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The Great Women Artists: Women on Instagram

14.11.2017 | Art , Culture | BY:

‘But in actuality, as we all know, things as they are and as they have been, in the arts as in a hundred other areas, are stultifying, oppressive, and discouraging to all those, women among them, who did not have the good fortune to be born white, preferably middle class and, above all, male,” Linda Nochlin wrote in her seminal essay Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? published in 1971. The essay highlights the ways in which institutional barriers have suppressed the voices of female artists throughout western history, acting as a foundational text for feminist art theory. It only takes a scroll through Katy Hessel’s Instagram account @thegreatwomenartists for one to be reminded of all the voices that were silenced; all the brave, provocative and breathtakingly intelligent female artists – from 18th century portrait painter Maria Verelst to sculptor Andrea Zittle to contemporary photographer Nydia Blas.

'Disgusting, Self Portrait', 2016 | © Antonia Showering

‘Disgusting, Self Portrait’, 2016 | © Antonia Showering

It is Instagram that has become the common denominator in the curation of Hessel’s first exhibition The Great Women Artists: Women on Instagram – an exhibition which will feature fifteen UK-based female artists who have used Instagram as a mechanism to showcase their work. Speaking to a following of over 600,000 Instagram users globally, these artists have a very powerful voice indeed.  The show questions what it means to be a female artist in an era dominated by notifications, and asks whether this has facilitated a greater emancipation from the instruments of oppression for the women of this generation?

The theme of the exhibition is interesting as it seeks to display the works by these artists in a way that has been rarely seen: face to face. We are encouraged to take our eyes off the cracked screen of one’s iPhone and flock to Mother, London this Thursday to engage with the work in a more tangible manner. One featured artist is Dolly Brown, or @londonlivingdoll, a visual and performing arts photographer based in London. When asked what viewers will find most surprising about her work when they see it in real life she remarked: ‘I think that after people become accustomed to seeing your images on a very small scale on their phone, it must be a pleasant surprise to see them printed large(r). The first time that I showed work “in real life” I printed as large as I possibly could, I think simply because I was so excited about the prospect of the images having a life outside of the phone. The hang that we are going for in this show is a grid so it replicates the way that the images are presented in Instagram, but I think this is also an indication of how the “gallery” on Instagram has encouraged me to shoot in series and to think about how all the pictures will look together when they are eventually posted.”

© Alice Aedy

© Alice Aedy

There is a broad range of participating artists, including Juno Calypso (@junocalypso), whose self portraits have won her prestigious awards including the Series Award at the 2016 British Journal of Photography International Award; Kate Dunn (@bellissi.mama), whose earthly toned oil paintings revive the traditional medium; and Unskilled Worker (@Unskilledworker), who has been commissioned by fashion’s great including photographer Nick Knight and brands such as Gucci. The artists conquer a wide array of themes including feminism, womanhood, politics, diversity, mental health, colour and form.

‘Whatever else Instagram is, it has given me the opportunity to work with artists and performers that I never would have been able work with, had it not been for the app, ‘Brown praises the medium for its ability to connect female artists globally – to share common issues, grievances and ideas. Whatever you do this Thursday, it might be worth getting off Instagram and coming down to see the exciting collision of female creativity in real life.

The exhibition is at Mother London, E2, from November 13-17th, by appointment only. 

Featured image by photographer Maisie Cousins

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