it's not all about the painting, here's a short run down of everything I've done today...
8.20 am. Studio. Design of new work for group show.
11.00 am. Studio. Completion of painting, mirror plating, wrapping and packing of work for this Friday's show, Artemisia at St David's Hall, Cardiff.
12.30 pm. Lunch. Respond to emails, make phone calls.
2.30 pm. Collect painting from framer.
3.00 pm. Deliver work to gallery. Meeting with exhibition officer.
4.30 pm. Writing of proposal for arts based training day.
5.45 pm. Arts and Business Wales networking event.
8.00 pm. Write blog!
Whew! An artist's work is never done! And not even half the day was spent actually painting! There are other days too, when I don't even get to my studio as I'm devising and running projects, workshops and arts training sessions elsewhere.
Are you bored yet? Surprised? Or does this little glimpse into a day of my life give you a new appreciation for the amount of time, energy and resources that actually go into a piece of art that you purchase?
I'm interested in the experience of ather artists too. Perhaps this blog can begin a larger dialogue about what it takes to devote your life to making art. What kind of support do you think is necessary for artists to flourish as viable businesses? How much, as a society, do we value (or not) art and the making of art?. I believe our contribution is critical, and as a society we need to do more to support the path of individuals who dedicate their lives to the tricky business of making art.