Written by

Where's the frame

Maribelle Bierens

April 25, 2023 5:28 PM


Opening on the 4th of May, the exhibition Bodies, Gluttony, and Me at Pictorum Gallery will showcase works by seven women artists, including Nettle Grellier, Faye Eleanor Woods, Anna Choutova, Zoe Francis Spowage, Rosie Gibbens, Qingqing Liu, and Damaris Athene. wtf? spoke to the Director and Curator of the show, Joséphine May Bailey, to talk about the concept of the show.

The exhibition explores the sin of gluttony in a broader sense, beyond just food, and thinks about it in relation to the grotesque, the carnivalesque, and the unexpected. The works draw on the sin of gluttony to express enjoyment, humour, voyeurism, gender, feminism, and transgression. 

Rosie Gibbens, Spite Face, 2023. 30 x 30 x 40cm. Head rest for massage table, fabric, stuffing, thread, rope, elastic, eyelets.  

Joséphine explains the inspiration behind the concept. According to her, the exhibition centres around the concept of the 'unruly' or 'grotesque' woman, with gluttony serving as a word that brings together socially unacceptable ideas, especially in relation to women and their bodies. This includes excess in food, hedonism, consumption, and absurdity, all of which contradict normal societal expectations for women.

‘The show centres around the idea of the 'unruly' or 'grotesque' woman. Gluttony is a word that, for me, brings together a lot of socially unacceptable ideas (especially in relation to women, and women's bodies) - excess in food, hedonism, consumption, absurdity - all things that go against normal societal expectations for women.’

Moreover, Joséphine emphasises the significance of body image and representation of form in the struggle for gender equality. She explains, ‘Body-image and representation of form are such important topics that are so unifying, and there so many incredible artists who look at the subject (through whatever lens or medium they feel best) - I was mostly just inspired by their works, and determined to put on a show with them.’

Faye Woods, Tears in the club, 82 x 61cm. Raw pigment, acrylic and oil on canvas.

The concept feels in conversation with historical feminist artists who, in the previous century, created transgressive art to challenge patriarchal power structures. Asked whether Josephine was inspired by these historical feminist artists, she shares some artists whose works made an impact. ‘Relatively recently, I went to the Carolee Schneeman exhibition at the Barbican, and I feel that her works and that retrospective as a whole played a really important role in the curation of this show.’ 

Anna Choutova, Smoking Indoors, 2017. Oil on Canvas.

She acknowledges that although there are other artists, such as Tracey Emin, Alina Szapocznikow, Ana Mendieta, Alice Neel, who used their bodies as a site for conversation and debate, Schneeman’s practice might be the most who exemplifies it. ‘In particular, Schneemann's 'Body Scroll' (1975) had a huge impact on me, and was truly a groundbreaking performance.  Body Scroll was a performance made by Schneeman in New York in 1975, where she read from the book 'Cezanne, She was a Great Painter', before slowly pulling a scroll of paper from her vagina, and continuing to read from it.’ 

Carolee Schneeman, Interior Scroll, 1975. Photo collage with text: beet juice, urine and coffee photographic print (Photos copyright Anthony McCall). Copyright Carolee Schneemann.

The importance of this performance for the curator, which is transgressive, to say the least, is that ‘The performance is as shocking, absurd and amusing today as it was 50 years ago, but is the perfect example of an artist stepping outside what is considered acceptable, whilst exploring gender, feminism, and body image. It's not to say necessarily that this work relates to absolutely every artist in the show, but I think the confidence, and outrageousness of this performance permeates the works in the exhibition, highlighting the sense of playful humour, whilst ensuring it is routed in a strong sense of individual purpose and feminist context.’

Zoe Francis Spowage, Book Club, 2022. 84 x 244 cm. Acrylic and Dye on Canvas.  

In the show, you can see how Nettle Grellier's semi-autobiographical works showcase portraits of women in ungainly positions that are grotesque and beautiful and delight in unashamedly slovenly, feral, and unpredictable womanhood. Faye Eleanor Woods' recent works are a love letter to experience that heavily feature the absurdity and humour of life.

Qingqing Liu, Documentation from ‘Dragon Spam’ 2022.

Coming from an Eastern European background, Anna Choutova’s practice functions as a form of rose-tinted voyeurism into an idealised Western culture, approaching food, consumerism, and addiction with a contemporary Pop Art vernacular. Rosie Gibbens' works, which span sculpture, installation and performance, depict uncanny and surreal scenes that reflect her humorous take on the psychological, the bizarre, and the macabre. 

Nettle Grellier, Crawl into my Mouth, 2023. 29.7 x 21cm. Pencil on Acid-Free Paper.  

Qingqing Liu's multidisciplinary practice work often explores the impact of consumerism on women's self-image and bodies. Zoe Francis Spowage creates raucous and all-encompassing large-scale paintings. She invites us into her world of seemingly impulsive revelry led by bold, strong, and powerful women. And lastly, you can see how Damaris Athene’s transdisciplinary practices explores new ways of viewing the materiality of the body and understanding the body’s potential.

You can visit Bodies, Gluttony, and Me from the 4th of May until the 15th of June 2023 

(PV: 4th May, 6 – 9 pm). A performance, DRAGON SPAM by Qingqing Liu willl take place during the opening on 4th May, 7 pm.

Suggested reading: