Feminism at the Dowse

Last Friday I went to Four Waves of Feminism organised by Courtney Johnston and her team at The Dowse. It was great to see so many people there and catch up with old friends.

Thoughts that stuck with me

Our female voices not only need to be heard but also recorded. Roma Potiki made a very good point that the recording of our work and voices is vital for the women that come after us.

Tina Barton talked about her experience of taking a Women in Art paper at university in her 20’s. How it required her to keep a journal of her thoughts on the art she was seeing. Tina very generously read from the journal and I was impressed by her clear voice at a young age. Tina’s experience of the way this paper was taught compared to others in the art history department gave her an insight into different ways of communicating and being in the world. And I imagine it also validated her voice in a history which is filled with the voices of men. During my masters I only read texts and research by women and still search out their work over men.

Joanna Margaret Paul, 'Cyanotic Rose', 1977
Joanna Margaret Paul, ‘Cyanotic Rose’, 1977

Alice Tappenden gave a talk about Joanna Margaret Paul and the current exhibition This is the cup of your heart, Alice curated at The Dowse. Alice was questioning how much of Joanna’s diaries should be taken in to account when considering her work. I’m interested in hearing the stories of artists lives particularly if their work comes out of their lived experience. I have difficulty writing about my own work as I never know how much of my life story to reveal, a consequence of too much academic training requiring me to quote theory to justify the work. Although my work ins’t autobiographical it does come from my experience of life. I didn’t know that Joanna’s daughter Imogen had died as a baby. Alice’s talk has inspired me to look at Joanna’s work more closely. The exhibition itself is an investigation into loss, longing and the presence of absence in our lives. A group of very quiet, subdued work yet with a powerful undertow.

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