April 28th sees the launch of the South London Women Artists group show at the Bankside Gallery. Leonie Cronin, joint founder of SLWA, charts the amazing progress of this community of local women artists.
One of the speakers, Rebecca Fortnum, an artist in her own right, had written a book about contemporary women artists. Jenny asked me about the kind of work I did and if there were many women artists around the Gallery.
“There are lots”, I said, “and it is still difficult to get recognition!” Jenny replied, “We should do something about that!” We came up with the idea of a web based showcase launched at the same time as the lectures to ‘celebrate’ the women artists working and living locally in the area.
The Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery supported this event and with everybody’s enthusiasm www.southlondonwomenartists.co.uk was born.
As a practicing artist myself I was keen for this to be a celebration of women who were working, who were balancing the many different roles in their lives as well as managing to produce their art, so I was quite adamant that this showcase would be a non-selected group of artists. We were going to set up a community link rather than competitively deciding the merits of others’ work.
‘Celebration’ was a great event at the Gallery and there were lots of supporters for our idea. Catherine Fraher magically set up our website and made it look stunning. We had 50 artists on the site pulled in by the image on the poster of a Paula Rego painting that we had been generously allowed to use. Ideas and enthusiasm flowed and we found our site had many admirers.
It was only then that Jenny and I realised the enormity of what we had set up! Our members wanted SLWA to be more than a web based showcase and we soon became an active community, running workshops, critiques, talks, education programmes for local schools, and exhibiting at the Dulwich Library and at the Dulwich Festival Open House. Our members had increased to 100 effortlessly. Jenny had set about organising us to be an efficient group with many helping hands.
Our Members continue to be ambitious about what we can achieve and we now find ourselves poised to open our group show next to Tate Modern at the Bankside Gallery.
Please don’t think for one minute that SLWA thought we would just pitch up with art works to display! This exhibition has been carefully selected and curated by Janice Tchalenko (ceramicist), Kelly Chorpening (Head of Drawing at Camberwell Art school) and Pippa Graber (Director of the Gallery, Artdog).
In true inclusive style all of our members were asked to take part, buying a slot and submitting 3 to 5 works for consideration. We have offered workshops and professional development courses to guide our members through submitting work for selection so that when they submit for other competitive shows they understand what is required.
At Bankside we are showing 130 works by 100 artists, covering a range of media and genres that includes prints, painting, photography and sculpture. it is proving to be an exciting venture for us. Getting there has been a remarkable story of the way women working together can become a powerful force.
We invite you to come and celebrate with us.
South London Women Artists at Bankside Gallery 28 April to 3 May
Catalogues of the show are available online. Buy them direct from blurb. http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1256806
Saturday 1 May, Susan Wood will give an artist’s talk about the exhibition at Bankside Gallery at 3pm.
Find out more about us at www.southlondonwomenartists.co.uk