Galleries - February Issue

take a new view on pieces from the collection. But it is the specificity of the show that should be celebrated. Another major commemoration of the female suffrage movement is Mary Branson’s six metre high illuminated glass sculpture ‘New Dawn’ in Westminster Hall. Unveiled in 2016, this abstract piece draws relevant concepts and images including 168 back-lit glass ‘scrolls’, representations of those signed by millions of people in the battle for the vote. It is a colourful and contemporary tribute to the movement’s breadth, but it also has the effect ofreducing those involved to faceless numbers. In fact, abstraction stands in direct contrast to those historic images associated with female suffrage. The movement was fought (and combated) with posters and cartoons celebrating (and lambasting) the women behind it, and they were figurative almost to a one. So often in history – particularly the history of art – women’s identities are lost or their stories confused. What is now the Tate’s earliest work by a female painter was long assumed to be by a male hand before being attributed to Joan Carlile (c 1606-79). ‘First Among Equals’ allows important women to lay claim to their places in history and for anyone to pay tribute to those whose stories will never be told. Frances Allitt With the Royal Academy in London busy celebrating its 250th anniversary this year, we shouldn’t be losing sight of its younger, no less nimble and progressive cousin, the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, itself 160 years old in 2018. It is some success story in its own right, having recovered from dour and difficult times in the immediate post-war period when, in 1950, they finally took back their exuberantly Victorian HQ in Clifton from the Inland Revenue. Now, over some 25 years of profound economic and structural reform, they have emerged once again as a real force in the region’s visual arts programming, their latest group of some four shows, entitled ‘Women with Vision’, showing characteristic quick wittedness in taking as its cue the ‘Vote 100’ celebrations of women’s suffrage. The first of these, devoted to the work of Turner Prize nominee, Cornelia Parker, ended last month but the other three are on now and they all reflect well on the RWA’s consistently enlightened attitude to women members – they have, for example, had four women presidents over the last 100 years (as opposed to none at the London RA). This is made very clear in the ‘Women of the RWA’ segment of ‘Women with Vision’ where there is work on show from such founding figures (and members) as Augusta Talboys and Rolinda Sharples in the 19th century via such 20th century Modernists as Vanessa Bell and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham right up to the present day with Gillian Ayres and Emma Stibbon. Meanwhile one of the greatest of its women members, Scottish painter, the late Anne Redpath is being given a solo show and one that is worth the ticket price in itself, but the centrepiece of the whole event has to be the imaginative grouping of ‘Frink- Blow-Lawson’. Key figures in post-war British Modernist art (and members of the RWA), they all had, despite the outwardly very different character of their art, a surprising amount in common, above all a deep understanding of the prevailing currents in international art, European in particular, that takes their art in profoundly original, non-masculine directions. Nicholas Usherwood London’s Foundling Museum marks 100 years of female suffrage this year with exhibitions and events devoted to women in British society, culture and philanthropy. Kicking it off is ‘First Among Equals’ for which women who have achieved significant firsts – such as Maria Balshaw, first female director of Tate, and Moira Cameron, first female ‘Beefeater’ – have each selected an object from the museum’s collection, covering 300 years of cultural artefacts. This is a chance to hear personal stories from remarkable figures, as well as CODA from left: E lisabeth Frink ‘Birdman’ Royal West of England Academy. Coldstream Guard's button c1780 © The Foundling Museum F irst place Clear vision FEBRUARY 2018 GALLERIES 39