Artists: Tracey Emin, Cecily Brown, Nathalie Djurberg, Tiina Heiska, Sarah Lederman and Helen Carmel Benigson (Princess Belsize Dollar)
Curator: Philippa Found
7th September – 5th November 2010 ROLLO Contemporary Art, London
7th November – 5th December 2010 New Hall Art Collection, Cambridge
Flux is the second exhibition in the three-part series The Body in Women’s Art Now, curated by Philippa Found, Gallery Director of ROLLO Contemporary Art.
The Body in Women’s Art Now exhibition series looks exclusively at artworks created by women artists since 2000, in which the body is central. Each exhibition focuses on a different theme surrounding the use and representation of the body in women’s art today, to explore the issues emerging in body-based art of the last decade. Over the series, the exhibitions present a new generation of women artists using the body in art.
The exhibitions will travel between ROLLO Contemporary Art, London and the New Hall Art Collection, Cambridge – a public exhibition space within the University of Cambridge, and home to the largest collection of work by women artists in Europe.
The Body in Women’s Art Now: Part 2 – Flux investigates artworks that present the body as a site of instability and flux, and includes works by Tracey Emin, Cecily Brown, Nathalie Djurberg, Tiina Heiska, Sarah Lederman and Helen Carmel Benigson (Princess Belsize Dollar). The exhibition brings together up and coming artists alongside established artists, working in a range of media, from abstract painting and multi-layered video works, to sculptural works. Examining the focus on the body of the adolescent in art, transgressive and rebellious bodies, and the uncontrollable and sexual nature of the female body, the exhibited artworks reinterpret and disrupt traditional representations of the female body, to present a contemporary body of flux, freedom and sexuality. The exhibition investigates how the body in flux becomes a vehicle to explore the complexities of contemporary feminine identity, to celebrate female sexuality, and at times explore the darker side of human morality.
Cecily Brown’s gestural expressionistic paintings of bodies in sexual acts reinterpret, disrupt and add a witty feminine twist to the male-dominated tradition of abstract expressionist painting that is so heavily associated with male virility and sexuality. Tracey Emin’s Suffer Love drawings present the body in a state of erotic flux and celebrate the female body, and desire. Natalie Djurberg’s claymation video shows the collision of fantasy and nightmares of femininity and bodily desires, enacting fantasies of revenge, aggression, sex, lust, debauchery, and transcendence. Tiina Heiska’s paintings of herself as an adolescent recall fairy tales with a voyeuristic and sinister undertone, and explore the ambiguous bodily state between childhood and adulthood, presenting it as a time of flux and dark awakenings. Sarah Lederman’s paintings of nude and semi-dressed teenage girls in bedrooms fight a tradition of male presentations of ideal femininity as neat, pretty and contained. Lederman exploits the materiality of paint to create nudes in drippy oils that re-present the female body as a site of instability and fluidity; as messy and free. Helen Carmel Benigson (Princess Belsize Dollar) is a video installation artist and rapper who layers colour, print and sound to create hyper-hysterical, dream-like installations. Layering images of the female body with explicit sexual texts and visceral sounds, the works present a contemporary feminine identity highly engaged with youth culture and the MTV generation, in which public and private, inside and outside, pleasure and pain, parody and true identity collide.
Flux follows the critically acclaimed exhibition Embodied (The Body in Women’s Art Now: Part 1), which included works by Sigalit Landau, Regina José Galindo, Jessica Lagunas and Lydia Maria Julien, and was on show at ROLLO Contemporary Art from October 2009 – January 2010, travelling to the New Hall Art Collection from January – February 2010.
The Body in Women’s Art Now series forms part of the current climate of exhibitions aiming to review contemporary art from the perspective of women artists – such as elles@centrepompidou at Pompidou Centre, Paris, WACK at MOCA, Los Angeles, and Global Feminisms at Brooklyn Museum, New York – and aims to give significant women artists greater visibility in the United Kingdom.
In the United Kingdom it seems significant gaps still remain in our national collections, which continue to display predominately male artists’ works. Statistically speaking, since 2000 whilst approximately 62% of students graduating with degrees in the creative arts in the UK each year have been female, in the same time period, only 29% of solo exhibitions at the Tate Modern have been of women artists’ works. Similarly, out of the 116 artists who have been short-listed for the Turner Prize since its origins in 1984, only 35 have been women artists¾ and only three women have ever won the Prize. A 2009 article in the Guardian noted that of the 2,300 works on show in the British National Gallery just four of these are paintings by two women artists. Meanwhile at Tate Modern, which holds the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in the world, women artists represent just 12% of the entire collection. Although this may be better than in the past, it seems there is still a distance to go to equality.
The Body in Women’s Art Now series aims to contribute positively to this current dialogue surrounding women’s art and aims to extend the analysis of the body in contemporary art.