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Women Artists: Power & Presence

Women Artists: Power and Presence

This unique exhibition of selected work from the complementary collections held by the University of Chichester and Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, and private collectors uncovers and celebrates the contributions of women artists to the spirit and practice of British Art over the past 100 years. It focuses on the backstories, the subtext, the overlooked.

Not all the women represented in this exhibition would approve of being brought together and in a sense ‘set apart’. Gluck would certainly have disapproved, as she showed only in solo exhibitions; Vanessa Bell despised women only exhibiting societies, and Ethel Walker when acclaimed as England’s leading woman artist during the inter-war years said ‘There is no such thing as a woman artist. There are only two kinds of artists-bad and good. You can call me a good artist, if you like.’

Women artists have operated under particular social, cultural, political and economic constraints framed within unequal power relations which have resulted in their marginalization with limited opportunities to exhibit, sell work and receive due professional and critical recognition. The title ‘Women Artists’ is intentionally provocative; but it should not be interpreted or seen as a label or box in which to pigeon hole the artist, but rather as a means to express the fact that women (like men) have many varying inspirations, aesthetics and ideas.

This exhibition seeks to challenge the underrepresentation of women’s creative work in art galleries; the variety of styles, subjects and medium. It demonstrates that women artists cannot be categorised into a singular identity. Some directly engage with a gendered subject matter; for others gender is more subtle perhaps immaterial to the artist or art work. The life stories of these women artists are as compelling as the diverse work they produced and enables the revealing of a more complex picture of women’s contribution to shaping artistic practice than might be first thought and speaks powerfully of the changing roles and presence of women and women artists’ practice.