Monday, 5 March 2018

Virginia Woolf:An Exhibition Inspired by Her Writings.

Virginia Woolf:An Exhibition Inspired by Her Writings

At Tate St.Ives to April 29  2018

Curated by Laura Smith.

Lamps, Nicola L, 1969, drawn by Mary Fletcher

Looking into the large new gallery I can see that there is a lot to look at in this exhibition and as I walk around enjoying a lot of the paintings it slowly dawns on me that they are all by women. As its so rare to encounter over 200 works by women in a space and none by men I wonder why Tate do not make this clear. Is it fear of criticism or is it the intention that visitors become gradually aware of this ? Surely many will not notice - even the invigilator I checked with wasn't sure. Is this the point?

The curator appears to have thrown in a long list of women artists, including many living ones who have recently been in shows at this gallery. Their connections to the works of Virginia Woolf seem often to be tenuous, as though any woman artist is connected simply by being a woman. The prevailing mood of the works is quiet, personal, delicate, lacking in any stridency which rather perpetuates to my mind unfortunate stereotypes of femininity. 

The Judy Chicago sketch for including Woolf in her dinner party show, in which Woolf was like all but one of the women represented by a vaginal image is interesting but requires knowledge of that very important feminist exhibition. Often one bit of art, like the Louise Bourgeois sculpture included, seems meaningless on its own when that artist's work has usually been seen in installations where the visitor gets multiple impressions from many works that add up to an understanding of what the artist is saying. 
So this show is an accumulation of brief references and examples. 

Visitors, drawn by Mary Fletcher.

The atmosphere when I was there was of very quiet serious study. There were some very well behaved serious young children with adults who were really having conversations with them about the work. 
A few people were watching the videos, listening to through headphones, but probably rarely for the whole length of the pieces, which were often about 20 minutes long. As there is no where else to sit this will encourage some to take the opportunity of a rest and tempt them into getting involved with these pieces.

In general then much to enjoy - in my case the exquisite detail of the Gwen John picture of her room, the Laura Knight cactus picture, one of many of using a window, the crisp clear colours of a Winifred Nicholson painting of primulas, the Dod Proctor self portrait, alas too high up and badly lit.

There are all sorts of frames. There are all sorts of heights of hanging. There is wall decoration, documents in cases to read, quotes from V. Woolf here and there. There is enough for several visits. 

There isn't much about Virginia Woolf, or her writing, there isn't the rather surprising completely abstract painting by her sister Vanessa Bell that we have had in the gallery before

 I was asking myself, ' why put that it in? ' repeatedly. And also why not Rose Hilton, why not Felicity Marr etc...

It's enjoyable, a bit incoherent, but worth visiting for many individual treats.

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