EASTERN BEACHES INSPIRING A NEW WAVE OF FEMALE ARTISTSIn the spring of 1985, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held an exhibition entitled, ‘An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture’. There were 165 artists exhibited in this show. Just 13 of them were women.
In the decades between then and now, massive strides towards gender parity have been made. The art world, however, generally remains a cultural institution imbued with the patriarchal ideology of yore. Even our beloved Art Gallery of NSW reveals its bias with a simple ‘sort by gender’ of its online gallery collection: it is comprised of 4236 works by women, compared to 22974 works by men.
In 2015, obviously perturbed by this structural inequality, a group of young, Sydney-based female artists and creatives got together and formed The Ladies Network (TLN). These wonderful women provide a multi-platform agency for female identifying and gender-fluid creatives to exhibit their work.
“On the whole, women’s art still sells for a fraction of the price of the work of their male counterparts,” TLN editor-in-chief Arabella Peterson explained. “This suggests that they’re not considered a valuable investment.”
In the past fifty years, reclamation of traditionally ‘female’ art practices and craft traditions has driven much female-produced art – think Judy Chicago’s ‘Dinner Party’ and feminist patchworks.
While reclaiming the domestic is important and powerful, female representation of the natural landscape is similarly radical. Men have traditionally represented landscapes, the outside world being ‘their’ domain.
Bronte Leighton-Dore (@bronteleightondore) and Helen Proctor (@helen_proctor) are two artists working with the TLN, and their captivating paintings are turning any presumption of gendered subject matter on its head. And, excitingly for us, they are both inspired by Sydney’s glorious Eastern Beaches.
Ms. Leighton-Dore is a 22-year-old painter whose colourful, brushstroke-centric depictions of beach and bush are, to put it simply, magical.
“I definitely feel powerful when I paint,” she said. “However, I think [the paintings themselves] are celebrations of nature, colour and space.”
One of Ms. Leighton-Dore’s works is an arrestingly simple painting of Coogee Beach.
“I had been feeling overwhelmed and caught the bus to Coogee,”she said. “As soon as I started painting I had people coming up to me, talking with me, asking questions. I felt so recharged.
“Coogee that day was offering not only the beauty of the natural landscape, but also the beauty of the community that had formed as a result.”
Ms. Proctor is similarly inspired by painting in public places – up until recently she mostly practiced street art under the alter ego ‘syke’.
She has now transitioned to more studio-based works, but nature continues to inspire her.
“I don’t know what I would do without a salty cleanse every once in a while,” she said. “Over the last 10 years I feel like I have explored every little swim spot of the Eastern Suburbs.”
Ms. Proctor’s upcoming exhibition, at Goodspace Gallery in Chippendale on April 19, “will be based around Sydney’s beaches and rock pools as a little tribute to the summer that has just passed.”
Her work involves a lot of sharp lines and angles, “but I realised the other day that my style may actually be influenced by my love of cross stitch; I have been collecting from op shops for years.”
Now there’s a gender fluid synergy.