On Thursday I invited Up Your Street seniors some of whom are artists and certainly all have seen many art exhibitions in their lives or so you’d assume plus two champions who’d been my subjects in acrylic and are seniors too. So it was a mainly old girl’s tea party when Eric hobbled in and disappeared after the fruit juice and tour.
Hackney Central Library’s community art space is ridiculous. The space is three trophy display cabinets and two pin board screens. The thing is it’s free, I recently paid to exhibit one A4 painting in a women only show miles away. The work had to be framed and ready to hang and I was given less than two weeks’ notice. I did it though because I was supporting east end women artists who could learn a lesson or two about supporting me. That could be just through sharing a Facebook status photograph and giving me some credit. I thought it was out of order to charge women to exhibit for International Women’s Day especially when the organiser was flippin’ funded. Still, my choice. I did find at the bottom of the email the fee for concessions so pushed in my squids.
The Champions Exhibition tour started with an oil pastels on thick black paper almost a metre square of local activist Claire who rejected my acrylic canvas because I had left out her spectacles which define her. Everyone loved the portrait with her wide and hooded eyes not seen at all when she smiles which is most of the time.
The first acrylic was of beautiful Theodora Cadbury who runs brilliantly Xenia at Hackney Museum, a coming together opportunity for refugee and indigenous women to get English spoken. I was able to promote Xenia from experience totally for I was a founder participant. Part of the pull of going was the outstanding and comfortable museum at Hackney which exists for the community. Take note you others.
Zeb Achonu in her lashings of paint and recently You Tube star at London Contemporary Voices to be checked on their Facebook page was next in line for championess. She in nose studs, and vulnerable huge eyes always in scarlet red lipstick founded MUSEfest, a women only musical experience and festival with Hannah Judson. My guests were open-mouthed as I told them how MUSEfest generated a donation to White Ribbon Alliance for global safe childbirth for every woman.
Hibo Wardere, fierce but approachable, campaigner against Female Genital Mutilation, will one day get her two canvases along with a deserved OBE from Queenie. She too is in the cabinet. She rejected my first canvas as she remarked it was half a picture whereas I wanted to capture her eyes which are sometimes doe’s eyes with thick black eyeliner accentuating them. Behind those balls of black is a heart swimming for women and abused girls.
Mary Fahey had hesitantly (first time she showed doubt) asked me if the woman behind the leaves was supposed to be her. It is. It’s Mary the DJ behind a net curtain, seeing what’s going on but surrounded too by plants, She is a garden prize winner from up in Walthamstow Village. If you get to the exhibition you’ll read why these women are champions.
Rosie Bancroft doesn’t know I painted her after Paul Floyd Blake’s National Prize-winning photograph. She is a teenager in my painting which was originally one of my “At the Swim” collection seen at Hackney and Stratford. Everyone wants that picture. Postcards are available as I put her up for auction.
BN Neu pushed until she got seniors noted and recognised as a group force at Tate Modern. She’s not finished yet. How is she not the old woman who can dye her hair purple? I captured her vulnerability and tenacity. People see a champion.
Ah, my beautiful paintings of Hilary, full of textiles and colour and Hyacinth, our Valentine’s baby enriched in her beauty and African-ness. Both paintings are layers of colour. Both paintings depict quiet modest women who know their crafts and share them. Saluted.
Jessica Brassica, lovingly called because she is of the Green. Jessica Green, lover of life. mover of spirits and champion in the domain of bodily health and wellness through breathing and self-knowledge. She’ll have a yoga class of one and keep a level of excellence for that one person who is as important as the crowd. Her beauty is often unseen behind her hair and glasses. In the exhibition she is rightfully exposed. She is beautiful.
Even in her ugliness knocked into her by abuse, Sonita as a painting is fascinating in the story behind it. Here is a young woman in a stained white wedding dress and veil screaming silently. This is from the character Sonita plays in her “Brides For Sale” daring video. We see the child in the bloodied face. Well done, Sonita Alizadeh.
Marcella has rich tones of brown, African brown, in her face with that tight-lipped smile. The brown is layered on mauve layered on yellow all done in the early morning hours when the repeated How to Paint plum in your mouth TV shows are switched off and the urban foxes come out to disturb security lights in their hunt for stale bread. Behind a charming and warm face is a lioness. Our champion was with us in the viewing line as was Claire.
Amanda, art therapist, stood glossed in golden nail varnish behind the Hackney Library cabinet glass, waiting to gently serve us in the community. She stands watching us as we almost miss her on a smaller frame. We did salute her.
Sylvia was hidden for a while but made it to the champions line-up with her striking hair and features accentuated by a golden eagle eye as she misses nothing and notes everything. She is currently working with BN Neu and I on a project inspired by Tammy Whynot regarding technology access for seniors who can’t.
Mother to many Katrina laughs in the cabinet. We automatically warm to this premier champion who without a second thought bundles her family into a van alongside sleeping bags and torches for refugees wherever and whenever. Since we first heard about Lesvos and Calais in 2015 Katrina was on the move, setting up collection points for refugee aid. It was I who was nervous to ask her to be a painted Champion for I was in awe of her. My contribution was to paint refugee scenes in a collection called “Save Our Souls” which was exhibited in Stratford. Every tenner was sent to Kat.
I was always mindful of seniors’ legs as we walked around and as my guests listened to me. Claire reminded me that I was disadvantaging the disadvantaged when I hadn’t waited for Eric with his stick. Some of us had drunk sherry and eaten sugar so we were quite high. I was high on sharing my art. The security guard came and told us off for laughing and disturbing the six people bent over and studying. Likely. Marcella was typically fuming. I had already introduced myself to the security staff and ignored what was said because teenagers were busy chatting and yowling in other parts of the library which is only quiet on a one hour slot from 9-10am. It’s a market-place otherwise.
On the day before, the real International Women’s Day, Tate Britain’s Soapbox lot of 25 had discussed the lack of visible and celebrated women artists’ work in the museums. With Soapbox,unless you’re at the scene, you’ll never know how it went. I was at Anna Alcock’s women and printing workshop in Walthamstow where we mostly senior women of the white persuasion listened to a rant about the same topic. I was surely at the scene listening to myself. This month besides having two exhibitions about women, I am highlighting modern day women printmakers to balance out so many things, one being the twee view of women as crafters like ole May Morris instead of women as machine operators in a man’s world. I e print makers like Antonietta Torsiello.