Two for the price..
I’ve always wanted to start a piece in the style favoured by many diarists, so here we go:
To Pallant House Gallery, to view two wonderful exhibitions featuring women artists.
Of course, if I were a real diarist, I would then go on to talk casually about the famous people of the day that I had lunch/tea/drinks with etc. But as I’m just a humble blogging dame I will actually tell you about these two brilliant exhibitions currently running at Pallant House in Chichester.
Let’s start with Jessica Dismorr and her Contemporaries. Dismoor was an artist at the forefront of the avant-garde in Britain. The exhibition explores how she and her female contemporaries engaged with modernist literature and radical politics through their art, including their contributions to campaigns for women’s suffrage and the anti-fascist organisations of the 1930s. There are 80 works are show, including paintings, sculptures, graphic art and archival materials, some of which have never been exhibited before.
,Artists included in the exhibition are Dismorr’s fellow Rhythmists, Anne Estelle Rice and Ethel Wright; Helen Saunders, the only other female founding signatory of the Vorticists; Paule Vezelay, who showed with Dismorr with the London Group, and Sophie Fedorovitch and Winifred Nicholson who exhibited at the Seven and Five Society in the 1920s.
Dismorr was one of only seven British women at D.O.O.D (de Olympiade onder Dictatuur) Amsterdam in 1936, the exhibition designed to counter Josef Goebbels’ Nazi Art Olympiad, and her work will be seen for the first time in the company of other women who exhibited with anti-fascist organisations in the 1930s, including Edith Rimmington, Betty Rea and Barbara Hepworth.
The quality and depth of the works on show are stunning; I don’t have the space here to go into much detail about individual paintings and drawings, but Dismorr’s Portrait of George Barker is beautifully drawn. Her Separated Forms, Red is stunning in its use of form and colour.
There is a mine of fascinating information to be found in the boards throughout the exhibition, so allow plenty of time to take all this in too.
As you leave Dismorrr and her chums, your eyes fall upon a riot of colour and forms. You’ve landed in Jann Haworth: Close Up. Haworth is a pop artist who was married for some time to Peter Blake. Together they worked on the iconic cover for the Beatles’ album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Perhaps typically, Blake received the lion’s share of the credit.
This exhibition redresses that balance nicely in terms of acknowledging Haworth’s role, as it affords visitors the first chance in the UK to see Haworth and her daughter Liberty Blake’s mural, Work in Progress. The 28ft mural is the result of a collaborative community project and celebrates women who were catalysts for change in the arts, sciences and social activism. Featuring over 100 women spanning over 3000 years, it highlights how many of these different lives and endeavours have become marginalised or forgotten throughout history. The mural is intriguing and informative; not all the women featured are ones that I would have termed ‘obvious’, although it was reassuring to see Anne Frank, Alice Walker and Ada Lovelace. It is impossible not to be reminded of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party. Needless to say, Emily Dickinson features in both, and Haworth has included Chicago herself as one of her chosen 100.
Alongside the mural are sculptural and wall-based works by Haworth. She challenges the conventional perception on form and appropriate subject matter for sculpture, recreating instead the elderly, doughnuts, newspaper comic sections, charm bracelets and cowboys – all cast in cloth. They range from the comic to pure surreal; Old Lady II has the elderly woman merging into her rocking chair. Paula is True is a glorious homage to Paula Rego, and Mae West Dressing Table takes you straight into the actor’s dressing room.
Both exhibitions run until February 23rd 2020. You have plenty of time.