6 to 28 September, 2019
Londonewcastle presents The Most Powerful Woman In The Universe, curated by Kelly-Anne Davitt. An empowering, punk, pop show celebrating contemporary women artists at East London’s Gallery 46.
Virtuoso painting, sculpture, installation, photography and film exploring the power of art and femininity. The show features eight strong contemporary women artists, all diverse in practice and at varying stages in their career. There is a strong, feisty, feminist theme running throughout the work.
Born out of Davitt’s desire to take charge of her own career and bring other female artists together as one voice, the inspiration for the show came from the 1980s Marvel character She-Ra, Princess of Power, The Most Powerful Woman in the Universe. This seemed like a fantastic starting point for an all-woman exhibition and a brilliant playground for artists to make work.
Kelly-Anne Davitt’s namesake artwork The Most Powerful Woman in the Universe depicts an oversized She-Ra action figure standing against a hellfire, apocalyptic background. She is a strong and powerful young woman, defiant in the face of women’s historic struggle. Davitt wants her audience to feel both empowered and intimidated by this Amazonian warrior/god.
Inspirational, kickass artist, the late Nancy Fouts plays with visual language, reinventing religious artefacts and everyday objects to achieve surreal and mischievous juxtapositions. A playful example of this is found in Madonna with Safeway Bags; a traditional looking sculpture of the Madonna brought down to earth with the addition of Safeway carrier bags. As Nancy said, ‘I mean she’s a Mother, so why doesn’t she have shopping bags?’
Sara Pope’s iconic lip paintings are feisty, feminine and bold, delivered in vibrant pop tones. Pope’s painting process involves several layers of thin oil, blending and smoothing extensively, emulating the glossy slickness of advertising. The work questions beauty, communication and the rise of image perfectionism and is informed by Sara’s background in fashion.
Nina Mae Fowler is known for her sumptuously detailed, intricate drawings of stars from Hollywood’s golden age, exploring themes of celebrity, beauty, power and sexuality. In Bette, Fowler has depicted Bette Davis caught in a moment of sardonic laughter. The large scale work captures the highly combative Davis who was well known for her forceful and intense personality.
Salena Godden is a poet warrior. In her film installation, Godden reads Red her protest poem about tampon tax. Questioning, why is it still so taboo to speak about periods? Why are we so disgusted by this blood? It is a poem about women’s autonomy over their own bodies and their own choices. It highlights periods as our strength not our weakness. ‘Anything you can do, I can do bleeding. I can do anything dripping with blood.’ Hilarious, confrontational and powerful with undertones of the infamous scene of Carrie covered in pig’s blood.
Smashing up stereotypes, Clancy Gebler Davies explores what it is to be a woman. In Fake Nude, inspired by Eve with herself as the model, she has taken time to create a naked body suit, employing prop makers to design her perfect merkin. The photographic outcome is at once humorous, absurd and beautiful.
Bex Massey’s immersive painting installation explores a less overt women’s history and questions why women are still the second sex. There is a complex symbolic layering of imagery in Massey’s paintings, drawing from popular culture and delivered in pop vibrant tones. These immersive installations display and re-fashion paraphernalia from Massey’s adolescence, whilst examining the phenomena of celebrity and the throw-away nature of popular culture.
Hanne Jo Kemfor’s labour-intensive painting process leaves a ghostly residue, with the echoes of drawn lines throughout the layers, reminiscent of Goya. This creates a fascinating depth, a well pool of emotion which is powerful and captivating. Kemfor’s large scale oil painting of crouching women in a nebulous landscape is inspired by photographs of women in refugee camps leaning over their children, fiercely protective.
Each artist will also be offering their own interpretation of the Princess of Power by creating an artwork from a She-Ra action figure specifically for the show, proceeds for which will go to Malala Fund, a charity working for a world where every girl can learn and lead.