A belated Frieze week review by Sian Matthews

Well over a month after the big event I still have a lot I want to say and discuss, good and bad, about all things Frieze 2019.

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This year’s fair had a focus on the climate crisis and demonstrated this by including artworks such as Patrick Goddard’s ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ which uses hundreds of dead parakeets to ram the message home.

However, I haven’t seen much in the way of the fair itself addressing its carbon footprint, the only steps it seems to have taken this year is to switch to using biofuel.

One of the interactive projects this year was by the organisation Arto LIFEWTR who thought it was a brilliant idea to use PLASTIC bottles to display artworks by emerging artists and hand them out to visitors, along with pins by artist John Booth in exchange for posting about them on social media. I feel like I must have missed something on this because it just seems too tone deaf to be a real thing? I literally saw these bottles discarded everywhere all week.

Including at TOAF and Tate modern.

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I can’t understand why a fair with a focus on the climate crisis included an interactive installation which was centred around plastic bottles, something which as a society we should be using less of. Also, as I am writing this I am sat with a stack of handouts, newspapers, maps, all the paper that gets thrown at you while visiting the fair.

For a fair talking about climate change and carbon footprints there was a huge amount of waste. Something to think about.

Moving on to something more positive, One of the live artworks which I particularly enjoyed was an interactive artwork in which the participant becomes part of the piece after being asked to hold a feather duster perfectly still and to concentrate on not moving the feathers. Of course, this is impossible as the more you try the harder it gets. The feathers pick up the participants heartbeat and breathing so that you physically cannot hold it still. After the frustration subsides and you concentrate more on the movement of the feathers in time with your own heart beat it becomes quite relaxing, almost meditative.

 

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Woven: a curated set of stands at the far end of the fair focused on artists who work with fabrics, sewing, embroidery and other textile mediums was, I thought, one of the most thought provoking parts of the fair, and was pleased to see a less mainstream medium being celebrated. Included were Chitra Ganesh, Monika Correa and Cian Dayrit as well as many others. Working with themes and ideas such as Gender, Power, myth and reality, and historical narratives.

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Included in Woven was artist Angela Su who I completely adored and who’s work investigates perception and imagery of the body through metamorphosis and transformation. The works on display were almost like scientific drawings, delicate and beautiful, yet so real they were a little uncomfortable to look at. Looking closer at these drawings you realise they are incredibly intricate embroidery and honestly, I could have starred at them all day.

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Last year I mentioned that I was concerned that the representation of women at the fair was more of a fashion statement and less about real change. Although I stand by my concern, I was pleased to see that a lot of galleries embraced diversity this year, this was mainly the smaller galleries and stands but it was there, nonetheless. I noticed a lot of attention being given to artists from African nations which was fantastic to see, and I appreciated the introduction to some new an exciting artists.

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I also attended The Other Art Fair for the private view and at the risk of upsetting some people, I don’t have much to say about it. I always enjoy going, catching up with artists and friends but recently I feel like it is getting repetitive. I’m not saying it’s a bad fair, I would just like to see something new.

Finally, I visited the new Hyundai Commission at Tate modern which this year features ‘Fons Americanus’, a 13 meter tall fountain by artist Kara Walker. Inspired by the Victoria memorial outside Buckingham palace but exploring ideas and themes resulting from the transatlantic slave trade. I have long been a fan of Kara Walker and to see her work in the setting of the turbine hall was something quite special. Its open until April so I recommend a visit!

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“Living with” and Transformation: A Studio Visit with Artist Carolina Khouri by Corrina Eastwood

We continue with our studio visits of up and coming and established talented artist now, with a visit to the live/work space of painter Carolina Khouri.

Carolina is based in the Tottenham warehouse district very near to Sweet HQ. It was a pleasure for me to visit Overbury Rd this week, all in a completely sober state! Over the past ten plus years I have hung out at many of the warehouses in the district at parties and arty gatherings. There has been a turn over in my time of friends and art acquaintances that have lived and worked, and then moved on from the interestingly eclectic and ramshackle spaces of the warehouses that line one side of the road.

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I have lived near by for long enough to see walls built, kitchens added, spaces reconfigured and re realised for next generations, and of course the cross over and departure of old friends, new friends and then friends of friends! My warehouse living days were done in Dalston, long before it became too expensive to even rent a flat, let alone a space to work and live too.

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Carolina and I swap notes on the pros and cons of communal living with other creative’s as she welcomes me into the most amazing of living spaces. Half Lebanese half Polish, Carolina has lived in the UK for 15 years, and in the warehouses of Overbury for ten of those years. She recollects the building of the space to create what it is now, and the difficulties of keeping industrial properties warm! The communal living and kitchen space feels very warm to me, as is the welcome. I’m immediately feeling at home, understood and inspired. “I didn’t move to Britain, I moved to London” Carolina comments, and it feels to me she represents that which is so great about our city and the pockets of creative communities that hide out here. To me she feels to have not only found her London but also been very pro active in creating it. We agree to avoid talking about the “B word” (Brexit) too much. But of course even the avoiding of politics leaves us with the unavoidable issue of values. 

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Art and creative living appears to have been the language she has used to find and also manifest what she has needed, and we talk about her use of and fascination with colour in her practice, and of her ongoing process of trying to “learn the language of colour”. She explores with me the individuality of meaning found and expressed through different colours, both personally and culturally and I am then struck by wanting to consider her relationships to others and audience as an impact on her practice further. She goes on to explain that her studio space is on the path through the warehouses shared workspace, into the living space.

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She says she enjoys this and invites feedback on her paintings from her housemates and guests as they pass through. She speaks of the easy way in which this interaction influences her creations yet not explicitly or definitively. This seems to parallel her explanations concerning the way she uses the altering space and light to “live with” her paintings for a long time in between her process of direct making. This “living with” feels to directly link to Carolinas relationship to ideas of transformation in her work, which I can feel embodied in her painting, when we move into her studio to view them.

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From the Landscape of My Mind Series

This “transformation of feelings” that she describes as an aim in her practice and as being an antidote to the very idea that anyone would want to “buy her problems”, is very present in the aesthetic of her current work and her striking, bold and unapologetic use of colour. There is something of the somatic in viewing her large scale paintings and I find myself thinking again of this relationship of self and others as I fall into the rich depth of her resin pieces, while also being brought back by the feedback of the viewer that they create in their reflective surfaces.

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From the Landscape of My Mind Series

Carolina and I spend effortless time together looking at her current and then past creations. We do this while talking about life and art and how one responds to the other. We both speak of our privilege in being able to do what we do. Of the struggles we have faced but the “blessings” that we have been granted.

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From The Landscape of My Mind Series

Carolina speaks of the generous amounts of money sales of her works have raised for auctions for charities close to her heart. This all feels to be ‘held lightly’ by her in relation to her practice but for me feels so relevant and embodied in the pieces that I am very privileged to view.

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Street Archeology Series

 

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Street Archeology Series

I end my visit feeling energised and inspired but in a way that is unusual for me. In an instagramable world of endless lattes and side hustles, Carolina seems to really embody the idea that creativity does not always benefit from existing so demandingly closely to productivity. That we could all benefit more from exploring a greater sense of “living with”, to create depth and richness of both our art and experiences.

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An Interview with Jessica Nash by Sian Matthews

An artist working predominantly with photography in east London, Jess works with themes such as touch, skin, sex and cancer and uses these themes to explore her own relationships, fears and curiosities on an incredibly personal level. On the surface her photographs are very clean, beautiful to look at and are reminiscent of the surreal and eccentric images used to sell perfume or jewellery in editorial magazines. However, once you peel away that serene exterior it is clear that her images are a way for the artist to explore and understand the sometimes hard-hitting issues she faces in her personal life. Like many artists Jess uses her work as a way to document and catalogue her struggles as well as a form of healing and understanding. I met up with Jess to discuss the topics and motives behind her work and to get to know her a little more as an individual, away from the sometimes gloomy subject matter of her work.

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Infectum Pellis, Jess Nash

Infectum Pellis is an ongoing project in which the artist is further examining her relationship with skin and touch. These photographs show the skin as tense and restrictive, reflecting the way haphephobia, the fear of being touched causes the artist to feel in her own skin. Jessica’s practice is heavily influenced by her relationship with skin, sex and cancer.

 

It has been couple of weeks now since I met up with Jess in Loughton to get a coffee and I had planned to start our interview with some silly, light-hearted questions just to break the ice and to  have a little fun, the ice was broken however when I found myself waiting for her after she found a hoard of old Polaroid cameras in a charity shop and her excitement got the better of her (who doesn’t get excited over old cameras in charity shops though, right?).

Once we were sat down, coffee in hand, we started to chat about how Jess currently works for Polaroid and generally had a catch up. I should mention here that I have known Jess for a couple of years now, having met after being invited to exhibit alongside her and a few other artists at ‘The Body Exhibition’ in Peckham. An exhibition exploring the relationships between artist and body which Jess had organised in conjunction with her degree.

The body exhibition

 

Once that was over with, we started the interview with some quick fire questions!

 

Q. Do you have a favourite artwork or an artwork you feel drawn to?

A. I don’t think I have just one favourite piece, there are a few that come to mind. But the book ‘Pond’ By Clair Louise Bennett, although not an ‘artwork’ really stands out and is important to me.

 

 

Q. Is there a song, a piece of music or a band that inspires you?

A. Again there’s a few, I love listening to Ludovico Einaudi in the studio and when I’m working, its something easy to listen to and have on in the background that isn’t too distracting. I also enjoy listening to James Blake for similar reasons and i also feel inspired when listening and dancing to old Motown.

Picked for the blog –

 

Q. Can you name 3 artists who have inspired or informed your work?

A. Mia Dubek, Alix Marie and Marina Abramovich. I’m not necessarily inspired by them anymore but they have informed my work in the past. Particularly with Marina Abramovitch, I once loved her work and she inspired me a lot but now I’m not sure I like her at all, she seems to have an arrogance about her now that I don’t like, I know that’s quite an unpopular opinion and very controversial because everyone seems to love her but I am just not into it anymore. (It is controversial but… I completely agree!)

 

Also see: https://miadudek.co.uk/Publications

 

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve, and why?

A.I have a lot. But definitely people who breathe too loudly, or people who breathe on you on the tube. I really hate it when you can feel someone’s breath on you.

 

Q.If you could choose, what super power would you have and why?

A. Errrm, it’s not really a superpower but something I would love is to have the ability to have eaten without actually having to stop to eat. I find stopping what I’m doing to eat very time consuming and I wish I could eat without having to eat. If that makes sense?

 

Q. Do you have a favourite museum or gallery? Or an exhibition you have visited recently that really stood out to you?

A. I think one of my favourite galleries is the König Galerie in Berlin because of its architecture. It has super high ceilings and the light is amazing.

 

Galerie-Berlin

 

Q. What do you dislike about the art world as a whole?

A. There are too many people trying to break into the industry and technology makes it too easy and too difficult. Its so over saturated because its so easy to put yourself out there via social media, like Instagram, that its also difficult to get noticed, whether its for your artwork or for a creative job.

 

Q. Other than art and photography, what interests do you have?

A. Since finishing Uni I have been pushing myself to try new things as a way to stay creative, its hard to stay in that mind set when you don’t really have a space to work in that’s dedicated to art, like a studio or other people to work with and bounce ideas off of. I have recently taken up crochet, needle punch and other yarn-based crafts. I recently started going skateboarding too because its out of my comfort zone and I am trying to push myself. Other than that I also enjoy doing a lot of stereotypical ‘hobbies’ that people say they do, except I actually do them, like reading, cooking, yoga and gardening.

 

Q. What is your earliest creative memory?

A. The first photo I remember taking was of my family on the beach, I was about 4 I think. I cropped my dad’s head off by accident.

 

Q. If you could visit anywhere on earth, where would you go?

A. Anywhere with a lot of stars! There is a place in Ireland where you can see the most stars anywhere on the planet because of the way its positioned. I’d love to take a trip there. I also really like Cornwall. I wouldn’t go far, just somewhere beautiful.

 

Moving onto the more serious questions I wanted to talk about Jess the artist, I wanted to find out about her thought processes and the motives, themes and inspirations behind the work she creates. So I started off broadly..

 

Q. To start, what exactly is it that you do? In terms of what mediums do you use, what do you aim to explore and what do you want to portray to the audience?

A. I take photos as a kind of therapy, I find that it’s a way to talk about something and communicate with the world without being static. I often think of myself as being very monotone in the way I talk about things and the way that I explain things, photography is an easier way to be expressive and show more feeling.

I also chose to use film because it’s much more tactile than digital, you end up with a physical object to hold and a process to follow – it mimics the idea of being about touch.

 

Old Wives Tales

Old Wives Tales is a diptych of self portraits. The photographs show a perhaps uncomfortably literal version of the artists memories. From a young age, the artist would bathe with her twin brother and whilst she would make ‘potions’ with whatever shampoos she could find, her brother played with rubber sea creatures. Their mother once told them a story of how the rubber octopus might use his suckers and tentacles to wrap around their feet and pull them down the plug hole. The second photograph shows of a hoop earring being pulled, looking back at when she was told that to wear them would meant that she would one day ‘rip’ her ear out.

 

Q. What themes do you use in your work and why?

A. I used to work with skin as an object – how you use it to communicate with the world. My twin brother was diagnosed with melanoma, skin cancer, it really started to affect me and unavoidably my work began to be influenced by both his struggle and mine. I also use my work to explore the tense and restrictive way my haphephobia, the fear of being touched, causes me to feel. At the same time I also started to investigate how skin can be used to convey more of a sexual message, separate from my other work.

 

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one of two

Through my series One of Two I was able to show the relationship between my twin brother and I. Shot in our home studio, The series uses natural light to show the organic nature of our relationship and how although we are growing together, we are also growing apart. Using a white background allowed me to show him as one. This project was a way for me to acknowledge how independent we have become from each other.

 

Q. And what made you think to make art about this subject matter?

A. It came completely naturally, when something so significant is happening with your home and personal life you can’t help but let it spill over into other things, in some ways making work about everything that was going on was cathartic, it was a way to release it all into something, it was freeing. While I was making this work I also had a separate project that was sort of documenting a relationship and a person who was absolutely nothing to do with my home life. I feel like I had to have this project running alongside my other work as a distraction.

 

Q. Where do your ideas and inspirations come from? What kind of research to do you?

A. I read a lot, both literature and poetry. Weirdly I don’t look at other photos or photographic artists, I get a lot of inspiration from watching videos, films, specifically home videos. I also like to just talk to people. You get a lot of information just by talking. And people watching. I guess my research style is very non traditional, I like to collect things and getting lost in Instagram.

 

Q. Are there any inherent qualities that your work has that you dislike?

A. I don’t like that it has a trendy aesthetic and a trendy colour pallet, it means that people don’t ask the right questions and a lot of the time they take it at face value. I also feel like it needs to have more writing to accompany it at shows because people don’t get it. But that defeats the object really.

 

Q. What is the most memorable response you have had to your artwork? (coincidentally, Jess asking to exhibit my work after seeing it at Free Range the year before is mine!)

A. My work was shown in the largest photography exhibition in China, they asked for my work to be sent as a digital file with printing instructions which I did. They ended up printing it on the wrong paper, the wrong size and then hung them in the wrong order. It was crap and I was really disappointed. What I thought was a great opportunity was ruined.

One of my brother’s friends has recently got his own place and wants to buy one of my photographs and not just because we’re friends, he genuinely wants to buy my work and it’s a massive compliment!

I’ve also got my work onto the front cover of the Royal Photography Society magazine which is a huge achievement and I am very excited about.

 

Royal Photographic Society

 

Q. What is your dream project? Art or otherwise?

A. I really want to try printing onto latex and making garments. With latex though, it’s extremely hard to work with and expensive which is holding me back. I don’t have a space to work in at the moment or anywhere to store stuff.

 

Q. What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

A. ‘You are responsible for what you’re doing’, there is no use getting stressed about your art work because it is only what you make it. Sometimes it is good to be reminded of that. And also ‘you’ve got time to do what you want to do’

 

Q. Professionally, what is your goal?

A. Right now my goal is to have my own studio space – to find people who I can collaborate with – I just want to be making. I also don’t want my job to be my artistic practice, I want there to be a break between the two.

I would love the opportunity to exhibit my work in the RA Summer exhibition and I want to go back to Uni and study for a MA at Bournemouth.

 

Q. And lastly, what’s next for you? What can we expect to see from you in the next year or so?

A. I want to start a new Polaroid project, maybe something to do with collage. I like the medium, I like that its instant. I’d like to start putting myself forward for more opportunities and exhibit my work more, possibly across Europe?

 

I just wanted to finish by saying a big thanks you Jess for her time and if you want to explore Jess’s work further you can do so by visiting her website or via social media, links below!

jessicanash.co.uk

Instagram – jess.a.nash

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet ‘Art Interviews Evelyn Jean – by Charlotte Elliston

Sweet ‘Art has worked with and exhibited hundreds of amazing artists over the years. You’ll see their work on our social media and website, and if you are able to make it to some of our exhibitions, you’ll see their work in real life and maybe get to meet them.

We know that lots of our followers, readers, and friends aren’t able to come and see all of our exhibitions in person. You might have loads of questions about some of our artists, and their work. So we have decided to bring some of our wonderful artists to you – through the medium of blog! Over the next year or so, we will be talking to a varied selection of visual artists about their work and career and will be publishing the results right here.

First up, I went to meet Evelyn Jean in the Hawksmoor bar in Knightsbridge. Evelyn has been exhibiting in Sweet ‘Art shows for 5 years. His work first came to our attention when he entered our open submission for our Seams exhibition, and it has continued to intrigue  and excite us ever since.

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Artist Evelyn Jean

Evelyn Jean had an early creative influence in the form of his mother, who was a painter. However, like many of us when we are young, he wanted to be a “rock ‘n roll star” and his early career developed into a musical one. He was front man in a band which gathered a cult following, but found that the compromise needed when creating with a group of people left him unsatisfied artistically; having seen work by the performance artist Marina Abramovic, Evelyn was keen to introduce elements of performance art into his music, feeling that much of what he wanted to communicate with an audience was ‘unspoken’ and could (or should) not be easily communicated via the lyrics of a song.

From the world of music, Evelyn Jean first began his visual art career making films. You can view a selection of these on his website, and also informed me that these were part of a recent exhibition called L’Age D’Or at the Kunstkapel in Amsterdam. Watching the films at home, I can see his rejection of the verbal, as many of his films (which all feature himself as the main protagonists) are in the form of the early cinema’s silent films. The actor communicates emotion and plot via his facial expression and movement within the frame, whilst the soundtrack sets the mood and tone. I particularly enjoyed his film First Date which starts off as a light, humorous piece about a man falling in love with a mannequin – almost rom-com in tone (and yes, I AM a fan of 80’s classic Mannequin), then degenerates into a dark take on the Pygmalion myth, and finally ends as something more akin to Bride of Chucky. The fact that it draws on these filmic tropes to explore objectification and sexual violence towards women makes it an interesting piece for us Sweet ‘Arts. Evelyn says that he feels his films often come from a darker place than his paintings, dealing more directly with fear and trauma and expressing these as an actor as well as an artist.

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Still from First Date (2013)

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Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Léon Gérôme (Image courtesy of The MET)

From his filmmaking, Evelyn then began to move towards painting. He has had no formal training in painting, he “just went to Cass Art, bought some canvas and paint and said let’s go!”. He says he found having no training difficult – isolated from the artworld and having no contacts, he almost gave up. (We are rather glad he didn’t). He says that drawing is only a very small part of his practice – unlike many artists, he doesn’t sit and sketch, and prefers to write. I find this interesting as text and words do seem key to his work, both in his films (where it is used either as subtitles at the bottom of the screen, or flashcards to introduce a scene) and paintings. In paintings such as Abandoned Parisian Rescue 79, the text ‘Please forgive me I can no longer live with my nerves’ is emblazoned across the top third of the canvas, whilst two (?) figures sit in the back seat of a car, possibly chased by a man with a torch. Are they running away from a sinister figure, or criminals being chased by the law? Does the text express their feelings, or ours? The painting comes from a series titled What is the Script and Evelyn Jean’s relationship to film, narrative and language can be seen throughout this series by his use of storytelling, framing and other filmic devices.

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Abandoned Parisian Rescue 79 (2017)

The play with language and text can also be seen in the unusual (and sometimes long) titles of this work. Evelyn says that the titles sometimes come before the painting and spark the idea to begin a new piece of work. The words can be drawn from the lyrics of a song, or even something like a sports interview, which seem relevant to another aspect of life. He says that he wants the titles of the work to help explain something of the painting, or the feelings behind it.

Lots of the titles of his earlier works are in French, which he studied for 5 years as part of a French Studies course at the Institut Francais and from this has a love of French new-wave cinema. He says that lack of confidence in the early stages of his career led to the use of the French language to title his work – he could say what he wanted to say but still remain hidden. The first work he submitted to us at Sweet ‘Art was the piece Je sais maintenant que le vie est pourrie. As none of us involved in the selections speaks French, the initial meaning was certainly hidden to us. I recall we then used Google translate to find out it means I now know that life sucks and felt the ‘Oh I get it’ moment of being included in the work.

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Je sais maintenant que le vie est pourrie (2014)

Much of Evelyn’s work explores themes of marginalisation. He says that he doesn’t like the way the artworld is headed and rejects the over-commodification of fine art. He sums up his thoughts on the art market as “white walls, white faces, white wine”, feels that gallery space has become completely unaffordable in London for artists looking to self-organise, and aims for his work to subtly critique this. He feels that, as a Londoner, his work should reflect the city and its diversity. He makes a conscious decision to paint all ethnicities he sees in his work, as there is lots of artwork (even contemporary art) displayed in London where everyone in the painting is white.

Evelyn defines himself as from a working-class background and would love to see art going in the direction where the people he grew up with would be interested in art. He feels that one of the issues art has is that it is either seen as street-art or art for rich people. His recently completed piece This is the Dizziness of Freedom shows the disconnect Evelyn sees in society today. The two sides of the painting show a factory and glass office towers overshadowing a terraced street, with a sports stadium at the end. The painting explores ideas of the fear of difference and change, the two opposing sides of the street representing the affluent middle classes (the businessman and the hipster) separated and looking across at the more ‘run-down’ houses where the black family and the pensioner live. He describes the stadium as representing the structures people build as a means of escapism from everyday lives and jobs they hate, but also acknowledges that people tie themselves down to avoid the fear of having too much choice.

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This is the Dizziness of Freedom (2018/19)

Sport is a surprising element which crops up as a recurring theme in Evelyn’s work. I say surprising, but am also sure that this stems from my own assumptions and prejudices, as why should artists not also have an interest in sport. He is a keen basketball fan, although doesn’t like sports culture. His piece They tell me that it’s real, then ask me how I feel? features a hairdresser or stylist trying different heads onto a body for size, while a basketball falls through a hoop. Evelyn says that the piece is about being unable to face reality, and wanted to emphasise the fragility of the heads by reflecting the size and shape of them with the falling basketball.

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They tell me that it’s real, then ask me how I feel? (2017/18)

With his work, Evelyn Jean hopes that the viewer is able to see aspects of their own life reflected back at them. He says that he aims to paint with emotion rather than technical brilliance, and hopes that this is that is communicated to the viewer. He says “If you see someone spending time with it, it leads a life of its own”

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Evelyn Jean’s work was also part of Sweet ‘Art’s Game Face exhibition in 2017

When I ask him what is coming next, he says he has ideas for some new work in the form of installations, although is limited by space in his studio (always a problem in London!). He also has plans to create some new film pieces and has just started work on a large painting titled The Death of the Novelist, inspired by the repeated questioning from the critics as to whether the ‘death’ of painting, art or the novel is due.

He will also be exhibiting work as part of the exhibition Art Can Presents: Encounters at the D Contemporary Gallery in Mayfair in May, where you will be able to see his piece This is the Dizziness of Freedom for yourselves.

Follow Evelyn on Twitter, Insta or his website http://www.evelynjean.com.

All images are copyright Evelyn Jean unless otherwise stated.

Sweet ‘Arts Intersect Project 2019 in celebration of International Women’s Day by Corrina Eastwood.

What is the Intersect Project?

The Intersect project existed in its first incarnation as a live art portraiture project exploring and challenging the male gaze in art from an intersectional feminist perspective. We decided this would be the perfect way for us to celebrate women’s history month each year and its debut at WOW London felt like the perfect place to start and join with other women to develop this collaboration to continue in the future, while also archiving the project. As many of you know, at Sweet ‘Art we have a passion for the importance of archiving artists projects carried out by marginalized groups in accessible ways such as the SHE book, our responsive zine publication T’ART and this blog!

 

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Sweet ‘Art at WOW 2019 with Intersect!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aims and Objectives

The Intersect Portraiture Project set out to explore the following:

  • The concept of the ‘female gaze’ in art.
  • Subverting the concept of the traditional ‘male gaze’ in art and society (that of women as objects, often sexual objects, in the passive role of the observed only)
  • The concept of intersectional feminist perspectives (the idea that even if we all call ourselves feminists we all come from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, gender identities, sexualities and socio economic positions which affect the way we see feminism and what it needs to be for us.)
  • Female solidarity (we know from past projects and exhibitions the importance of women joining together, talking to each other and having fun with a common aim.)

 

How Could Intersect do this?

Four female identifying artists are selected by Sweet ‘Art for the Intersect collaboration due to the exploration of feminist issues in their practice from very different social, personal and political perspectives.

The artists each work at one of four easels on a portrait of a woman sitter for a set period of time. When the time is up, each artist moves to the next easel and continues work on the previous artist’s portrait until each artist has worked on each portrait. The resulting four portraits act as an unpredictable, collaborative representation of different feminist and female perspectives exploring a female gaze.

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Intersect 2019

Our artists

This year we held an open submission for the four spaces on the project and had varied and enthusiastic responses.  The successful artists were selected based on a combination of their artistic abilities and style, their exploration of feminist issues personally and through their art practice and their varying identities.

Leena McCall

Leena identifies as a white, British/Finnish artist who is married and a mother to three boys. She is studying for an MA in Fine Art.

“Through my studio practice and now as part of my MA in Fine Art studies at UCA, I am continuing to investigate the female gaze in portraiture. Previous work has explored how women choose to represent their erotic identity, in such paintings as a ‘Portrait of Ms Ruby May, standing’, which was censored by the Mall Galleries for being ‘too pornographic and disgusting’. I am currently developing a new form of portraiture I refer to as ‘rhizomatic portraiture’. I want to examine what a portrait is beyond a single representation of a person at one moment in time. How do I, as an artist represent the multifaceted nature of a person, their memory, their connections to places, spaces, people, habitat, their rhizomatic being in a visual image? And how does my connection with the sitter reflect in the artwork? This is an ongoing portrait project I am investigating through a series of self-portraits and portraits of my mother, who has cancer. The Intersect Portrait Project offers a unique opportunity to explore this rhizome theory with other artists and sitters – the end result will be a ‘map’ of lines, a ‘becoming’ of a shared experience of four artists and sitters.”

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Odette Farrell

 “My abstract paintings deal with my story as an immigrant: I was born in Mexico City but three of my grandparents immigrated to Mexico from countries such as Cuba, Spain and Ireland. My parents were both migrants. My husband too as he came to study in Mexico from South America and now we are migrants in the UK, making our children migrants as well. I realise that identity is fluid and subject to social construction, as I played with the emotions and expressions of the model to shape my own interpretation of the human body in my painting.Recently I am immersed in portraying, which helped me in my attempt to answer the enigma of identity. Therefore I am very interested in participating in this year ‘s Intersect Portraiture Project.Due to my history of displacement, I explore the politics of identity and its intersections. I address issues such as identity, migration, femininity, memory, repression, desire, absence and loss.”

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Shadi Mahsa

“I am an Iranian independent woman living in exile for the past thirty years. After the revolution I witnessed dramatic changes in my country. My identity was always in a question as I have a strong cultural background which was influenced by Islamic government and the roles which must be obeyed. My choice to leave my country and my experience living in a Western world with all the freedom and choices to live was challenging and was very difficult. I always dig into my emotions to find out who I really am and where I belong. Lost in the middle of Western world and Eastern world.”

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Susan Bryan

“I have a life long passion for art and experienced challenges in managing the process with full-time work commitments. Anecdotal evidence has proven that this is the story of many people within the descriptor BAME. Currently, I am an Advice and Outreach Officer for an arts organization, the project supports economically inactive BAME women to access the arts. An attempt, to even the balance of opportunity for the work of marginalised minorities creativity and exposure. Old enough to remember the Feminist movement in the late 70s/80s, when I was completing a degree in Fashion; I feel that wave of revolution feminism is so much more about inclusivity. So, I whole-heartedly embrace the concept of an intersectional feminist perspective. My female gaze has absorbed thousands of images but in my art practice I have chosen to focus on men and women, who would regard themselves as being ‘other’.”

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Intersect at Crabtree & Evelyn

This year we were asked by the awesome team at Crabtree & Evelyn if we would like to host something to celebrate sisterly solidarity, creativity and self care at their new concept store and event space in Islington, London.  The store is a pilot in the organisation, reaching out to communities and offering opportunities for community activity in their stores.

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We jumped at the chance to host the project in such beautiful surroundings in such a great location but also to explore the concept of the project in a new way. We felt hosting the project in a commercial space in which skin care products are sold appealing to women was an interesting way to subvert and explore the ideas central to Intersect.

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Those ideas are about exploring a female gaze, the way in which those who identify as women view and look at each other and themselves from differing social and political perspectives. We also hope to challenge the traditional male gaze with Intersect and we focus on the male gaze in art specifically with this project. However art does reflect society, and general societal attitudes towards women are reflected in art practice and the approach toward women as subject.

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Dejuner Sur L’Herbe

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Duchamp Playing Chess with a Nude

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The media, capitalism and the way in which women’s bodies become commodities in the striving for a very specific type of western beauty standard, feels important to consider while also negotiating the fact that most of us do enjoy a nice body butter!

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I was struck by the consideration of this as sitters arrived for their booked time slots to be drawn by our artists, but also waited in the beautiful surroundings of the store and browsed the products. It made me think about how as feminists we often walk this line. As I bought the truly dreamy Crabtree & Evelyn Lavender & Espresso Body Lotion (Im going back for more !!) I wondered “Am I treating myself to a bit of pampering and self care because I am worth it and deserve to feel good. Or am I socialised to feel the only way I can care for myself is to buy products to help me achieve an unattainable and narrow standard of beauty, where my skin should be as smooth as a babies bum and soft as…well…. a babies bum?” You know that old chestnut! It’s a pretty standard thought process for me when out shopping. Did I mention I also bought a Lavender & Espresso linen mist?! Well we all got 50% off!

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But let’s go back a bit. I feel it is important to mention the exciting build up to our event but also the unwanted attention that our policy to be inclusive gained prior. Our feminism is intersectional and trans inclusive. It is important for us that our women-only events include all women and we will not entertain trans exclusionary ‘feminist’ ideas. We can not speak from a trans experience as currently there are no trans members of the Sweet ‘Art team but we wish to continue to be good allies and are always welcoming of guidance as to how to best support our trans sisters.

 

Once set up on the day with input for our artists and the Sweet team we were ready for our first sitter. This year we ran the project as a ticketed event but built in long breaks for our artists. Despite this some did still say they felt very tired and achy at the end of the day and this is something we hope to consider further for next time.

Despite this the day did feel relaxed and welcoming for sitters and shoppers who may want to watch, grab a vagina cake (from under the modesty box in case some shoppers were less vag enthused!) and read some of a selection of our feminist, lgbtq+ self published zines and books.

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The team at Crabtree & Evelyn welcomed our sitters warmly offering drinks and chatting about the shop and the project. There was lots of opportunity for the Sweet team to engage with sitters about the project and the concept.

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The focus of the project did evoke wider conversations about feminism that felt important. One conversation was even prompted by a sitter noting how sitting on standard sized chairs often feels uncomfortable for women. This led to conversations around the data gap and how research that determines the shape which the world around us takes, including the ergonomics of seating is all based on the average man as a data set. These kinds of discussions remimded me of consciousness raising groups and the importance of women only spaces to reflect on experience and support each other through validation and confirmation of shared oppressions.

 

The Intersect project does provide a very specific type of setting and focus for this kind of women only shared experience. This focus of course raises many questions in sitters and artists around the female gaze and the way in which we view each other as women, specifically as we are all immersed in patriarchal norms and are all susceptible to societal pressures around what is considered ‘flattering’ or ‘attractive’. We questioned the degree to which we adopt a male gaze in general and in art.

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Feedback from artists often mentions a fear of “upsetting” sitters by not making them “attractive” enough in their portraits. This often is followed by questions of what this means exactly and where this standard or type of attractiveness comes from.

One sitter on looking at her completed portraits commented on her nose, saying she normally doesn’t like her nose but felt differently about it, seeing her portraits. I commented that maybe she just hadn’t seen it properly before. I feel this touched on a potential male gaze and the unrealistic body standards we are socialised to hold.

Maybe the artists were able to hand back to the sitter a truer likeness than she is conditioned to allow herself to see alone. My sense looking at the portraits was that her nose was quite accurately represented and that something about the portraiture process allowed her to see a different perspective.

When I trained as an art psychotherapist a tutor once said to me “you can’t lie in your art”. I thought of this comment as this young woman re-examined her perfectly lovely nose through the gaze of our four talented artists. She left seeming affirmed and happy and emailed that evening to thank us again for the experience.

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Sitter feedback forms

 

The experience of our sitters is a different one to that of our artists in this project. It is increasingly apparent that the project is hard work and draining for our artists who draw for many hours in the day. This is physically tiring despite our breaks and refreshments! However I sense that the less passive involvement in sisterly collaboration for our artists is also an emotional challenge.

Our artists have little time to get to know each other before the project and I feel with more funding it would be beneficial to be able to give more time to this and an in-person debriefing of the project after.

Artists often start positive and excited about the prospect of supporting each other and sharing an artistic experience but I am reminded of feminism and activism as I see the often unsaid struggles and negotiations that play out as artists work together.

Difference is glorious and should be celebrated but our differing experiences of the world and our varying feminist ethos, makes the need for empathy and understanding ever more vital in all we do. I feel the project’s highlighting and exploration of this is its most important aspect in some ways. It begs the answer to important questions.

In asking for feedback from artists, Leena comments..

“The lack of control in this collaborative process left me questioning my own artistic judgements and abilities. Even ten days later, I still do not enjoy looking at the photos I took of the various portraits. I feel uncomfortable about the end result.

What fascinates me, is why I feel this way? The Intersect Portrait Project has made me question some fundamental assumptions and beliefs I hold. What has informed my sense of aesthetics? My white, middle-class European upbringing? Has the traditionally male western canon of art been the key influencer in my own artistic training?

How does the female gaze, or specifically, my gaze differ to the gaze of the other female artists? Why do I feel a sense of frustration when viewing someone else’s interpretation of the sitter? What is the underlying cause of my need for control over the output? Is it the deep-seated desire to create a self-portrait in every portrait? The need to recognise oneself in the work?”

You can read more about Leena’s experience of the project on her blog

In her feedback Susan comments on her identity and the expectations or isolation it may bring in feeling ‘other’ or ‘minority’ while also expressing the importance of “stepping out of one’s comfort zone”.

“As a Caribbean artist it would have been interesting to draw a black sitter. Both to practice using bright colour pastels and share the challenge of drawing an ’other’ we might not have had the previous opportunity to draw. In terms of identity, I felt a responsibility to demonstrate to minority shoppers access to art practice…..”Yes, I can do that!”. Feminism…….I feel that the ‘intersect’ route is the one I pin my heart to; for its inclusivity. Art practice…..I am relieved that the Sweet Art idea of sharing canvasses pulled me into stepping out of comfort zone.”

Susan also commented in her feedback on feeling “unsettled” by her drawing being worked over and noted that it felt “painful” but also that “there was a bigger issue at hand”. These words feel so powerful to me. I wonder in retrospect about the greater need for a facilitation of open dialogue to voice these unsettling and painful feelings and explore them in relation to personal and political issues and feminist and identity politics. Again important questions asked and issues raised.

This felt really important in regard to feminism and the need for understanding of different positions and an intersectional approach. How being “erased” can maybe feel different from different personal, social or racial perspectives. I’m aware of how damaging the narrative of women always needing to appear harmonious in feminist discourse can be. The idea that feminism has no conflicts or can do no harm. Of course this isn’t true or helpful and the ways in which some brands of feminism do not serve all women, needs to be acknowledged. This starts with women feeling safe to speak up when they feel erased. We will continue to strive to create those spaces and safe opportunities.

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As with many of our sitters, Shadi spoke of feeling safe in a women only space that explored these issues and this did feel to be a commonly held thought..

“Being in a group of women, was very comfortable to me. I am sure if it was a man in our circle, it would feel as safe as I felt.”

Many of our sitters mentioned in their feedback and spoke on the day that allowing themselves to be looked at was an empowering goal that they felt proud they could be supported in achieving. As I listened to jokey comments of “can you make me look thinner” or “Please add a filter!” I was struck by how far we still have to come as feminists and activists in challenging the damaging ways in which women are socialised to self criticise and self loathe.

Despite the struggles and challenges and all that the project emotes we did overall have a fun and affirming day! I really feel the project can address important issues while also being light, fun and empowering.

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My favorite moment this year was the involvement of a mother and daughter who booked two slots to sit, to celebrate International Women’s Day together. They were greeted with hot chocolate and tea by the lovely team at the store and together they discussed with me if they should sit together or separately for their portraits.

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I eventually asked the daughter who I will call A. what she would like to do. She seemed shy to respond but eventually asked her mother if she would be sad if she chose to have her portrait on her own. He mother laughed and assured her of course not and it felt like a very touching, empathic example of how as women we must care for each other’s feelings and an example of how, if we are not sure how our actions are making the other feel, than we can always ask, so we can get it right.

In her feedback A. also said how she enjoyed the project because she liked the way that “..the 4 different artists were helping each other make an art piece..”

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We will be following A’s example this year as we celebrate the Intersect project’s achievements, learn from its mistakes and look forward to next time!

 

Art Pilgrimage – by Sarah Kingham

I have spent at least an hour today queuing to experience art. Firstly, because I mistakenly got to the Hayward Gallery an hour before it opened, so I passed a peaceful 40 minutes in the National Theatre expresso bar watching a man stick lines of dots to the windows. This seemed to presage the second part of my day, at least in retrospect. There was a small line of people waiting at the door to the Hayward when we returned at 10:58am.

Then I queued because I waited in line twice to commune with pieces of art. The first of these was Richard Wilson’s 20:50. The work is so popular at the Hayward’s current show, ‘Space Shifters’, that the ticketing staff advised us to go straight to see it, before the queue built up. That they gave this advice to everyone entering the show possibly nullified its efficacy. None the less, we chose to follow it.

 

There was a queue of around twenty people on the first floor. We joined it. A series of tape barriers showed that the queue could be four times longer later in the day, when things get busier. Out on the roof garden a huge convex, blue tinted mirror by Anish Kapoor reflected the clouds. They never seemed to move while I looked at them. It was peaceful; the air was heavy with the odour of sump oil and anticipation. As we approached the work, laminated health and safety sheets were handed out. We needed to remove coats and bags (there was a pair of storage boxes, like those in theme parks, before rollercoasters). If we got vertigo, we should look out of the window, but definitely not grab the sides of the path into the work; the oil in 20:50 goes right to the top of its container; the edges curve in voluptuous surface tension.

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Sky Mirror, Blue – Anish Kapoor

I absolutely love this piece. I first saw it in the second incarnation of the Saatchi Gallery, at the former GLC County Hall building. There it reflected the Edwardian splendour of the top two-thirds of a high windowed and wood panelled room back to itself, darkly. The realisation that the surface is flawed, marred by tiny motes of dust, does not detract from its black splendour. How deep is it? You imagine it could engulf you. Surely the director of ‘Under the Skin’ must have visited it at some point and sublimated its darkness as a future image to use. The space at Hayward is truer to the first conception of this site-specific work, a white cube lit by a grid of skylights. On the far side of the room, the oil continues through an open doorway and out of sight. The path cut through the slightly more than waist deep pool of oil narrows as you reach the centre of the space. (Surely it’s only a few inches deep? Otherwise the weight would bring the building down.) Despite the queue, and the gallery assistant hovering, I felt awe. It is a rare man-made exemplifier of the sublime. I was sad to hear that Saatchi sold it to a Tasmanian museum in in 2015. Two versions can exist simultaneously, one there and one on loan. I wish the Tate had bought it. They could’ve filled the ground level of the Turbine Hall with it. Imagine it installed in the whale gallery of the Natural History Museum.

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20:50 – Richard Wilson

Later we went to Victoria Miro Gallery. Somehow I had managed to secure a timed ticket to see the Yayoi Kusama show. I’d originally had two but their website had crashed before they were processed. Kindly they allowed themselves to be persuaded to let my friend in too. We queued into the building and were handed dot-covered passes to the infinity room installation, ‘My Heart is Dancing into the Universe’; these were also laminated. We queued up some stairs. The top floor of the gallery is a reclaimed industrial space with grey concrete and exposed beams, supported by an iron girder. We agreed that it was like queuing for something at a squat party. It was a long queue, and we had a lot of time to talk.

I first came across Kusama at the start of the new millennia, at a big Serpentine retrospective, her first in the UK. She’s one of those artists who fascinates through living her art as much as making work, like Kahlo or Warhol. Her New York happenings, her now self-imposed seclusion in an institution; the way that she chooses to embrace her overwhelming hallucinations, covering her work (and her costumes) with a riot of seething dots, multi-coloured or black on crimson or primary yellow, undulating with the forms they engulf. The Serpentine show also had an infinity room (possibly a box rather than a room; I remember something smaller). Mobile phones didn’t have cameras back then, so no one was taking selfies.

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Still from one of Yayoi Kusama’s 1960’s performances

When we reached the threshold of the infinity room at Victoria Miro we were shown a plan of the L-shaped space. We must follow the path, staying within the low barriers that delineated it. Rather facetiously (or hopefully) I asked if anyone had strayed off the path and become lost in infinity. No, but apparently a few people had blundered into the installation.

Inside it was a fairyland of black paper lantern spheres suspended in darkness. Each one was patterned with large dots that glowed through a range of colours, pink into purple or yellow into green. The colour changes were gradual. There seemed to be a whole universe of them falling away from us. We gawped and took some photographs (including, I’m afraid, the now obligatory ‘art selfie’). Seemingly seconds later the gallery assistant told us it was time to move on. We had to leave so the next person or pair could be entranced by it. Later I realised that another highlight of the Hayward show, the installation ‘Narcissus Garden’ was also by Kusama.

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Infinity Mirrored Room – Yayoi Kusama

It was impossible for many people to get tickets to see the Kusama show, which is a pity. I hope she gets another UK retrospective soon, it’s been eighteen years since the last one and she turns ninety next year, still prolifically designing large scale sculptures and painting dazzlingly intricate, vivid canvases, examples of both of which were on show at the Miro. The Hayward show is well worth a visit; there are many fantastic pieces there, and they interact wonderfully. Perhaps queuing for these works intensified them; we live in an age of instantaneous gratification, and the novelty of waiting added to the experience. I would have liked to have longer alone with both works, without the pressure of a queue behind me, but you can’t have everything.

Space Shifters was at the Hayward Gallery, South Bank and closed 6th January 2019

Yayoi Kusama; The Moving Moment I Went to the Universe was at Victoria Miro, Wharf Road, closed 21st December.

The problem with Frieze Week ’18 by Sian Matthews

 

That title is a little misleading because I did actually have a really great time at Frieze London. It has been over a month now since the fair and I have had plenty of time to contemplate it all, although there is one thing that has been playing on my mind that I would like to discuss. But let’s start on a good note! This year was my first time attending the art fair itself, although I have explored the sculpture park in previous years, and thanks to Sweet ‘Art I had a press pass!

This year Frieze week had a huge focus on women in the arts. Frieze itself commissioned some large-scale artworks, installations and performances such as Tatiana Trouvé’s ‘The Shaman’ (pictured below) a 1.2 tonne bronze tree and water pump. It was one of the first things I saw as I went into the fair and it definitely commanded the attention it was receiving.

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At the other end of the fair there was a curated section of stands showcasing the work of 9 female artists who had used their work as a form of political activism in the 80s and 90s called ‘Social Work’ I quite enjoyed Social Work as it was diverse on all levels, including race, age, backgrounds and even mediums and subject matter. The section included artists such as Nancy Spero, Helen Chadwick, Berni Searle and Ipek Duben; artists who use the female experience and themes of sexuality, gender, alienation and identity to challenge both aesthetic and political conventions. It worked really well and was an insightful look into the practice of some very influential artists. I was also lucky enough to wander past just as Sonia Boyce was giving an interview about her work! (I won’t lie, I felt a little starstruck!) It was fascinating to listen in and hear what she had to say about the motives and messages behind her work and what she thought of Social Work itself.

The stand I connected with most in Social Work was the Pippy Houldsworth Gallery who were showcasing the work of Mary Kelly. ‘Interim Part 1: Corpus’ is the culmination of 3 years of documentation by Kelly of conversations she had with women of her generation and displays their words in first-person text panels alongside screen printed images of fashion ads and medical photography of ‘hysterical women’. It feels personal and almost candid in its delivery, you get the feeling you’re reading something like a diary entry, something you shouldn’t be reading, and I appreciated the fact I was being told something so intimate.

The one thing that really disappointed me about Social Work is that it was hyped up quite a lot beforehand, but then felt like it was squished into a corner at the actual event. I would have preferred it to have had a more prominent spot in the fair.

Another nice touch to the fair this year was a fund-raising event hosted by Tracey Emin in the form of a postcard auction, with the proceeds going to women’s charities. Although unfortunately I didn’t manage to catch any of it!

Elsewhere in the city, galleries such as White Cube, Victoria Miro, the Parasol Unit and even the RA celebrated women by opening exhibitions and installations of works by artists such as Yayoi Kusama (who I love but sadly missed out on tickets for!), Cornelia Parker brought her PsychoBarn installation to the courtyard of the RA, Heidi Bucher and her beautifully haunting latex skinnings, and Doris Salcedo (pictured below) at White Cube. Women really did take over London for Frieze week!

 

On the Friday night I attended The Other Art Fair which also had a whole section dedicated to female artists. They had their own building across the road from Victoria House which was designed to be a statement called ‘not 30%’ to draw attention to the fact women typically get only 30% representation in art fairs. I thought it was a great idea (although I wasn’t sure about segregating them in another building away from the main event), and there was a diverse selection of work, from painting and sculpture to taxidermy and even tattooing. I so badly wanted to get a tattoo by artist Emily Malice but I missed her by a couple of hours as Friday night was the only time she wasn’t there! (maybe next time!)

Whilst we were there we also met two recent graduates who had turned their stall into a fun and inviting participatory project.  As Illustrators, they were drawing visitors to the art fair as any animal of their choosing for a small donation, so obviously we had to take part! See us below as a cat, a leopard and a jellyfish!

 

Overall I think The Other Art Fair may have been more enjoyable on a social level. More interactive, more inviting, it was more appealing to a wider spectrum of people. Dare I say more inclusive?

All of this sounds great doesn’t it? Women finally getting the recognition they so badly deserve. So going back to my clickbait title, where is the problem?

What has been playing on my mind is the idea that all of this new attention from large institutions, galleries and companies is just a form of box ticking, it felt like they were just ticking women off their inclusion list. I am not really sure of the exact thing that made me feel like this, maybe it’s the fact that both art fairs felt the need to over-publicise their inclusion of women and make a song and dance about it as if for attention; to be seen to be doing the right thing instead of recognising the issues faced by female artists, educating themselves and making the necessary changes. Obviously, I’m not saying we shouldn’t shout about the needs and rights of women in this industry, its massively important to talk about it! There was just something about Frieze week that made me feel like the motives behind it were off.  As you all must know by now, 2018 marks 100 years since the first women in the UK won the right to vote. This means that women’s rights are very much the theme of the year. It means that right now equality and women’s rights seem to be a bit of a fashion statement unfortunately and these companies need to be seen to be doing the right thing or they face huge backlash.

While I think its amazing what happened at this year’s Frieze week, and I certainly do not want to belittle the success of the artists featured. I can’t shake the feeling that we should all be a little wary of the motives and the intentions behind this sudden push for women. I am worried that next year this will all go away and no real progress will have been made. I hope I am wrong.

I have taken a photo of an article written in the free art news paper given out at the Frieze art fair itself which I feel sums up my feelings well and highlighted certain points for you. I feel it quite clearly explains why the focus of this years Frieze week only felt skin deep.

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Let me know what you think, am I just being pessimistic? Did you visit Frieze or any of the other events going on that week and what was your experience? I’d really like to know.