Feeling Her Way

The first chance to see a-n member Sonia Boyce’s Golden Lion-winning installation in the UK. Feeling Her Way was originally commissioned for the British Pavillion at the 59th Venice Biennale last year and won the prize for Best National Participation.

The artwork features five Black female musicians – Poppy Ajudha, Jacqui Dankworth, Sofia Jernberg, Tanita Tikaram and Errollyn Wallen – improvising and interacting with their voices.

Tinted videos of the performers sit against vibrant, tessellating wallpapers and amongst golden 3D sculptures, that create highly reflective surfaces and immersive spaces. Experimentation and collaboration is at the heart of this work, in which the intergenerational performers’ voices overlap and entwine in a moving and joyful celebration of female creativity.

Until 8 May 2023, Turner Contemporary, Margate turnercontemporary.org/

Four video screens each showing a black woman singing into a microphone, sit against vibrant, tessellating wallpapers. In the front on the floor are several golden 3D sculptures
Sonia Boyce, Feeling Her Way, 2022, featuring four performers – Errollyn Wallen, Tanita Tikaram, Poppy Ajudha, Jacqui Dankworth © British Council

Big Women

This major exhibition of painting, sculpture, film and fashion brings together works by leading British artists including Gillian Wearing, Maggi Hambling and Fiona Banner, fashion designer Pam Hogg and DJ Princess Julia.

Curated by artist Sarah Lucas, whose irreverent bodily sculptures are also shown, ‘Big Women’ celebrates the creative achievements of women in art while challenging societal tendencies to overlook older women.

Suffolk-based a-n member Clare Palmier has made new large-scale sculpture Low Slung Oak for the exhibition, while Sonia Coode-Adams MBE shows her 1984 painting She Forgot (pictured below).

Emphasing the theme of women’s visibility, visitors will also meet a series of life size cardboard cutouts of the participating artists, playfully posing with props including tree branches and brooms.

 Until 18 June 2023, Firstsite, Colchester firstsite.uk/

Painting of a seated nude, blonde haired woman holding a piece of cake
Sonia Coode-Adams MBE, She Forgot, 1984. © Sonia Coode-Adams MBE

Book of Hours: An Almanac for The Seasons of The Soul

Our ‘Now Reading’ recommendation is artist Letty McHugh’s Book of Hours: An Almanac for The Seasons of The Soul, a beautiful meditation in words and images of suffering and hope.

Winner of the Barbellion Prize 2022, an annual award to an author whose work represents experiences of chronic illness or disability, McHugh’s book is a contemporary take on the medieval book of hours – a manuscript of texts, prayers and psalms that offered guidance its reader each day of the year.

McHugh’s Book of Hours came about during the pandemic, when a complication with the artist’s chronic illness left her alone in a darkened room in her west Yorkshire home for three weeks.

She explains: “As I recovered I started to wonder, where was the spiritual guidebook for people like me; lost, sick, artists who watch too much reality TV? I couldn’t find one, so I made my own… borrowing wisdom from Anglo-Saxon hermits, contemporary artists and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

Buy Book of Hours: An Almanac for The Seasons of The Soul by Letty McHugh

White quilted fabric with hand sewn text which reads 'it's easy to forget small happy things joy is waiting remember to look'
Letty McHugh, Book of Hours: An Almanac for The Seasons of The Soul cover

Collect art fair

Among the many a-n members showcasing work at this year’s Collect craft and design fair, is London-based Katrin Spranger, a visual artist working on the intersection of sculpture, jewellery and performance. Her water sculpture Aquatopia – presented by North Lands Creative, a centre of excellence for glass making based in a small fishing village in Caithness – takes a critical view of water as the most valuable global resource.

Collect Open is the fair’s platform for ‘pioneering and thought-provoking craft installations’ by individual artists and collectives, and this year features nine a-n members.

Patricia Millar, Lichen Moon jar, 2019, ceramic, 35 x 35 cm

Belfast-born Patricia Millar’s ceramics reference ancient vessels and geology, while Doncaster-based Sarah Villeneau creates tactile, abstract sculptural ceramics that evoke bodies and sea in their organic forms. Margate-based Louise Frances Smith is another artist whose work engages with the natural world, creating sculptural works made from seaweed bioplastic and crushed Pacific oyster shells.

Sarah Villeneau, Untitled, 2021, ceramic and copper tubing, 40 x 30 x 20 cm

Belinda Coyne presents Lost Paths, which consists of a grid of 49 vitreous enamelled steel panels; Bridget Bailey uses millinery techniques and natural materials in an intricate new installation; and Olga Prinku, who lives in Stockton-on-Tees, shows Connections, her largest work to date: an embroidery that uses organic materials as thread.

Michèle Oberdieck, Theo Brooks and Sarah Brown all work with glass to radically different effect, from Oberdieck’s fantastical glass plants that question the effects of climate change on environment and food security to Brown’s mimicry of the textures and forms of cake, while Brook’s work Masking Rituals explores ancient Cypriot cultural rituals and artefacts.

2-5 March 2023, Somerset House, London craftscouncil.org.uk/collect-art-fair

Olga Prinku, Prairie birds, 2019, wood frames, tulle fabric and dried plants, 84 x 59 x 8 cm

Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival

The 18th edition of the UK’s festival for new cinema from across the globe includes artists moving image in its programme of films that ‘push the boundaries of genre, form and convention.’

One of the distinctive artistic voices showcased here is a-n member Onyeka Igwe who has collaborated with writer Huw Lemmey on Ungentle. Based on extensive historical research, the 16mm film explores the complex relationship between British espionage and male homosexuality. Presenting a rich visual journey though British landscapes loaded with historical significance and narrated by actor Ben Whishaw, Ungentle reflects on sex, power, secrecy and imperialism.

Among other UK-made highlights of the festival are two short films from 2022. A Mother’s Love For Her Baby, directed by artists Éiméar McClay and Cat McClay, combines 3D animation and experimental prose, to reflect on the abuses of the Magdalene Laundries – mother and baby homes run by the Catholic church in Ireland throughout the 20th century. Using storytelling ‘to fill the gaps left in historical records’ the film centres the overlooked and silenced voices of Irish women, to critique the power structures that create conditions of oppression.

3-5 March 2023, venues across Berwick-upon-Tweed bfmaf.org/

film still showing a view across a lake surrounded by trees, in the background is Buckingham Palace
Huw Lemmey and Onyeka Igwe, still from Ungentle, 2022, 16mm film, 37 mins

living in fear of quicksand

Long-standing a-n member Maria Amidu presents new works including print, film, sound, text and a bespoke paint colour in this solo exhibition, which takes places across two sites in east London.

At Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, the artist combines personal letters, drawings and school reports with archival material relating to the development of the Lincoln Estate, a social housing project where the artist spent her early childhood in the 1970s.

Continuing this exploration into the ‘fragmentary nature of memory and fragile experience of home’, works at Bow Arts’ Nunnery Gallery include a limited edition print work, 25 years in the making, while film work 1973 features a soundtrack voiced by the artist.

3 March – 21 May 2023, Nunnery Gallery and Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, London bowarts.org/nunnery

Film still of dusty ground with a brown sandal and a footprint
Maria Amidu, 1973, 2022, film still © Maria Amidu

Top image: Installation view, ‘BIG WOMEN’, Firstsite, 2023. Photo Richard Ivey