“There is a leftist glaze tinged with pink around feminism”: artist duo Quinlan and Hastings | Art

Ft over the past five years, artist duo Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings have focused on gay bars. A couple as well as collaborators, they created happy gay bars one night only as performances, compiled a vast archive of moving images from over 100 of these places across the country and made films about the way male clubs and male only gay bars reflect a broader culture of male domination. Themes of security, belonging, visibility and power dynamics run through their work as part of an examination of issues related to policing, austerity and gentrification in society. in general. Oh, and they also do some wonderfully sultry designs featuring buff androgynous youths.

Today, London artists, who won the Jarman Film Prize last year, are turning to the feminist movement in Britain. “There’s a rose-tinted varnish left around the story of feminism,” Quinlan says when we meet in their studio on the Thames in London. “We wanted to use the same critical framework that we applied to male culture to look at women.” Their new exhibition Disgrace at Arcadia Missa Gallery in London explores the often overlooked historical links between British feminism and the political right through a series of prints, a film, a fresco, two drawings and a book.

The 12 prints – a new medium for the couple – form the centerpiece, theatrically drawing a common thread from largely female propaganda groups such as the Victoria League, formed in 1901 to strengthen Imperial networks, to the conservative pressure group Women2Win, co-founded in 2005. by Theresa May. Along the way, they cross paths with suffragists, volunteer women’s police groups and liberal feminists.

‘It’s about being responsible as white women’ … Republic # 2, 2021 Photography: Rob Harris / Courtesy: The Artists and Arcadia Missa, London

“Our goal was to create our own feminist timeline that presents this alternate narrative, thinking about the British Empire and colonialism, white feminism and how the class has intersected with issues of feminism, xenophobia and of racism during this period, ”says Hastings.

In this potted, chic timeline women are shown frolicking at a garden party, baking cakes to support the empire, raising perfect privileged children, and mobilizing in fascist black shirts; Fast forward to the ’70s, where pinched-faced Puritans and scantily clad liberals fight for the morality of sex work and pornography, and a decade later when a woman in a costume of power is shown carrying to climb on bodies to overturn a block of social housing.

These compositions are inspired by the magical realism of Paula Rego’s 1989 Nursery Rhyme prints and the brutal vocabulary of Goya’s War Disasters (1810-20), as well as other artistic heroes such as William Blake and Gustave Doré. Quinlan frequently pulls out drawing books to indicate the sources they used to capture a scene or movement. The Triumphs of Caesar series by Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna (1484-92), for example, has been reinterpreted as a procession of successful Thatcherite women, including May and Priti Patel in the engraving I’m Not a Woman I ‘ m a Conservative.

Complementing the prints, a home theater-style ‘horror’ film, Portraits, features a kaleidoscope of nostalgic mock photographs of early 20th-century women interwoven with claustrophobic interiors of a Victorian mansion and spooky scenes of Edwardian dolls. attended by servants in an immaculate dollhouse. .

So what prompted Quinlan and Hastings to take on the feminist movement? Part of it was debates around intersectional feminism as well as artists’ distaste for die-hard Conservative MPs like May, Patel and even Boris Johnson proclaiming themselves feminists. Gender-critical feminism, or what the duo calls radical trans-exclusionary feminism, for Hastings a “defining issue of our generation,” has also been a factor. “We were wondering what is the origin of all this? We kept going back and forth and found ourselves in the Edwardian period.

Months of research have revealed unsavory truths about women portrayed as national icons in school curricula. While it is not surprising that wealthy women promoted the imperial plan to increase their influence, it is less well known that a number of suffragists joined the British Union of Fascists from Oswald Mosley and that several were supporters of eugenics.

'A procession of Thatcherite women eager for success' ... I'm not a woman, I'm a curator
‘A procession of Thatcherite women eager for success’ … I’m not a woman, I’m a curator Photography: Rob Harris / Courtesy: The Artists and Arcadia Missa, London

Artists recognize that they can be accused of betraying an imaginary fraternity, but Hastings argues that it’s about being responsible as white women. “We do this because we are feminists,” she says. “Someone who sees this as an attack on feminism is probably an accomplice to this white racist feminism on the political right. “

Quinlan and Hastings met at Goldsmiths College in 2013 when they were both 21 and began collaborating the following year, mostly with computer-generated and digital images and performance pieces. They didn’t start drawing together until 2017, but their intricate and distinctive compositions have become a cornerstone of their practice, with each piece taking around two months. Over the past two years, they have expanded into demanding traditional techniques such as fresco painting and printmaking for their ultra-contemporary explorations of identity. “Our collaboration is definitely fueled by our love because the work is so intense,” says Hastings.

Through all of these mediums, the characters are portrayed as flamboyant and manly. “We love the androgyny of Michelangelo’s figures, with their masculine physique,” ​​explains Quinlan. “And funny little breasts, really naughty, high on the chest,” Hastings laughs.

In their show Disgrace, a striking colored pencil drawing, Mother, depicts a muscular woman in a fancy hat, effortlessly holding a bull on the lawn of a mansion. Giving a playful feminist touch to the Twelve Labors of Hercules, he suggests that the political emancipation of women is a Herculean endeavor. “I love that she wears this outfit but wears a bull, Hastings said. “There’s this show of force, but it’s in front of this English country mansion, so there’s the idea that its political power depends on its privileges and possessions.”

“Whether it’s villains or heroes,” she adds, “we’re always interested in drawing our characters with muscular vitality to show their power… and think about how it’s wielded.


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