How to deal with (difficult) women?
Walking into a bar to meet Arlene, she certainly didn’t appear to be a ‘difficult woman,’ despite being the acting curator of the upcoming exhibition, (Difficult) Women, at the Norman Rea Gallery. Running from 23rd November to 7th December, this exhibition, featuring six artists, will be running alongside the Difficult Women Conference at the end of this month. I was determined to find out how ‘difficult’ this woman actually considered herself, that she is qualified to put on an exhibition surrounding the topic.
But, hang on a second, what do we mean by ‘difficult’? Perhaps we can describe an exam or a test as difficult, but when it is applied to describe half the number of human population, it asks serious questions about our perception of gender and power relations between women and men. Somehow, to apply this adjective to women, on one hand feels natural (in comparison to men), and provides endless imagination of the artworks exhibited on the other. Surely, when male domination is becoming increasingly challenged in recent centuries, society can naturally associate some negative languages with the ladies. Recent films such as Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette recalls just how ‘difficult’ women were perceived back in the 1900s, with women breaking laws and social orders in seizing the right to vote within the political system, whilst the new Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, just appointed his cabinet with a gender-balanced proportion this month, for the first time in the West Hemisphere. Trudeau explained that the reason is because “it is 2015,” and perhaps our progress of achieving gender equality has made a leap since the 1900s, but our natural curiosity of ‘difficult’ women still expose our inherent ideology of women as challengers against the existing authority.
With many more questions being asked in the exhibition, perhaps art can lead us to explore some of those questions in a refreshing approach. Some of the artworks Arlene showed me, such as Nicole Polonsky‘s I am taking up Valuable Space, is an artwork inspired by her encounters during her study at the Royal College of Art. A piece of paper which repeats this title throughout, its presence in the Norman Rea Gallery will provoke double meaning. Meanwhile, Cathy Lomax’s personal interest in celebrity culture leads her to explore the life of Vivien Leigh with a specific focus on three of her roles – Cleopatra (Caesar and Cleopatra), Blanche Dubois (A Streetcar Named Desire) and Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind). Beyond being known for her infamous love affair with Laurence Olivier, Leigh was also an extremely driven woman. The exhibition promises to shed another light on Leigh’s life.
Joined by other established artists such as Güler Ates, Kathy Dalwood, Ilona Szalay and Jane Wildgoose, (Difficult) Women is set to be another event that you can’t miss![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]