Monday, June 25, 2012

Contemporary Australia: Women

Contemporary Australia: Women was a surprising exhibition on the calendar this year, the second in QAGOMA's  Contemporary Australia exhibitions, the first Optimism which included considerably more men than women artists 'Contemporary Australia: Women' redresses the balance considerably and includes 100% women artists. QAGOMA's website says:

'Contemporary Australia: Women' includes more than 70 works in painting, sculpture, photography, installation, textiles, video, and performance. The exhibition will explore key themes such as ‘performing’ femininity; the place of personal and intimate spheres such as sexuality, the body, motherhood and ageing; the return to everyday materials; and the ways some artists are ‘redressing the canon’ of painting.

Gender applies to men just as it does to women, yet it is predominantly women who are grouped and defined by it. Could an exhibition called 'Men' be staged, and if so, would the show only include male artists? Could a woman artist also also engage with the male subject? At CoUNTess we think so, as women can draw on their lifelong experience at identifying or coming to understand the centralised male protagonist.

Other all-women shows at large museums over the past couple of years such as WACK a touring exhibitions from MOCA, or Global Feminisms at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and Elles @ Centre Pompidou have influenced a contemporary agenda within the curating and museum landscape and effectively redistributing gallery wall space. However, these all-gender shows can also be criticised for marginalising the artists they exhibit and women artists as a whole. Are audiences being asked to look at this art as a separate category from 'mainstream' art. As far as we can tell, none of these exhibitions included any males artists which again heightens the concerns of women's art vis a vis the art world at large; what we are being told is that women artists do not have, or have an entirely seperate influence upon 'mainstream' (male) art. A suggested hierarchy comes into play: mens art is too-often represented as referencing humanity, (why not just performing masculinity?) and in dialogue with art history, while women's art needs its own separate category and therefore is adjunct or alternative to men's art.

While WACK and co. place feminism front and centre in their curatorial premises the 'f' word is hardly mentioned in the online and educational material for GOMA's Contemporary Australia: Women. The 'f' word seems to be avoided as the show situates itself as celebrating the achievements of women artists. Its curator Julie Ewington is quoted in The Australian:

"What is the show about? It's about celebration and exploration. It's not about complaint, it's about what is being achieved."
It is good to have a growing variety of exhibitions and practices, and for these to be seen in our public museums - CoUNTess is behind these kinds of shows as they do raise the profile and work of women artists and that is a good thing. But while CoUNTess loves these enterprises, the grand prize would be to see equal numbers of women in ALL contemporary art exhibitions.

Artists Featured
Amata painters (SA): senior artists, Tjampawa Katie Kawiny; Wawiriya Burton; Ruby Tjangawa Williamson; Iluwanti Ken; Tjungkara Ken; Paniny Mick
Rebecca Baumann (WA)
Lauren Brincat (NSW)
Brown Council (NSW): Frances Barrett; Kate Blackmore; Kelly Doley; Diana Smith
Kirsty Bruce (QLD)
Bindi Cole (VIC)
Agatha Gothe-Snape (NSW)
Marie Hagerty (NSW/ACT)
Fiona Hall (SA)
Natalya Hughes (NSW)
RuthHutchinson (VIC)
Deborah Kelly (NSW)
Justine Khamara (VIC)
Anastasia Klose (VIC)
Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano (VIC)
Jennifer Mills (VIC)
Kate Mitchell (NSW)
Rose Nolan (VIC)
Jess Olivieri and Hayley Forward with Parachutes for Ladies (NSW): Hayley Forward; Jess Olivieri
Therese Ritchie (NT)
Sandra Selig (QLD)
Noël Skrzypczak (VIC)
Sally Smart (VIC)
Soda_Jerk (NSW): Dan Angeloro; Dominique Angeloro
Wakartu Cory Surprise (WA)
Hiromi Tango (QLD)
Monika Tichacek (NSW)
Jenny Watson (QLD)
Judy Watson (QLD)
Louise Weaver (VIC)
Justene Williams(NSW)
Gosia Wlodarczak (VIC)
Judith Wright (QLD)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find it disheartening that the quote by Julie Ewington you have supplied in relation to the Contemporary Women show implies that to use the word 'feminism' suggests complaint. There seems to be a popular notion of feminists as angry and hirsute, which belittles the fight (but suiting the patriarchy I suppose). We need to start shouting from the rooftops again and demanding equality in all areas of representation in society.