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Sunday, 7 June 2015

The Society of Women Artists 154th Annual Exhibition

Founded in 1855, the Society of Women Artists has had a unique history dedicated to promoting art by women. The Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries, showcases an eclectic mix of artwork in all media. The Society encourages variety and versatility and features some of the finest contemporary women artists from all over the world, thus sustaining a reputation for excellence.

Among the many artists included, I found the following of particular interest:

Bethany Milam is a Hampshire based Interdisciplinary Fine Artist, engaging with a broad range of media. Permeating through her diverse practice is an interest in the subconscious mind, fantasies and daydreams which are combined with a keen observation of everyday life. Included in the show is Milam's latest Graphite drawing, depicting a family friend in Salvation Army uniform selling the War Cry, is entitled 'Heart and Soul'. Milam has previously exhibited drawings of Street Pastors, including a portrait of her mother in her Street Pastor's uniform and a street scene which now features on the Street Pastors website. Of the latter she writes: 'While working on this drawing I had the story of the Good Samaritan running through my mind especially the passage: “Then Jesus said ‘which one of these three men do you think was a neighbour to the man who was attacked by the robbers?’ The expert on the law answered, ‘The one who showed him Mercy’ Jesus said to him then go and do what he did.”'

Sheila Vaughan, who is showing 'Angel' and 'Carer', is another to have painted a Salvationist previously. Vaughan says she loves 'working with faces and figures both realistically rendered and more abstractly rendered and oil pastel lends itself wonderfully to this end.' She quotes Gerhard Richter approvingly: "One has to believe in what one is doing, one has to commit oneself inwardly, in order to do painting. Once obsessed, one ultimately carries it to the point of believing that one might change human beings through painting. But if one lacks passionate commitment, there is nothing left to do. Then it is best to leave it alone. For basically painting is total idiocy".

Amanda Palmer asks whether the way we perceive the world is simply a case of what we see, or whether there is some other force at work? This question forms the starting point for her work and her own uncertainty about what the world really is and what it means. Her 'Deposition' features dolls and puppets. She explains that: 'Both toys and nature remind me of my childhood - a time of everyday magic, when each pencil, tin soldier, flower, or snail for that matter, seemed to have a magical aura about it. When the world was understood through religious beliefs and when anything seemed possible. Part of me longs to rekindle that sense of faith and wonder, and yearns for the paradisiacal, the beautiful and the magical. However, in the adult world of materialism, filled with war reports and media images of terror and devastation, how does one make sense of the world now? As instruments of many childhood games and make-believe stories, my old toys, along with natural forms, birds, insects and animals, have become the focus of my work as objects within a still life. I am interested in how, in an adult context, these can be used as vehicles for personification, interpretation, and as a catalyst for narrative. I often assemble the still lifes with reference to fairy stories, nursery rhymes, or religious artwork and draw from these as a way to try and resolve a cognitive dissonance between science and religion. '

Jessica Watson's work 'seeks to highlight the aspects of our lives we tend to sweep under the carpet, those grey areas we keep hidden for fear of ridicule.' She is 'interested in the personality traits we edit out, the ones which make us unique and our lives richer.' More than ever, she suggests, 'we are presented with a technological, polished version of life to aspire to by the media, and we have new opportunities to create our own presentation.' Watson's I'm not here just to catch you when you fall. Its my job to help you find the courage to jump is a personal response to her role as a parent; the 'constant conflict that exists between wanting to 'protect' and allowing the freedom to learn from experience.'

Narrative, contemporary artist Angela Brittain's 'colourful and exuberant paintings are full of movement and sometimes a little wit.' 'This year her work has started with a new series of wood panels about people and nature.' 'Inspired by life around her and the simple pleasure of seeing, feeling and responding - resisting labelling and simply painting from within, these paintings are alive with energy that is passed on.' 'A chance encounter of a man-made or natural set of colours working together has the ability to spark happiness or awe but only if the mind is receptive.' A strong influence on Brittain's work are 'the artists of the 1920's and 1930's such as Stanley Spencer and Edward Burra although recently she has been enjoying studying the neo-futurists like Daniel Schinasi.'

Christine Southworth takes 'an experimental approach to her print making.' Every picture she creates 'tells a story; often a sad one.' The theme for the etchings exhibited here is to 'show the plight of children who are caught up in war zones all over the world and to illustrate a need to protect the innocents.'

Congratulations to Zi Ling on winning the Rosemary & Company Art Prize for her watercolour of 'Steve'. Ling is a visual artist and theatre director. She has established herself as a painter, as well as creating numerous short films and visual installations.


Zi Ling - Normal Love.

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