Deidre Brock MP

Member of Parliament for Edinburgh North and Leith

Speech: Audacious Women of Art

Pauline Boty created pop art works in the early 1960s – right at the leading edge of the new art – it was her ideas and her imagination that sparked a movement but the artists that most people remember today are boring old guys like Warhol. Compared to the vibrant sensuality of Boty, the Campbell's soup can is as cream of chicken as it gets.

Deidre Brock MP

​​I was lucky enough to take part in Edinburgh's Audacious Women Festival last month. I hosted a panel of women artists working in Leith - Mirja Kopp, Sara Thomson and Karen Fleming - for a discussion of inspiring women of the art world both past and present and how boundaries can be pushed back, expectations and stereotypes challenged through art as well as politics. Here's my contribution:-

AUDACIOUS WOMEN ARTISTS

Audacious, ambitious, suspicious, contentious, ingenious, ferocious, illustrious, rebellious, tenacious and vexatious.

Women who won't be put in a box, women who won't stay in their place, women who'll get up, get out and get on with it – changing the world one irritating little problem at a time.

You'll pick up traces of them throughout history and in all walks of life, you'll find them in all nations and in all classes.You'll find some who were workers and some who didn't need to.

They had and have one shining commonality – up with this nonsense they shall not put!

People elsewhere will be talking about women in politics and in the trade union movement and in community movements – you'll have noticed that it was women who were driving the Lorne Street campaign, for instance, but I've got the delight of hosting this wee discussion about how women have used art – in all its forms – to change the world and our place in it.

Art might be one of the most effective weapons we have – art and humour – and maybe our stamina – oh, and our imaginations.So art and humour and stamina and imagination – and maybe wit.

But we're talking about art today so first let me introduce you to the panel who are all fabulous – Mirja Kop, Sara Thomson and Karen Fleming.

We'll get down to some serious discussion with this excellent and wise panel in a moment but I'm a politician and so, before I let the experts speak, I'm going to just fling out a bit of gossip about a few inspirational women whose art forged new places and new ideas and continues to have an impact today.

I'm doing that just because I can and, of course, these are only a few of the many you can choose from and I have left out many who I also admire.

I just want to point something out, though, when women do something amazing it is all too often recorded in history as some man having done it and art is no different.

The famous urinal sculpture, Fountain, is well known to be by Marcel Duchamp but there is a good chance, more than a good chance, that the actual artist was Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven who had been creating found art for quite some time and was the more imaginative and humorous artist.It's still Duchamp who is remembered as the innovator, though.

Likewise, Pauline Boty created pop art works in the early 1960s – right at the leading edge of the new art – it was her ideas and her imagination that sparked a movement but the artists that most people remember today are boring old guys like Warhol. Compared to the vibrant sensuality of Boty, the Campbell's soup can is as cream of chicken as it gets.

Camille Claudel who inspired Rodin also claimed that he nicked her ideas; Marlow Moss whose parallel lines became famous while she did not; Alma Thomas whose pioneering work was reminiscent of ancient mosaics but abstract and painted, the list goes on.

Louise Bourgeois who worked to fund herself through her studies when her father cut off financial support and whose sculptures helped to redefine what sculpture is but whose work was hardly known until, it seems, just yesterday.

Sonia Delaunay who was a cofounder of Orphism but whose memory sits in the shadow of her husband's in spite of her being the better artist.

And there are Scots artists who have kicked back and created new art that shakes new apples from the trees.

Someone who lives not far from here – Barbara Rae whose work draws from the world.Intense, vivid colours in her landscapes a legacy from Mexico but she also draws inspiration from European destinations and her bold, intense, semi-abstract works are a mark of her global and free thinking.

Liz Blackadder who seems to delight in breaking the rules, another world citizen deciding that the world can be seen differently.

Alison Watt whose work hangs in Parliament down Holyrood way and who has the most beautifully expressed bedsheets I have ever seen painted.That does a dis-service to her work which has abstract veins to it but generates incredible power – I often find I'm almost tasting flavours when I look at them.

And just because she's fabulous, let's remember Joan Eardley – who was born elsewhere but had the good taste to move to Scotland and whose depictions of Glasgow street children look almost crayon-like – I'm not sure how that's done – but were somehow lifelike and powerful, too.

Women artists, powerful, innovative, pushing the boundaries of life, pushing the boundaries of art, pushing everything they can find to see what it does.

Enough of my whitterings, though, let's hear from the real experts – let's just open this up and have a discussion.


Leith International Women's Day
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Saturday, 23 June 2018

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