This week has been an empowering, engaging experience of discussion based around female artists or seminars led by female researchers. On Saturday I attended the symposium ‘Perspectives of a Female Artist-Women in focus programme’ at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. The panel was led and chaired by Hilary Robinson and the artists included Eva Rothschild RA, Vanessa Jackson RA and Josie Cockram RA. The discussion was based on the extent to which being a female artist has influenced their work; also what it means to create work from a female perspective in today’s contemporary art world. The questions that were challenged: is the gender of an artist significant in the creative process? Does being a female artist influence how a work is created and perceived? How significant is the ‘female gaze’ in contemporary art – work that is presented from a female perspective or reflecting female attitudes…?
The initial point of interest was how we tend to self sensor and question in relation to making. It was interesting to hear Eva Rothschild’s perspective as a female sculptor who works on a large scale; how scale and material can be the result of confidence and the issues, conflicts of owning or occupying a space. Can I do this? Is this a gendered assumption? The issues that were pointed out is how certain materials will be judged in certain ways; gendered materials and how the making comes from a gendered position. I can relate to this with my practice; I tend to use materials or objects that are associated with a masculine aesthetic and have an industrial tendency. I am aware of this quality; however I engage with this gendered quality, how the physicality of the making and my relationship with my work in a space.
There will always be some form of critical and theoretical space when engaging with the work. Is there a certain value in the work as a female artist? They raised an important point about unpicking your practice and piecing it back together. As a sculptor, female maker; space and scale has become a pivotal focal element in my practice. How can my work define rather than occupy a space? The scale is something that the objects size is perceived in a space. Most recently I can see a shift and cross over between sculpture and installation in my work. Does female art become the object of surveillance? There is a struggle to re-socialise equality to women as a whole and the argument that work and life should not be seperated.
My use of materials and objects becomes the focal point for the work; distorting the association of feminine and masculine qualities and questioning gender as a whole. How can the sculptural forms inhabit a space? Another element that had not crossed my mind before was that space can be a material source. This material can reinforce the work. I’m currently working with form; human, bodily; an organic and raw aesthetic. Alexander Calder’s retrospective at Tate Modern allowed me to engage with sculpture in a completely different way; I began to understand the effect of how sculpture can inhabit space and engage with the floor, wall and ceiling. His use of lighting, shadows and colour was elegantly portrayed; resembling floating humanly forms.
I can’t help but read sculpture as physical subject matter and discipline. As a female artist I demand space and time but how can this be achieved and sustained? There is a different ‘myth making’ that surrounds female artists. We become somewheat exposed, taking a risk; I especially feel this is the case as a female sculptor. Working with large scale forms in an installation setting can be quite challenging and daring; there comes a time when you have to make bold decisions and commit to these decisions.