Art Attack vol. 1
For centuries women were eclipsed from art’s limelight – only embroidery and weaving were deemed acceptable artistic occupations. The art world is not a hotbed of equality. While things are slowly improving and there is an increasing number of women headlining in some of London’s mainstream museums and galleries - we still are still a long way off before these space become truly intersectional and diverse!
Talking of which – if you haven’t seen it yet, check out Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall installation. Kara Walker’s Fons Americanus is something else altogether. It is deeply moving, engaging, enraging, political and personal all at once. It’s a MUST see. The sculpture, in the form of a fountain, is inspired by the Victoria memorial outside Buckingham palace. As you walk around, it confronts you with the reality Britain’s colonial past and questions how history is framed in our public monuments. It couldn’t be more timely. It was on point in December 2019, when I first wrote this piece, but now, after increased consciousness about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it rips straight through the white supremacist narrative of Britain's statues. I have seen it at least five times and every single time, it takes my breath away.
Wowing the year away with Bridget Riley at the Hayward Gallery. La grande dame of op art made me feel like I’d had an encounter with Kaa, the snake in the Jungle Book, totally mesmerised. She is such an incredibly technically accomplished artist – working with mathematical precision to create eye popping, mid-blowing art that feels so alive it is moving before your eyes and appears three dimensional.
And, to round it all off, I had a lovely encounter with a woman who approached me as I was increasingly absorbed in ‘Late Morning’ – and said: "you look like you belong to this painting, it looks like it was made for you" and took the above picture’.
Pre-Raphaelite Sisters at the National Portrait Gallery (17 October 2019 to 26 January 2020) , coined on the term Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of artists formed in 1848 in opposition to the Royal Academy’s focus on Renaissance master Raphael. They believed that art should include more serious subjects and preferred simplicity of style, bright colours and realistic rendering of people.
But let’s forget the brothers - here it’s all about the sisters! This long overdue exhibition is an important opportunity to finally shine the light on the women in pre-Raphaelite art and on their contributions - as artists, muses, models, makers, sisters, wives – but most importantly as rule breakers.
There were many – but, for me, these three stood out.
From Joanna Boyce Wells, one of the movement’s leading figures who proudly stated ‘I have a talent and the constant impulse to employ it, for the love of it and the longing to work …. And no man has the right to say that that is to be unheeded’. She died of obstetric fever after the birth of her third child – a stark reminder of the immense risk women faced in pregnancy and childbirth.
To Jamaica born Fanny Eaton, who had travelled to Britain with her mother and later married London cart and cab driver. According to the write up, she became Victorian Britain’s most visible black woman – which clearly had very little or no effect on the rampant racism of the time!
And Jane Morris née Burden, Pre-Raphaelite muse par excellence is famed for marrying William Morris and her affair with Dante Gabriel Rosetti. But there is so much more to Jane Morris than meets the eye. Far from being a silent muse, she played a far more pivotal role in the family firm Morris & Co., the Arts and Crafts movement and the development of William Morris’ politics, art and writings than she has been credited for – all while rocking polyamory! Much of this came to light in The Collected Letters of Jane Morris, Frank C Sharp, Jan Marsh, 2012.
What the exhibition reveals about these women’s lives, their background, their aspirations and artistic ambitions, what it tells us so much about – mostly privileged - women’s lives in 19th century Britain, is fascinating – but only part of picture.
Tate Modern Gallery
Bankside, London SE1 9TG
Monday to Sunday 10.00–18.00. Please note, no lates on Friday and Saturday
By tube - either from Southwark station (Jubilee line), Blackfriars (District and Circle line) or St Paul’s (Central line)
Bus routes 45, 63, 100, 344, 381
The Tate Boat runs every 30 minutes between Tate Britain (Millbank Pier) and Tate Modern (Bankside Pier)
For more details and information about accessibility check: www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX
11am – 7pm every day except Tuesdays when the gallery is closed.
Late night opening on Thursdays until 9pm.
By tube - Waterloo (Northern, Bakerloo, Jubilee and Waterloo & City lines); Embankment (District & Circle lines) or check out multiple bus routes.
For more details check: www.southbankcentre.co.uk/venues/hayward-gallery
Accessibility: for gallery, foyer, cafe and shop, use JCB Glass Lift (Blue Side Foyers, Level 2, Royal Festival Hall) plus exit onto Riverside Terrace and use main entrance into Hayward Gallery. All floors are accessible from main foyer. Please use the main foyer lift to access the Gallery Cafe. Or check the Southbank Access Map.
National Portrait Gallery (top of Trafalgar Square right behind the National Gallery)
St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE
Daily 10:00-18:00; Friday until 21:00
By tube: Charing Cross, Leicester Square and Embankment. Please note these stations do not have a lift or check out multiple bus routes.
For more details check: www.npg.org.uk/visit/getting-here-opening-hours/
Accessibility: Step-free access is via the Gift Shop entrance, on St Martin's Place.
The Heinz Archive and Library entrance is at the National Portrait Gallery's administrative offices located on Orange Street.
William Morris Gallery
Lloyd Park, Forest Road, London E17 4PP
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm. Free entry.
By tube or train: Walthamstow Central and Blackhorse Road, Victoria Line
For more details check www.wmgallery.org.uk/visit/visit
Accessibility: The William Morris Gallery is fully accessible, with an accessible entrance, accessible toilets and lift access to all floors.