‘Our message is that the right to vote is hard won and that it gives all of us some power, if we use it.’ Nicola Donovan, lead PROCESSIONS artist at Modern Art Oxford
Modern Art Oxford is thrilled to be involved in PROCESSIONS, a nationwide art project celebrating the centenary of the UK Government passing legislation granting the first few women the right to vote. Over the past few weeks, we have been working with a group of local textiles artists to create a single banner representing women, their rights and hopes for the future. The final creation will form one of 100 PROCESSIONS banners presented in a UK-wide walk on 10 June.
For this latest blog post, lead artist Nicola Donovan reflects upon what the PROCESSIONS project means in relation to her own art practice and how the group has used their banner-making sessions to come together and discuss what it means to be a woman today.
I used textiles in my practice right from the start and there’s something about the sensory qualities of textiles that draws me back every time. My turned and carved wood pieces that developed from skills learned during a residency in France last year, have somehow incorporated textiles. For me textiles support, suggest and deliver narrative, every scrap has a story, a history; a connection to the cultural, social and political. Prior to working for my PhD I used lace in a series of images that were informed by codebreakers during WW2. The lace motifs were my marks and gestures and brought with them the weighty history of this delicate fabric. My Doctoral study explored the social history of the Nottingham lace industry. As a result of this I closely examined the use of textiles in art practice, which led to the development the visual language that I use now.
My work animates and re-animates discarded things, I’m trying to tell stories, much like taxidermists do although my stories are more oblique and convoluted. However, I’m a strong believer in making work that everyone can get something out of and I always have the viewer in mind when I’m making a piece. So, I aim to make beautiful and intriguing artworks.
This is the approach the PROCESSIONS group is taking for the Modern Art Oxford Banner. All the participants are politically engaged and also make high quality work in their individual practices. I put a series of questions to the group about what they thought the Suffragette campaigns votes for women had achieved and how winning it is perceived by women today. As a group we have asked whether there is still work to be done to achieve equality for women and wondered why many people, particularly the young have been missing from the polling booths.
Our message is that the right to vote is hard won and that it gives all of us some power, if we use it.
If we feel powerless, there is even more reason to use it because nothing will change unless we do.
The narratives in my own work emerge from observations about power relationships between humans, between humans and animals, and between humans and the environment. The narratives are not necessarily obvious because I like viewers to bring their own interpretation to my work. The Oxford Banner by necessity needs to be a little more direct but I think we will probably slip in a few little visual mysteries too.
Words by Nicola Donovan, lead PROCESSIONS artist at Modern Art Oxford
Burn, 2018. Turned and scorched beech, sterling silver, 9ct gold, taxidermy and scorched porcelain. 30 x 15 cm. Image courtesy the artist
Fall, 2018. Various silk and antique textiles, dove skull, pewter, carved and turned scorched sycamore. 30 x 25 cm. Image courtesy the artist
Visit the PROCESSIONS website to find out how you can get involved.