Art in Britain in the aftermath of WWII was a space of contradictions. On the one hand, artists had to make sense of an entirely altered world, one which required a new visual lexicon. On the other, a generation scarred by the war years sought comfort in the familiar, with traditional mindsets persisting that placed value in figuration and classicism. This will have been most keenly felt by women practitioners, whose place in the art world was already liminal. At art schools, women artists were encouraged towards ‘feminine pursuits’, such as needlework.
Two artists who not only resisted the call to tradition but completely defied it were Prunella Clough and Edwina Leapman. Clough’s early post-war work was informed by the industrial landscape of Britain: she drew inspiration from factories, bomb sites and wastelands, integrating found detritus into her compositions. From the 1960s, literal representation gradually disappeared, and her idiom became one of pure abstraction. In the late 1970s, she embarked on a noted series of works featuring an abstracted gate motif. Showcasing her interest in the effect of man-made objects upon the land, this series encapsulated Clough’s sustained meditation on Britain’s evolution towards a post-industrial climate.
In contrast to Clough’s typically muted and earthy palette (something she attributed, perhaps humorously, to the British weather), Edwina Leapman committed her working life to illuminating canvases with carefully harmonised colours and lines. Her large acrylic paintings evoke music scores, rhythmic and restless, with their own coded meaning.
Sheila Girling, like most painters with formal training at the time, began firmly as a figurative artist, winning accolades for her portraiture. However, her sensual delight in medium soon gave way to rich and romantic paintings and collages, devoid of representation.
Another artist whose work is predicated upon a profound appreciation of medium is Mexican-born Edda Renouf. She paints upon canvases whose surfaces she has altered through careful removal and reapplication of threads. Perhaps invoking the tapestry work historically obliged of women, Renouf transforms and reframes the practise, producing large-scale, abstract compositions of great grandeur and lyricism.
Finally, the oils of Yuko Shiraishi will bring us up to date. Pursuing painting alongside architectural and conceptual projects, Shiraishi creates expansive and seductive oils, characterised by formal clarity.
Though each pursuing separate paths of visual investigation, these five artists cohere in their language of abstraction. Women in the Abstract will highlight the essential and refined work of women, offering a fresh perspective on a genre that continues to navigate a gender imbalance writ large in art history.
|Duration||16 November 2023 - 20 January 2024|
|Times||Monday - Friday 10am - 6pm Saturdays 11am - 5pm|
|Venue||Annely Juda Fine Art|
|Address||4th Floor 23 Dering Street, London, W1S 1AW|
|Contact||/ firstname.lastname@example.org / www.annelyjudafineart.co.uk|