Underexposed. The exhibition that aims to challenge opinion.
Exposure isn’t exclusive to photography. In fact, when it comes to the arts, lots of things are ‘underexposed’ but none more so than female group exhibitions and the medium of the fine art print. That’s according to the curators of a forthcoming exhibition at Studio 3 Gallery in Kent, Frances Chiverton and Lynne Dickens.
Underexposed will survey the ways in which over 40 prominent female artists have used the medium of print over the last two centuries (and beyond). It will feature painters and sculptors, and highlight how print relates to their primary focus. It will also look at those who are or have been printmakers first and foremost, and why they have chosen to work in that particular artistic medium. At the same time, the exhibition will examine the different types of prints – from more traditional wood or metal engravings, etchings, lithographs and linocuts to more recent methods such as screenprints, photogravure and digitally produced work – as well as the different subject matter chosen by the various female artists represented.
The exhibition concept has received a lot of support from professional curators in both national and local institutions and in higher education, including Gill Saunders, Senior Curator (Prints), Victoria & Albert Museum, who says: “Many of the terms which have traditionally been associated with prints – small-scale, modest, private, intimate, personal – have been applied to the work of women artists too. This exhibition sets out to challenge the often dismissive and derogatory implications of such terms by bringing together a diverse mix of works which demonstrate the originality, innovation, skill and ambition to be found in the printed work of female painters, sculptors and printmakers from the 19th century to the present day.”
The curators, who are in fact two mature art history students at the University of Kent, feel it is an opportunity to educate both the art-going public (and other students) on the importance of the print medium in western art history, and to celebrate the artistic achievements of female artists overall. There seems to be a lot of consensus in this idea, as during the exhibition there will be a series of free lectures for the general public given by leading experts including: Gill Saunders, William Pryor, grandson of 20th century artist Gwen Raverat who was a founder of the Society of Wood Engravers, artists Paul Coldwell on his time working in the studio of Paula Rego, Anne Desmet RA RE, Anita Klein PPRE Hon RWS and Kent alumna Dawn Cole.
Anita Klein, one of the contemporary artists – and a fellow and past president of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers (RE) – whose work will be exhibited at the show explains why she is supporting the ambitious students, “Like many artists I became addicted to printmaking for the variety of marks the various techniques allowed me to make. The immediacy and domestic scale of printmaking has always felt appropriate for my subject matter, the celebration of daily life. Like many women artists, my artistic style has often been at odds with prevailing fashions for large-scale grand statements and masculine bravura. So when I was invited to participate in this interesting exhibition I was delighted to accept. I commend these students on their bravery in bringing together such a diverse range of artists and in perceiving our underlying connection.”
Similarly artist Charlotte Cornish is equally enthusiastic about the exhibition. She reckons, “Making prints has always excited, engaged and intrigued me – the mastery of techniques and the handling of materials; the exploration of the infinite and varied forms of mark making; building images layer upon layer; the satisfaction of process; the potential for multiples; and the thrilling element of the unexpected. I feel that printmaking has deeply informed my practice as an artist, not only through creating editions of prints and making monoprints but also by influencing and shaping my approach to painting.”
But Klein and Cornish are just two of the many 20th and 21st century contributors to the exhibition, which will include high profile artists such as Alison Wilding RA, Anne Desmet RA, Barbara Hepworth DBE, Beryl Cook OBE, Bridget Riley CH CBE, Cornelia Parker OBE RA, Eileen Cooper RA, Elisabeth Frink DBE RA, Lill Tschudi, Sandra Blow RA, Sonia Delaunay, Tess Jaray RA, Tracey Emin CBE RA and Valerie Thornton, and a long list of others. “Our aim is not to generalise but to focus on a specific category and exploration,” explain Frances and Lynne, adding, “the exhibition is partial, a snapshot, but in our opinion addressing a gap.”
Underexposed takes place at Studio 3 Gallery within the School of Arts building at the University of Kent in Canterbury from 16 May to 19 June 2014 (except 23 May and bank holiday 26 May).