Exhibition documents women artists in Glasgow since World War II
Sarah Lowndes on curating exhibition of female artists
Two years ago, Jenny Brownrigg, director of exhibitions at Glasgow School of Art, invited me to curate an exhibition for the Mackintosh Museum. I have been a lecturer in the Mackintosh building since 2002 and decided to highlight an alternative history of the building and its use, through the work of the women artists who either studied or taught in the school from 1939 onwards. Many people are familiar with The Glasgow Boys and the New Glasgow Boys but perhaps less so with the work of the city’s post-war women artists. I also wanted to draw out thematic links between different generations of artists, for instance to consider a 1958 Joan Eardley seascape alongside an abstract painting from the late 90s by Victoria Morton or to look at a 1970s painting by Bet Low in relationship to a new suspended sculpture by Karla Black. I also decided to situate embroidery, ceramics, textile design, print and illustration beside ‘high art’ forms like painting and sculpture, and to address the importance of photography and film for women artists in Glasgow.
Glasgow is a city with a rich socialist history, and the women’s movement and left wing politics have been closely entwined here, from the days of the Suffragettes right up until the 1980s when radical groups like Transmission gallery, the Free University and the Women’s Library, formed in opposition to the dominant social order and the doctrines of the Thatcher government. The art scene that has grown here since the 1980s is anything but macho – thanks in large part to the efforts of women like Adele Patrick, Sam Ainsley and Cathy Wilkes, who have worked tirelessly both as artists and educators.
However, we can ill afford to be complacent in this regard. Despite four decades of equal pay legislation, Britain has one of the worst gender gaps in Europe at 21%. That inequality extends across all areas of life, including the arts. Only four women have won the Turner Prize since its inception in 1984 and 83% of the works in Tate Modern are by men.
Studio 58: Women Artists in Glasgow since World War II, Mackintosh Museum, Glasgow School of Art, Sat 7 Jul–Sun 30 Sep.