The art of women is not a category of its own. The art of women through history and around the world is part of the tapestry of art history in its own right, blended in and out of the more predominantly highlighted male artists for sure, but is there and is bold and vital. Highlighting female artists in particular as a series for blog posts is to take up that extra bit of space that women have been denied, to give that little bit of internet over to the women and fill up that space with what they have to say and create.
Researching artists for this little segment on my little blog has been the biggest pleasure and more important personal work than I first anticipated. To be able to step closer to the women whose work I admired from afar and take a closer look at their ‘why’ and ‘how’ has been dreamy.
I had to open the first of the series with my own favourite, kicking off with 4 very different artists, established in their own right and known globally for their work.
Mutu is a brilliant and radiantly established Kenyan-American artist whose work belonging in the Afrofuturism movement focuses on the female body in the form of collages, paintings, sculptures and live performances. Her work sits boldly on the subjects of gender, art, race, politics, environmentalism, personal identity and so many, many more.
Concerned deeply with Western commercialism, Mutu has explained that “a lot of my work reflects the incredible influence that America has had on contemporary African culture. Some of it’s insidious, some of it’s innocuous, some of it’s invisible. It’s there.” She is exploring the ‘in-betweens of her position of being a female African in America, the hybridity of her culture .’
I first fell in love with the imagery she produces of females and felt compelled to know more about the purposeful distortions that her collages represent. The way the female body is imposed upon within western culture, but more importantly how her own culture is imposed upon, and in showing this in such a way that places a discomfort and unease around the female form she shows, as if blending both the ideal and the disliked that is so heavily put upon women and their cultures and the impossible, non-sensical nature of it is shown brilliantly.
Her work is so important and bold in its message, but pockets of sensualism and a delicateness laces throughout its visuals.
‘You are my sunshine’ – collage painting on paper – 2015
‘Forbidden fruit picker’ – collage painting 2015
The sculptural land art of Konrad’s is breathtaking. In idyllic settings in lush green spaces, she creates beautiful structures that further emphasise the beauty of the nature around her, without imposing anything new upon it, or overriding it. It feels like an appreciation of nature, and a manipulation of the natural materials around her to make you look twice at what was already there. There is a feeling of a moment frozen in time with her gravity defying visuals.
Based in Germany, Konrads has three passions: art, philosophy and travelling and is grateful that life has offered her the opportunity to combine the three. On the topic more specifically about being a woman in her field, she mentions that her enjoyment in construction has always been met with the opposition that construction work is not something for girls. She has managed to break that mould and rise above what it had meant to be a stereotypical female artist.
Her manifesto is to shake you out of sleep walking, and reignite your interest in the natural world around you. She says ‘I’m fascinated by this transient thing called “moment” or “presence.” The mysterious rupture between past and future. Consequently my work aims to cause a moment of irritation, by adding an element to the scene, which refuses to fit into the expected order. On the whole when we look, we don’t see. We wander in a sort of monologue with ourselves. Moments of irritation and amazement can shake us out of this mental drowsiness.’
Ustinova creates beautiful soft sculptures from her love of crocheting. Made with a metallic carcass centre, the sculptures are often between 25-60cm big. Previously an illustrator, Ustinov combined her love for sculpture and crocheting by creating these ladies. Coming from an artistic family in Russia with a mother who taught her to crochet at 5, she then followed an artistic path through her academic life.
I can’t find a great deal of information on Ustinova, I noticed she exhibits her ladies in museums and rarely sells them. I personally liked the light hearted nature of her work. As someone who always struggled working with textile materials I find it to be a great mastery of her practice.
A UK born artist who has travelled the world in a way that has shaped her artwork, Brewster has worked in a variety of mediums from metal and paintings, to paper art. Using out of date maps and atlases, Brewster creates delicate structures and mounts them almost as installations.
Having lived in Spain and Romania, and spent her adult life living in London, you can see the link between the geological nature of her art and the flurry and wildness of the nature she depicts. She says ‘Nature is ever present, even in the most urban environments, taking over wherever we neglect, living in a separate yet parallel universe. I take my inspiration from the natural environment, creating entomological installations of flora and fauna from imagined locations.’
Working to represent nature in natural materials, I wonder if her urban lifestyle in London has encouraged her to show that nature thrives even in locations that are built in opposition of nature. As a bird art lover myself I really enjoy these little structures as well as her other works in painting form.
‘We all have our freedom’