Female Artists, Instagram, and Some Major Badassery in New UK Show
The power of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and their ubiquitous nature in society has made it practically impossible to avoid using them in both one’s social and professional life. The way in which the digital age captures the zeitgeist of contemporary society could be seen as an occasion to slightly mourn the necessity of physical engagement as we now find ourselves communicating with literally just a flick or a click. Yet it is also unavoidable to acknowledge the positives of this new cyber world, which has opened up endless possibilities and opportunities to individuals, groups, collectives, businesses and whole industries.
Platforms such as Instagram have created an alternative space for artists to curate and exhibit their works - the power of the online image has ultimately helped shape and even make some artists careers. This is something that Katy Hessel, Founder of the Instagram account @thegreatwomenartists has examined and explored in the group exhibition ‘Great Women Artists: Women on Instagram’. Featured at Downstairs at Mother, the advertising agency, the show included works by fifteen UK-based female artists:
Alice Aedy (@aliceaedy), Venetia Berry (@venetiaberryart), Dolly Brown (@londonlivingdoll), Juno Calypso (@junocalypso), Maisie Cousins (@maisiecousins), Kate Dunn (@bellissi.mama), Charlotte Edey (@edey_), Gill Button (@buttonfruit), Fee Greening (@feegreening), Manjit Thapp (@manjitthapp), Rose Harris (@roseelectraharris), Alice Joiner (@alicejoiner), Antonia Showering (@antoniashowering), Alice Skinner (@whothafuckisalice), and Unskilled Worker (@unskilledworker).
While each artist that participated uses Instagram as one of their main tools to promote their work, Hessel offered them the opportunity to showcase their art in the more traditional context. Each piece can be enjoyed as an individual work whilst also being part of a powerful female collective. Hessel brings together artists who examine and explore themes centered around womanhood and feminism; diversity, equality, sexuality, the female form and mental health.
Whatsmore, Hessel opened up a unique dialogue between the exhibitors as she fused together works by the more classically trained and traditional artist and those who have come to be referred to as ‘Instagram artists’; assessing the different ways in which artists work with Instagram. Juno Calypso, whose fictional character Joyce has become an online sensation, examines the female aesthetic in the 21st century, which has become overwhelmed with pressures to maintain a specific standard of beauty. The artist’s 2016 submission for her 'Honeymoon Suite' series has been paired with the more traditional canvas works of Antonia Showering (‘Take Me Back’, 2017) and the classically trained line seen in Venetia Berry’s (‘Ceil’, 2017).
Hessel provided the online viewer an alternative space to observe the works of artists they enjoy following online. As a curator, Hessel challenges our associations with both the importance of art and its online presence whilst also allowing us to enjoy the physicality of it and seeing it in person - a concept, which has until now, been the rhetoric when it comes to the ways in which we observe art. The positive feedback that this show has received reflects the powerful messages it successfully portrays through the careful and well thought out selection of artists. Let's hope that the exhibition and the work Hessel places on promoting female artists through her account @greatwomenartists, will lead to many more exhibitions that help promote the work of contemporary female artists.
'The Great Women Artists: Women on Instagram' will be on view from November 13-17 at Downstairs at Mother, London.