PRESS RELEASE: 'Liberties' at the Collyer Bristow Gallery

25 Jun 2015

An exhibition of contemporary art reflecting on 40 years since the Sex Discrimination Act

Guler Ates, Helen Barff, Sutapa Biswas, Sonia Boyce, Jemima Burrill, Helen Chadwick, Sarah Duffy, Rose English, Rose Finn-Kelcey, Alison Gill, Helena Goldwater, Joy Gregory, Margaret Harrison, Alexis Hunter, Frances Kearney, EJ Major, Eleanor Moreton, Hayley Newman, Freddie Robins, Monica Ross, Jo Spence, Jessica Voorsanger, Alice May Williams and Carey Young

Collyer Bristow Gallery 2nd July – 21st October, 2015 (open office hours)

Private view 1st July, 2015

Works by over 20 women artists reflect the changes in art practice since the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act (1975). Whilst some artists confront issues that galvanised the change in law, others carve their own place in a male dominated art world. From the radical movements of the 1960s and 70s to the current fourth wave of social media inspired feminism, the artists question equality and identity in very different ways and through different mediums. The works exhibited present a snapshot of the evolving conversations that contribute to the mapping of a woman’s place in British society.

The earliest works on show by seminal female artists including Helen Chadwick, Rose English, Rose Finn-Kelcey, Alexis Hunter, Monica Ross and Jo Spence, reflect the radical feminism of the 1960s and 70s and highlight a women’s movement that focused predominantly on issues of female subjectivity.

Whilst Hunter’s ‘Suffragette’ print is specifically political, the 1975 image of Rose Finn-Kelcey, ‘The Restless Image – A Discrepancy Between the Felt Position and the Seen Position’, is characteristic of the ambivalent nature of art practice. The confident handstand on the beach, inspired by an old photograph of her mother as a young woman, belies the possibility that the potential for collapse remains ever present.

From performances, both live and documented, including works by Monica Ross and Helena Goldwater, through to film, photography and objects, the complexities inherent in the personal and public discussion around the portrayal of the female body are captured. A still from a film by Jemima Burril shows her being processed through a car wash to become ‘The New Model’.[1]

Recent graduate, Sarah Duffy, researched the practice of belly speaking, which appears within various ancient-religious texts.[2]Women were believed to have been possessed by male demons, enabling them to speak without moving their lips. Duffy explores this connection with modern performers, including Marilyn Monroe.

For Helen Barff the use of her body is an unseen presence in her sculptural works. Initially interested in the space between skin and cloth, she made a series of works when pregnant, aware of her changing body and physicality. New work for Liberties sees Barff casting the parts of the body where you might rest a baby - your hip, lap or shoulder.

The works of Sonia Boyce investigate language and look at the subjectivity of archiving and memory. Her work for Liberties, from her ‘Devotional Series’, is a wallpaper of names, gathered from the general public, of black women involved in the music industry. Whilst the women may question being categorized as ‘woman’ or ‘black’, the finished work with its weight of names, illuminates the lack of diverse representation that continues across mainstream media.

Alison Gill’s sculpture is a remake of a piece from 1993. The original work, ‘It’s All Over’, was symbolic of ‘girlishness’ as it included the artist’s long plaits in a vitrine. Twenty-two years after this work was sold and ‘disappeared’, the artist has recreated it using hair bought on the internet, creating a multi-layered narrative.

From Eleanor Moreton’s portrait paintings of celebrated storytellers (Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone and Gillian Welch from the ‘Absent Friends’ series), through to Guler Ates’s ongoing investigation of the power of the veil in contemporary culture, and the highly personal narratives of Sutapa Biswas; the exhibition highlights the individuality of each artist’s practice, whilst reflecting on the issues unique to being a woman, being an artist, and questioning one’s place in the world. We wanted to remind ourselves of what has been fought and won over the years, and what there is still to do.

[1] Screening of ‘The New Model’ on the opening night 1 July 2015

[2] An event to accompany Liberties will take place at Collyer Bristow Gallery on 24 September and will include a performance by Sarah Duffy.

Please contact the Collyer Bristow Business Development Team on +44(0)20 7470 4408 for further details.


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