The exhibition ‘Talking Sculpture: Dialects of Making’, supported by Vessel in association with Talking Sculpture Making (TSM) brings together a national and intergenerational group of artists working in abstract sculpture. ‘Talking Sculpture‘ forefronts the material investigation and material conditions of making sculpture engaged in formal and material conversations of the medium and reasserts the importance of feminist legacies in understanding the ongoing importance of abstract sculpture.
The exhibition takes place at APT Gallery in Deptford, London, 9th – 26th March 2023, open Thursday to Sunday, 12.00 – 5.00 pm. The private view is on International Women’s Day, 8th March 6 – 8pm. https://www.aptstudios.org
A discussion event in the gallery on 11th March, 2 – 4 pm, has been recorded and is available online.
This Stuff Matters (TSM) was formed in 2019 to share the experiences of the four women artists and to provide and generate support and shared networks. All four artists are critically engaged and have been working and exhibiting individually and with other groups, nationally and internationally, since the 1980s.
Each artist plays confidently with form, material, colour, space and scale yet each artist’s work is distinct in the use of abstraction and construction. There is a definite sense of a visual language emerging from a female viewpoint. We are all avid feminists, although our work stretches beyond an exploration of feminist issues. The group endeavours to be perceived, first and foremost, as artists, however a feminist perspective is occasionally apparent in the work of individuals. It is the making, the materials and the construction, which is the predominant driving force.
By inviting two younger female sculptors to exhibit works alongside the TSM artists, the exhibition provides a new and exciting dynamic and offers alternative perspectives on how women artists of different generations navigate this particular area of sculpture practice.
The exhibition showcases work which examines sculptural abstraction and considers its importance and relevance today. It is an opportunity to have a broader dialogue with audiences, including artists, students, art historians, academics, gallery visitors and interested parties regarding the history of and future generations of women who make abstract sculpture.
There is still underrepresentation of women working in abstraction, and TSM hope to redress this imbalance with ‘Still Here’. By documenting our roles as women abstract sculptors and by sharing experiences, we hope to augment our voices and provide a valuable platform for mentoring each other collectively.
TSM also aim to celebrate of the lives of women abstract artists and provide a platform for women’s experiences within what is and has been inherently a traditional male dominated area of the visual arts.
TSM intend for the public discussion event, held on 11th March 2023 and the resources that result from it to be a springboard for feedback on our practices as well as help gain an understanding of our positions with an art world that is dominated by image-based and socially engaged art practice and how we fit in the current understanding of identity politics.
‘Somewhere in the 1990s, the artist in her studio took a permanent backseat to the politics of assertion: the declarations of race, sexuality, and class. ‘Preciousness’ became a term used to denigrate abstraction. And yet the qualities it implied were arguably symptomatic of abstraction: a sensitivity to objects, and the disquieting intensity devoted to the process of making them.’
Jenni Sorkin art historian, critic Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
As Associate Artist at Nottingham Contemporary I have been delivering the Loudspeaker programme since 2013. I am very sad to say that the programme has now come to an end of its current funding, with the last project finishing on 1st December 2022. Here is an online version of the final exhibition.
Loudspeaker was a series of 10-week projects, three per year, for women in challenging circumstances, referred by a number of support organisations in the East Midlands. The programme offered free, creative workshops for women to express themselves in a supportive environment, develop self-confidence, resilience, motivation, routine and meet new people through exploring and making contemporary art.
It has been an absolute pleasure to be part of the team delivering this programme, as we constantly developed and refined how we worked in order to best meet the needs of the participants. The participants were always a delight to work with and it was very rewarding to support the development of their skills of art-making and critical thinking, watch their self-esteem increase and listen to their experiences and opinions.
Since 2016 Loudspeaker has been part of the national Building Better Opportunities programme through the Opportunity and Change project which is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund.
I am delighted to have been elected as a Member of the Royal Society of Sculptors. I feel that being part of this respected institution recognises and validates the decades I have spent making, exhibiting, facilitating others and advocating for sculpture. I am looking forward to making lots of new contacts and having access to the many opportunities the RSS offers its members.
I’m very please to have had two works selected for The Harley Open 2022. As the exhibition is only for wall-based work, I decided to make two small wall-based pieces for my submission. It is the first time I’ve made wall-based work for quite a few years and it was interesting to experiment again with this way of thinking about how the sculpture relates to space and architecture.
As part of my role as an Associate Artist at Nottingham Contemporary, I am one of five artists delivering the gallery’s Schools of Tomorrow programme. I have been artist-in-residence at Jubilee L.E.A.D. Academy in Bilborough, Nottingham since January 2020. I work closely with the same two classes and their teachers, and have done so since they were Year 3; they are now Year 5.
Schools of Tomorrow is a 4-year learning and research programme funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, which places artists in residence at eight Nottingham schools. Together, artists and teachers develop approaches to supporting creativity in and beyond the classroom through a process of action-led enquiry.
I am very excited to be part of Schools of Tomorrow’s collaboration with the Turner Prize winning architect and design collective Assemblefor the exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary The Place We Imagine . Assemble have created three large-scale play sculptures that fill the galleries, two based on a drawing from 1968 by the Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi and one developed in dialogue with children from three of the Schools of Tomorrow schools, including Jubilee L.E.A.D. Academy. These are not ‘please do not touch’ artworks, they are to be interacted with in whatever way gallery visitors, especially children, decide. At a moment when most playgrounds appear to be designed for the kinds of play that adults like to see children do, this project challenges the confines of the gallery space and its uses. It opens up new ways of being in the museum, for children and adults alike. The exhibition also shows moments from Schools of Tomorrow activities that highlight how important play is in the creative and learning process.
Before being installed at the Traveller site, the seats and table were part of an exhibition ‘Who Are We? Navigating Race, Class and the City’ at Pitzhanger Manor & Art Gallery in Ealing, London, 26th November 2021 – 13th February 2022.
Since This Stuff Matters was formed in 2019, the main realisation that has come from the group’s discussions has been the similar positions each of the members found themselves as women sculptors, working in a particular niche of contemporary art. All four sculptors, who have been working and exhibiting since 1980s, are died-in-the-wool feminists, although they don’t make art that would be considered to be about feminist issues. They have all avoided being seen as Women Sculptors, preferring to imagine that making art is by its nature an endeavour of equality. As young women they believed that things would change but now realise later in their careers that abstract sculpture, with a few notable exceptions, is still mostly a male domain. They feel that as women sculptors they do bring a different perspective to making and showing abstract sculpture and that this should be celebrated. They find that the support they give each other is extremely valuable in maintaining their practices and self-belief!
The artists have invited Meghan Goodeve to chair a discussion before an audience to investigate three questions:
What is the relevance of contemporary abstraction in an art world which is focussed on image-based, issue-based and socially engaged art practice?
What, if anything, is it that women artists can bring to abstract sculpture, that is different to men?
How do we see the future of our work and of other women making abstract sculpture?
Meghan Goodeve (she/ her) is a curator and educator with ten years’ experience in integrated programming, specialising in artistic projects which affect social change. Her work is concerned with supporting artists at all stages of their career, with particular attention to addressing representation around race, gender, sexuality, class, and disability. She currently leads the Freelands Artist Programme, steering a UK-wide programme supporting emerging artists. Previously, she was the Engagement Curator for Yorkshire Sculpture International where she helped establish a major £1.5 million international sculpture festival in 2019, with four of the UK’s leading art galleries, curating an international commission in the public realm, public programming, an artists’ development programme, and artist-led education commissions. She has held roles at The Hepworth Wakefield, The Courtauld Gallery, and National Gallery. She is also a freelance curator delivering projects specialising in social practice and working with early career artists. She is on the board of Yorkshire Art Space, Sheffield, an advisor for Threshold Sculpture, Leeds, and a governor for a SEND school in Sheffield.
As part of my project ‘Multiple forms: New Skills’ supported by Arts Council England’s Developing Your Creative Practice fund, I have attended two short courses at London Sculpture Workshop, Casting in Jesmonite and Silicone Mould-making.
It has been the first time I have learned any new practical making skills for my own practice in a long time. I really enjoyed the experience but now I need to experiment with the processes and decide how to use them in my work.
I have some ideas for using Jesmonite that I wouldn’t have had without attending the the course. I will cast shapes that create mass and varied surface that can then become of some the elements constructed into sculpture with other materials. Using Jesmonite will be a way to bring colour into my work that is intrinsic to the material rather than painted on, something I hadn’t considered before. I can also cast several objects and start to explore repetition.
Two part mould-making using silicone in a plaster jacket seems long and involved to someone like me who is used to reducing process to its simplest form so I can focus on the sculpture rather than the attrition of making. I may make two part moulds in future but I think I will adjust the method to make it suit my style of working and to reduce the amount of clay I would have to waste. I don’t normally use clay and don’t want to have to keep it, and then reconstitute it when it has become dry as I don’t have the space.
I am excited to start work on the next phase, which has been delayed by the opening up of life after lockdown, meaning other work has been rescheduled to this Summer, making me very busy.