"TWELVE PRINCIPLES FOR
PROTOTYPING A FEMINIST BUSINESS (Go ahead and replace the word 'Business' with ART. I did.)
1. You have a body.
2. You are connected to the earth, the plants and all living beings.
4. Institutionalize empathy: build frameworks that support feelings.
5. Embody your values.
6. Reclaim happiness: make new definitions of success.
7. Consider everything an experiment.
8. Free yourself from the myth of the meritocracy.
9. Tell the truth.
10. Cultivate abundance consciousness.
11. A business can be a healing for yourself & others.
12. A business can be a model for a new social & economic order."
(From feminineeconomy.com approaching business as art.)
Every point here resonates massively to me as an artist wishing to somehow connect my personal experiences with the universal human experience.
It seems that it is still difficult for us to separate the idea that 'female‘ art is feminist art' but the truth of the matter is I, without having played any conscious part in soliciting this myth, have only recently begun to see a rich and wonderful new female perspective become prevalent in the art world around me, and I for one am planning to grab this revelation by the scruff of the neck and see where it takes me!
I once told a friend that I liked Virginia Woolf's writing 'because she wrote like a man.' My statement immediately felt disingenuous.
Of course if I were to begin a 'crochet' project I would expect to be told that my work is feminine. Equally so, if I were to paint images of naked girls, cars and guns I would expect my work to be accused of being masculine. We have most of us been brought up with gender stereotypes and we should immerse ourselves in the continuing process of attempting to dismantle them.
Five years ago I did an interview for the now defunct Czech music & style magazine REPORT and I decided to arm myself with some choice 'influences' so that I might namedrop them during the conversation. Off the top of my head I chose a dozen artists who I felt informed my paintings or where simply artists I admired. All of them were men.
Two weeks ago, after exactly six months of reviewing the local Prague art scene, I decided to make a note of this year's highlights and list the artists who were informing my work or who impressed me the most. I listed 13 artists; all but Andy are women.
Delaine Le Bass
Kate Tempest (poet)
Åsa Söderqvist (aka ShitKid - musician)
Samantha Bee (comedian)
I mentioned in my last blog that I had seen two women's group shows in the previous month and that they were the two most interesting and influential things I had seen this year.
Jessica Serran's 'She Spoke' and Kamila Zenata's 'Event Horizon'.
One of the beautiful aspects of these shows was that I find it very easy to say why I was so moved by them. The Prague art scene is anything but boring, it does however lean heavily towards the cold, calculating coolness of conceptualism and pure abstraction; so much so that to do otherwise can seem 'artistically' noncommercial. Dada, Fluxus, Art Brut and Art Povera-style art is also so widely produced and even expected now that the well-meaning art rebels are running the risk of imitating that which was never meant to be recognised in the first place.
Though the dozen or so women in these group shows varied in style and technique there was something they shared which made me look at my own work in a whole new light. Their art was warm; their art was welcoming. I felt and saw 'honesty', 'sincerity', 'modesty' and 'truth' as well as the political.
I saw also that I had been hiding for years behind some sort of semi-literate, deliberately cerebral veil whilst completely ignoring my artistic responsibility to reveal myself.
On the whole, male artists lean towards the big picture. The search for the answer to life, the universe and everything. They see overtly personal exposition as being akin to worrying about the tap dripping when your home is under water.
Feelings trickle and change but without seeing The Big Picture we are doomed to forgetfulness.
Male artists tend to want to paint that big picture; bare the world soul.
Female artists have a reputation for narrowing it down to 'women' or themselves. This however is not true. Female artists on the contrary go bigger than big and put their heart and soul into reveaing universal truths through direct experience. This, I am beginning to believe, is the way forwards to an 'art for everyone'. Change must be through the self. We cannot feel 'love' for 'everyone' it's too abstract. Love yourself and that is 100% of the battle won.
As long as everyone does it!
There is of course no clear stereotype of what an artist is, let alone a male or a female artist but there is one thing we artists all have in common - the desire to make the world a better place.
Whether it is by reflecting its beauty or exposing its ugliness; either way the artist wants to create some kind of symmetry , balance or harmony in this apparant chaotic fabric of existence stitched together by a rich, hypnotic history of lies.
"I don't trust my inner feelings; inner feelings come and go."
Leonard Cohen - That Don't Make it Junk
"You say feelings are overrated. Feelings are all we have."
Paolo Sorrentino - Youth (movie)
I am not so much concerned with suggesting approaching art in a 'feminine' way in order to make women more marketable in the art world but am more concerned with recognising the glaringly obvious fact that one needs look no further for sensitive, sincere, artistic communication than in the heart of female artists young and old who for too long now have been overlooked in favour of 20-something, white males with the potential to be the next Damien Hirst.
As I wrote last week in relation to philosophical and artistic questions which have already been answered so it is with female artists - the work is there, it is the audience who are slow to catch on. This audience includes gallery goers, gallerists, collectors and curators.
There is a wealth of work being brought back to life in the last few years as gallerists review the female artists who were overshadowed by their more famous female counterparts but have now lived a life and 'proved their worth'. Artists such as Carmen Herrera, Etal Adnan, Carol Rams, Sue Williamson, Bratescu, Sheila Hicks, Lygia Clark and Phyllida Barlow to name but a few who you may now add to your list of female artists to google and memorise who you can name off the top of your head who aren't Frida Kahlo.
Women often wear what they are feeling figuratively and show their emotions more readily than men. Men on the other hand tend to dress on the more neutral side and hide their emotions in public. For a man to be a poet or an artist is to show a side which is mostly hidden.
The ulimate purpose of art as well as feminism is to make us all equal. Not 'the same' but equal.
We all keep things inside. Things we would be ashamed to reveal under normal circumstances. Art gives us freedom to 'say the things we wouldn't normally say' (Jessica Serran); to define our fantasies and speak our truths.
With Jessica's words in mind, I recently watched Emma Watson's 2016 U.N. speech on gender equality. In it she mentioned a statistic which shocked me. She said that the biggest killer of males between 20-49; eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease is suicide.
She speaks of the distorted sense of what constitutes male success and our fear of asking for help for fear of looking less 'macho'.
I am happy to say that amongst my peers I have encountered and befriended many artists who are more than ready to ask each other for a hand in figuring out exactly how to harmonise the elements which constitute not only 'the big world picture' but also the intimate more vulnerable aspects of 'being in' this big world and how we may guide one another onward and upwards to that nameless object of our desires.
I was having a discussion with an Iranian friend who works as a journalist and presenter at Radio Free Europe. He is currently working on a new documentary film on the history of censorship in Iran. It is his belief that the societal revolution needed to allow him, his exiled friends and his family to return to Tehran without being imprisoned or worse will come from the young women of Iran: and if you look at the strong, forward thinking, 'modern' women at the recent election campaigns of Rouhani (the moderate reformist victor) you really can see the spark of hope, hunger and freedom in their eyes.
I believe there is this same strength in so much female art and in female artists' discussions on art and I for one am delighted to be taking part in that discussion.
While I am on this subject, I want to recommend Grayson Perry's 3 part Television documentary 'All Man' (2016) which concerns three different aspects of what is considered masculine in British society and how entrenched or indeed flexible it is in each of these scenarios. In some ways this can be looked upon as the 'male' version of Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex in that Grayson is asking what it means to be a 'man' and whether or not this definition even exists.
I recommend watching the Women Artist Revolution Documentary (2010) in which female artists discuss the history and development of women in art from the sexual revolution to now,
…and Johanna Hedva's excellent talk My Body Is a Prison of Pain so I Want to Leave It Like a Mystic But I Also Love It and Want it to Matter Politically.
And finally Martin Rozbroj's new venture Literary Lavatory at his bar/club Centrala in Holesovice. An opportunity for poets of all nationalities and languages to share their poems, prose and ideas in a very relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Look out for posts on Facebook and more amazingly talented writers in the near future. The first night was side-blindingly impressive.
The purest form of art, Martin says, is the poem on the toilet wall. No signature, no fame, no ego; just pure anonymous art. Selected poems from each month will be printed on transparent sheets and distributed throughout the city's cafe and pub toilets. Expect great things.
In the next blog I will be showing off my latest large scale painting along with a video discussing my ongoing project and direction - Yippee! :-)
I enjoy showing people the Prague art scene and what it represents and presents to us.
Simple stories. Short messages. Quick news. Small Aha! moments, guidance, encouragement and perhaps a little exhilaration.
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