In celebration of International Womens Day, The Tate launched a #5womenartists campaign asking people to post about 5 women artists they admire. We at The Courier decided to join in!
If you haven’t heard of Yayoi Kusama before, chances are you will have scrolled past numerous Instagram posts of her surreal infinity rooms. If there’s one thing to note about Kusama, its her admirable and awe-striking works that transport people off all different kinds to that childlike feeling of excitement and bewilderment. Now at eighty-eight years old, the Japanese artist has been working across paint, sculpture, installation and performance. All her works are unique in the experience they provide but they all have one thing in common and that is POLKA DOTS. Kusama absolutely LOVES them, she claims that she is driven by this obsession with them across her practice. From her early paintings of pumpkins covered in them to her installation rooms that are completely covered in rainbow polka dots, she has really dedicated her whole career and life to the polka dot. It is easy to see why it can be so hard to get a ticket to Kusama’s shows with her work relating to so many movements (such as pop art and surrealism for example) and being loved internationally by so many. Kusama is so in demand that she decided to open her own museum dedicated to her career in Tokyo which opened in the last year. Just when you think Kusama has reached the peak of her career, she keeps going, 70 YEARS LATER! If that’s not inspirational then I don’t know what is! I can’t make you love her work as much as I do, but give it a look up, I promise you will at least not be able to look away.
Since the debut of Tracey Emin’s 1997 work, ‘Everyone I have ever Slept With 1963-1995’, a tent showcasing all the people she had shared a bed with during this period, the British artist has been at the forefront of art that is as confessional as it is visceral. From her infamous media coverage, which told of her drunken and foul-mouthed escapades during her appearance on The Death of Painting, to her appointment as Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy in 2011, the Croydon-born artist has always had the ability to balance controversy with talent.
From the self-confessional nature of her 1997 piece, Emin focused her next work with the same mantra. ‘My Bed’ (1998), a readymade project that exhibitions Emin’s week-old bed, complete with used contraceptives and alcohol bottles, was a raucous reaction conventional British art of the period. It is from this distinguished brand of expression that Emin earned a Turner Piece nomination in 1999.
Beside her accolades, which today include a CBE and the title of Royal Academician, Emin’s poignant representations of femininity assure that her contemporary art is relatable all genders and ages. In her other works, the artist has continued her success with ‘Untitled’ (2000), a vulnerable photographic projection of the female body, and ‘This is another Place’ (2002-2003), a stylised reflection on sexual experiences. In both cases, Emin has continued to exhibit work that speaks not only to an age-old female discourse but to contemporary audiences as well.
– Jack Gill
Frances Cannon has been one of my big insta baes since day, and I’d really encourage everyone to follow her. She creates beautiful illustrations celebrating the female body which, yes, is not totally original in this day and age, but they are so positive and so beautifully crafted that she has a top spot for me in female artists working today. One of the major benefits of the internet is that it gives small artists a platform, which means that artists like Cannon can reach people like you and I (a great feat otherwise: she is based in Oz). Though there are a lot of problems with the internet and how young people use/view it, I think Cannon’s feed showcases how the internet can be a wealth of positivity. Her Instagram feed is largely illustrations, interwoven with images of the artist living her best life and being her best self.
– Helena Buchanan
Marina Abramovic is a Serbian performance artist. Her work explores the relationship between artist and audience. Unlike other forms of art, I think this is best done through performance art, an art form in which the artist is present. They are able to act and react in accordance to their audience, rather than hanging their piece on a wall for all to see it without ever actually seeing them. One of Abramovic’s most famous pieces is a recent work she performed at the MoMA in 2010 during which she sat at a table for 8 hours a day for 3 months and invited audiences to sit opposite her. Her ex-partner who has since sued her for royalties from art they made before the disintigration of their relationship came to the show and sat opposite Abramovic, prompting an almost wordless exchange between the two that gained lots of media attention. Moments like this are what make performance art like Abramovic’s so interesting and so exciting. They are unpredictable and unrehearsed, leaving both artist and audience heavily exposed and vulnerable. I admire Abramovic’s willingness to expose that vulnerability.
She also performed an iconic piece in 1979 during which she presented her audiences with a table of objects spanning from flowers and water to a dagger and a gun. Not only is Abramovic’s vulnerability admirable, so is her bravery and the trust she puts in her audience. Abramovic pushes boundaries – both the boundaries of what an artist is willing to do for their work and what constitutes art. She has talked in a TED talk before about her art being one built out of trust, vulnerability and connection. I believe her work to explore these topics and how they interact with one another better than any other artists of our time.
– Carys Rose Thomas
There is one word that I would use to describe Nan Goldin’s work: Truth. Her art is central to her, and she is central to her art. She is brave to use herself, reveal herself, hide nothing, but she wouldn’t call herself brave. Because her photographs exist in a middle place between self-deprecation and self-empowerment, she shows us her most intimate moments but she also reclaims strength for herself. One of her most striking photographs is one of herself, called most plainly, Nan one month after being battered (1984). Her staring at herself in a mirror, bruise stark on her face… she is facing herself, unashamedly – the mirror does not control her perception of herself, she controls her perception of herself. And this strength is captured in every face in every one of her photographs, especially those of women and drag queens (which a lot of her work is based around). However, what makes her photographs possess this truth is the sadness, the fragility and the dependency also captured in every face, in every body. Nan and Brian in bed (1993) is once again so intimate, so personal, it captures a distance between them, a tension – where she looks at him and he knows she is looking, but he is not looking back. Misunderstanding, distance, hatred, self-hatred, anger, dependency, fragility, lust, love, happiness, sadness, life, death. Nan Goldin’s photographs are life, in its raw and ugly yet beautiful form. And they are a memory, for her and for us (of a life we have never had). And as the artist said, ‘I used to think that I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough. In fact, my pictures show me how much I have lost’… the photographs are her collection to hold on to, to wistfully look upon: they are photographs that change when you see them a second time. They are the past and they are the future, but most of all, they are truth.
– Winifried Hewitt-Wright