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When walking through the many national galleries around the world, one will quickly realise that throughout history the art world has been dominated by men. It’s time for a change. As the Saatchi Gallery unleashes its first all-female exhibition Champagne Life, we take a look at some of Britain’s greatest female artists.
Nominated for the Turner Prize in 2002, Fiona Banner creates drawings, sculptures and installations, with most of her work focusing around the use of writing and the problems that arise with it. In her early pieces, called ‘Wordscapes’, she explores the limits of language. As a member of the Young British Artists, her work revolutionised the standard of contemporary conceptual art.
Known for her depiction of nudes — but not classically beautiful bodies in large-scale formats — Saville has changed the idea of depicting flesh and the human body as flawed. Her characteristics are the use of thick oil paint, with an expressive, painterly approach — similar to that of Lucian Freud. By creating depictions of human bodies, particularly female bodies, that one might find repellent, she is fighting against the exploitation of female beauty in art.
The first female artist to win the Turner Prize in 1993, Rachel Whiteread is best known for her casts of spaces we enter daily. In order to produce those, she uses materials that are typically associated with sculptures, such as plaster and rubber. Her success is reflected in the many globally located public monuments she has created, including the holocaust memorial in Vienna and a clear resin sculpture created for the fourth plinth on Trafalgar Square.
Maggi Hambling is both a sculptor and painter and her work is on display in many public collections around Britain. The temporary exhibition ‘Walls of Water’ on display in 2015 included paintings created exclusively in response to the National Gallery Collection in London and mainly focused on expressive works depicting waves crashing off a shore. What makes her work so fascinating is the broad range of materials she uses, as well as the different ideas she incorporates in her art, instead of focusing on solely one theme throughout her career.
The Iraqi-British architect was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize for her neofuturistic buildings, but she is also known for creating visionary furniture that reflects her architectural ideas. She has designed buildings all over the world, including the MAXXI Museum in Rome, and the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London. Architecture is often overlooked as a form of art due to its functionality, and Zaha Hadid has managed to change this general conception.
By wrapping everyday objects in copper wires, transforming them into relics only recognisable by their geometric form, Alice Anderson creates memories of the digital age, capturing objects as witnesses of our time. Anderson calls the process of mummifying objects in copper wire her strategy of remembering and helps the viewer to appreciate the little things in life we usually take for granted.
Sarah Lucas, part of the generation of the Young British Artists, combines the media of photography with collages of found objects, creating thought-provoking work. She became known for substituting the human body with furniture, as can be seen in the example below.
Photographer Hannah Starkey often reconstructs scenes from everyday life, often set in an urban setting. By placing solitary women occupied with ordinary tasks in the foreground, she created narratives that indirectly address issues of gender and class. At first sight, the photographs appear very calm, but involve a deeper meaning, especially significant to the female rights movement today.
Although you may not consider stage designing to be a typical form of art, Es Devlin’s work has changed the standard of stage design . She uses video projections to create innovative effects for all sorts of genres, including theatre, opera, concerts and fashion. Her list of achievements is endless and includes the Louis Vuitton shows, stage settings for Kanye West, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, as well as the London Olympic closing ceremony in 2012.
Born and living in London, Rebecca Warren creates sculptures that range from the abstract form to human figures; mostly using bronze, unfired clay or steel to create a rough surface. Her work often addresses the misogynistic depiction of the female body in history, referring back to fertility goddesses and to artists such as Willem de Kooning.