In The Name of Art

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I think my laptop has been hinting at me to blog about this piece for a while now. Every time I open my pictures folder it’s there. There are more images which I will eventually post, but this one is my favourite and for now I feel it’s enough. I’ve been putting it off until now as there’s an entire build up to this work which are important. Without those it can carry all the wrong connotations and be interpreted incorrectly. But then I thought, why do I need the build up? Shouldn’t a work be able to speak for itself? Isn’t the whole point of art the fact people will interpret different things in different ways? So I’m going to approach this from a completely new angle and ignore all my concepts behind it for now. Instead I’m just going to take about the comedy element. You should have seen how many looks I got doing this, people probably thought I was bonkers! Who wouldn’t?! I’m walking around in a framework covered in bags as if it’s the most ordinary thing in the world! Yet weirdly I didn’t feel too ridiculous. Well, the sense of animosity the bags provided probably were to thank for that. I think though people can justify doing a lot of crazy things ‘in the name of art’ and suddenly the crazy part doesn’t seem so radical. It’s the same with getting naked. If it’s for a photoshoot, why not? If it’s on the street, you’ll be arrested. It’s funny the safety net that art provides in cases like these…

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Reminiscing

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I think a lot of the time the danger with art is over thinking it. There is all this pressure on you as an artist to be conceptual, to have ideas that feed and fuel your work, when sometimes all you want to do is sit down and paint. I think that’s why I like this piece. I was flicking through images on my laptop and came across this work from First Year. It’s nothing special, but it just cracks me up every time I look at it due to it’s connotations. I am religious about going into uni. I hate being ill. However, on this occasion I was so hungover I should probably have been smart and stayed home. Did I though? Of course not. Instead I came in wearing sunglasses, looking like I’d just rolled out of bed and carrying a very strong black coffee. What should have been a complete write off of a day ended up being quite a laugh. 

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I was definitely not my usual production self. Instead, I choose to nurse my hangover by lying on this large roll of paper and just tracing my body in different positions. It was very interesting actually as I didn’t just use a singular line, I used colourful scribbles. And it was surprisingly therapeutic. Not that there’s anything therapeutic about being as hungover as I was! But hey it was self-inflicted, so what can I say? I had a good night, just a killer headache in the morning!

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Needless to say, my studio pals found it hilarious. For someone who is normally up gyming at 7 in the morning, lying curled up on a roll of paper is the last thing they would have expected walking into my studio. I think that’s one of the best things about working in a studio environment, you never know what’s going to happen! One day someone’s studio might have nothing in it and you wander where the hell they are. The next day it might be like a Mary Poppins handbag of surprises and blow you half away! You just never know…I think in this instance, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. But to me, it’s better to do something then nothing. Scribbling in these colours led to a whole new series of works (see https://themindofmilla.com/2015/10/12/first-year-work/) and that’s the thing, you just never know what’s going to happen.

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So why waste a day? Why sit and do nothing when you can get up and go? Why become a zombie in front of Netflix when you can walk along the Quayside, or go to the library and read a book, or go out with friends and have fantastic conversations? Do what excites you, be spontaneous, be stupid, do all the things you’ll regret and learn from when you’re older. And have fun while you’re at it! 

Sneak Peak

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Untitled: projection, greaseproof paper, wood, thread

So given that in my last post I discussed my inner turmoil and my struggle going from sketchbook to screen, I thought I would give you a sneak peak into what I’m doing at the moment. Quite a drastic shift from painting isn’t it? I was in our project space instead of my studio which allowed me to work in darkness. I felt a bit like a mole for most of the day as whenever I left the room everywhere felt painfully bright in comparison! What happened in that room though was very exciting for me. I was working with light. Not only that, I was controlling it. Through the use of shadow and material placement I was manipulating it. At first I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. The best thing to do in those situations is just to start on something. So I did. And I kept going, and going, and going. Taking photo after photo, film after film. I didn’t want to stop. This is the problem/most fantastic thing about art. Once you start you can’t stop, the momentum carries you. One idea leads to another and before your know it you have a creative labyrinth spilling out of your head and into physical forms. I love it! To me life without art would be empty. Or in the word’s of Eva Hesse: “I think art is a total thing. A total person giving contribution. It is an essence, a soul, and that’s what it’s about…In my inner soul art and life are inseparable”.  

Inner Conflict

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I’ve been thinking about my work a lot recently. Well, I think about my work all the time but at the moment I’ve been thinking about it in a far more transitional sense. I am conflicted. My entire life has been a mess of paint. Brushes in my handbags, batik ink on my fingers and shoes, acrylic works drying on my window sills. Up until this point I have always defined myself as a painter. My work has meant I produce canvases and sketchbooks filled with paintings. Now I can no longer say that! And I feel slightly lost because of this. I lie, I feel very lost. Completely unconsciously I have shifted from this physical means of production. The journey was not at all intentional, purely incidental! I came in this year to make paintings and one day just went ‘this isn’t working!’ Instead I have surprised myself by entering the realm of moving image and photographic based work. I feel it gives me more of a language to express myself and my ideas orientating on the body. Painting at the moment feels too limiting. Last year I dabbled a bit in sculpture. That was fine; to me that was just an extension of painting. However, I have currently embarked on a route whereby painting does not come into play. And it’s so strange! My studio is pretty tidy. There are no coffee cups filled with water and ink. There are no paint brushes left to rot (yes, I am one of those people that does not take good care of them…) And it is very very strange. I’ve hardly known what to do with myself!

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Yesterday however, I made a breakthrough. I was projecting my film work onto objects and then filming what was occurring as a result. Doing that made me realise what it is that can tie everything together. Layers! I can use projection as a metaphor for my layers of paint. I can still think about things in the painterly sense. I can still apply all my painterly ideologies, I just need to translate them. Up until this point I had felt uncertain. Where was I going? What was I doing? Why had I lost this will to paint? It was scary and it was a place of complete loss for me. Now however I feel alright about my studio no longer consisting of spilled ink and drying oils. I think it was wandering through other people’s studios today that made me miss the physicality of working with paint. For me working digitally is so strange as it’s everything is on my computer and I have no physical object. In using projection however I am enabling myself to shift more easily from this state of physicality into the digital realm. And now that I’ve begun to feel comfortable in this new world, I am excited again.

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Hope Stebbing and Oliver Perry: ‘Your World Tomorrow’

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There have already been some photographs of this exhibition up on my blog, but that was for my post about the preview night. This is more about Hope Stebbing and Oliver Perry’s artwork itself. Given the connotations this work carries through the partnership with the Great North Run and the consequent success of Stebbing and Perry, I feel like I am talking about something huge. Something very impressive to the point that I am going to shy away from all the bravado to instead focus on their work in a gallery setting. My happy place. It was unlike any work I’d previously seen in the University Gallery. Normally it’s more along the lines of Norman Cornish style art. So this felt like a statement. Literally! The words form ‘onward”together”as one’. They are bold and they are solid. Yet what I love is the fragility of the welded stands that hold them up. They look so precarious given the solidity of the structured words.

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I suppose part of what was so interesting about this exhibition was how they used the space. Very effectively in my opinion. As you wander through the exhibition, you are wondering through the words. Almost as if you are a character in a book submerged within your own story. I like how they were centered in the room rather than up against the wall, that would be so boring! The lighting in the gallery did wonders for the work as well. Shadows on the floor, on the walls, within the letters themselves. It just accentuated the artwork beautifully. And of course the colours are to die for, subtle yet exuberant. 

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I liked the contrast the large pastel lettering held with the miniature monochrome lettering. Again it demonstrates an understanding of the space; how important the floor is. A lot of people don’t realise this but the utilisation of the floor not only lay with the Abstract Expressionist artists such as Jackson Pollock, but is was also rooted in Korean traditional art. The Korean artists viewed the floor as superior to the wall in terms of a working space. They never bothered with easels instead choosing simply to kneel whilst they worked. I suppose this was linked to the cultural traditions that included the removal of shoes as a sign of respect upon entering somebody’s house. I will dig up my notes and do a post about it at some point as it is all very beautiful and inspiring to learn about. I stumbled across the traditions of Korean art when I was doing research a while back and coincidentally I had been doing most of my work by kneeling on the floor. It’s funny, but sometimes it really does feel like books speak to you. 

Laurence Kavanagh: ‘October’

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As promised here is the post about Laurence Kavanagh whose work I viewed the other night at Gallery North. I wasn’t sure what to make of it initially. My first observation was the lack of colour. The show was entirely  monochrome with the exception of one piece. As a result it was evident that Kavanagh had truly pushed his monochrome palette to it’s limits, using tonal shades of grey I didn’t even know existed! It made me think of the work of John Virtue (see below).

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Virtue’s work is purely black and white as well. In first year I came across him and at the time I was painting colourful landscapes using oil and white spirit. So my work was incredibly liquid based – I was even dabbling in egg tempura. Upon discovering Virtue’s work I decided to remove all colour from mine; something I had never done before. And something I will never do again! It really did feel limiting. Yet at the same time it was incredibly refreshing as it forced me to use far more imagination, particularly in the textural sense. I used pins to poke holes in my paper, impasto paste mixed into my paint, allowed my liquids to become far more volatile and fluid. It was however quite a struggle, especially when you look at how stark and colourless my studio became (see below).

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So I am actually in relative awe that Kavanagh managed to create an entire exhibition in this colour palette without exploding! He too however turns to texture as a substitute for colour. The way in which he folds his paper is incredibly efffective, not only does it appeal to our tactile senses, but it also creates dramatic shadows given the gallery lighting. 

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I think this image above has to be my favourite piece. The little house is just adorable! The paper folds and creases give it an almost child-like quality which I find very appealing. The frame offsets the piece perfectly. People always debate over the importance of framing saying an artwork should be able to stand whether it’s in a good frame or not. I disagree. I think a frame can make or break an artwork. If my work is framed incorrectly it just pisses me off and I feel like the entire work is lost. Slightly over dramatic I know, but when you envision how an artwork should look and it goes wrong, it’s just irritating. However, Kavanagh doesn’t need to worry because his simple and elegant black frames compliment his work perfectly. 

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The exhibition was aesthetically pleasing in terms of its layout as well. I loved when I walked in and was greeted by an almost cinema screen-like sculpture (top photo). This piece is probably most suggestive of the concepts behind his work. He is exploring the correlation between how we view touch in both the physical and visual sense. Taking the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional and using them as a means to explore the relationship between subject and photographic imagery. 

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I like how there is all of this allusion and suggestion of cinema, yet there is a total absence of moving image work. Instead, you have sculptures reminiscent of cinema projectors occupying floor space. Long shadows, spotlights and rectangular shapes all suggest but nothing confirms the cinematic presence. There is an air of expectation in the room, yet the pieces simply hang still and mysteriously giving nothing away. 

Laurence Kavanagh is a Warwich Stafford Fellow and produced ‘October’ through his research into Star and Shadow Cinema.

Alexandra Searle: ‘Empty Vessels’

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I went to what was essentially a ‘pop up’ exhibition last night held at the Second Floor Studios of The Newbridge Project. It was a sculptural exhibit by artist Alexandra Searle in collaboration with Left Leg Gallery. Entry was through the back of Newbridge bookshop and up two flights of stairs. As I climbed the staircase my eyes were bombarded with posters of all sorts of upcoming art events and people to get in touch with. I officially felt like I was entering art world. Almost in the way that Alice fell down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. This feeling intensified as I made my way along the corridor towards the exhibit; there were materials scattered to my left and right and I could feel the creative energy of this building pulsating. As I entered the exhibition space I was met by a small crowd of people and a table filled with pink lemonade and cake. As I turned I was finally greeted by the artwork. There were wooden structures precariously balanced against the wall, a wooden pole stood straight as if it were holding up the ceiling, items hanging from industrial rope. Balance and the precarious nature of the work were evidently strong themes. 

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The wall was a pastel pink with a drain pipe running along the top of it and the floor a foam blue. I thought these colours were incredibly complementary of the work, yet when it came to discussing the work with Searle, it turned out she had no part in the colour scheme of the backdrop. Sometimes it’s just the happy coincidences in life. As I questioned her it became clear that she had both a relationship with and a truly in-depth understanding of how to use material and fully stretch it to its limits. Playfulness is a predominant part of her work. When I asked her what her core concepts were to these pieces she said “exploring the materials and their weight”. Balance, volume and an element of risk are key features in this. The latex structure in the corner looks incredibly solid, yet of course the material itself is not. I suppose this was the moment where I felt the playfulness theme was the strongest. The temptation to reach out and touch this corner sculpture was incredibly difficult to resist given how tactile it looked! It contrasts brilliantly with the industrial heaviness of the concrete that made up the floor works. Given that this residency was merely ten days long, Searle did not have the time to use concrete but still wanted it present. Although she did not have the time to manipulate it, she did use it as a means of imprinting into her floor-based plaster works. A subtle yet incredibly effective way to correlate the pieces. 

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I suppose in most cases I’m biased in my reading of an artwork. All my work orientates on the human body therefore it’s difficult for me to move outside of myself and perceive a work outwith of this frame of mine. With Searle’s sculptures I felt I didn’t have to. There were too many bodily connotations for me to ignore. Casts alluding to nipples, bum-like works handing from the ceiling and then a piece suggestive of a vagina (above in case you hadn’t already noticed). I asked Searle if this was intentional and she said no, it was merely a happy side effect. She liked that her work could represent bodily elements, but that was by no means the objective. And I like that too. I think ambiguity is something I really struggle with in my work as it is often obvious that it’s all about the body, yet ambiguity is something I find so attractive in art. God damn artists that have it nailed!

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When I spoke to Searle about her influences, I was delighted to hear Eva Hesse featured! Honestly, I am a sucker for all aspects of Hesse’s art. One of the things I find so refreshing about her as an artist is the fact she often favoured her work being presented in her studio as opposed to a gallery. And I suppose last nights exhibition was more studio then gallery based in terms of where it was presented. It’s only as I’m putting this post together that I realise all the photographs I took are close ups, none actually demonstrate how the space was used. Which is kind of irritating and stupid of me, but I think it’s just because I was so taken by the details. I wanted to touch everything and I think the zoom on my camera kind of became my substitute for the ability to touch. 

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 This was one of my favourite pieces (above). Again, I am unable to avoid the bodily connotations as to me it is suggestive of a bladder. What I love most though is it looks like it’s going to fall off at any minute. Yet at the same time it looks like it’s stubbornly going to hang on forever. I almost felt like I wanted to blow on it and watch it swing, tempting it to fall, testing it’s ability to hang on. And I feel like it would have succeeded. Having seen this exhibition, casting is definitely a route I want to go down. I don’t know why I’ve waited this long (well I do, I was going to do it last year but there were complications over workshop spaces.) Anyway, I’m going to try again. Plaster just seems to play with your senses. Invite you in and tease you, yet of course you wouldn’t dare touch an artwork in a space like this. Maybe I’ll make art that people can touch. Or maybe I’ll be too precious about it by the time I’ve made it. Or maybe I’ll try working with plaster and it will be a total disaster. Who knows, that’s the fun of it! And it seems Searle had fun here. Ten days is a tight schedule. Even tighter is the two days in which her work actually came together. I find that in most cases, the last minute rush is where you produce your best and most complex work and then you wish you had more time. But hey, if the end result is anything like Searle’s, who needs time? 

Sarah Daglish: ‘Ichor’

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So last Thursday I went to the preview of Sarah Daglish’s exhibition ‘Ichor’. It was my first exhibition preview I’ve been to with the intention of blogging about it. Normally I’m just an exhibition addict because I love seeing new things and discovering new artists. Now however I have the urge to write about and explore what I’m seeing. Which is very exciting. And slightly nerve-racking. Stupidly I didn’t bring my camera to this preview (a mistake I will not be making again…) I felt kind of naked without it and of course had no images to accompany the thoughts that have been sitting dormant for over a week. So I ran back in the other morning to take some snapshots and here I finally am sitting down to write. 

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 I don’t know what I was really expecting from Daglish. The poster was in my opinion relatively illustrative in comparison to the work which was far more sculpture-orientated. In some cases you could argue this is misleading, but I liked the mystery it held. The poster gives nothing away therefore when you walk in your are met with the work for the first time. And that air of ambiguity really worked on preview night. I was not expecting moving image, yet there was a very mesmerising film of pouring liquid played on loop. I definitely was not expecting there to be such an emphasis on material, but that formed the basis for the entirety of the work. In the case of ‘Sweet Bath’ you have liquid oil and smoked paprika encased and contrasting with solid tin. Oil and paprika are not only both edible materials, but they also appeal to multiple senses including smell. The bath contents were so tactile looking I almost had to resist the urge to dip my finger in it! But that was how the entire exhibition worked. You wanted to touch, you wanted to smell, you wanted to experience the material and I loved that. It was almost as if you could see and feel the relationship Daglish had during creation. Well, you definitely could in the case of the burnt wood. I was speaking to her and she was saying that given these were done in her back garden, there was very much a danger element to burning the wood. And again a sensory element – simply by looking you could almost smell the burning and hear the crackle of it. 

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I was very impressed when she told me her garden shed was essentially her studio. You’ve got all these industrial kind of processes going on, such as with the stamped copper plates, in the least industrial environment. A back garden. The most simple of places. A garden is now officially on my wish list! Yet half of the elements present in this exhibtion could not have been entirely tested in a garden, therefore it becomes evident how truly willing Daglish is for her materials to take control. She “never quite knows what’s going to happen” and that is the magic of it all. She is at the end of the day merely playing about and testing materials. Experimenting. I would even go as far as describing her not merely as an artist, but as a chemist. Her work is essentially an exploration of material properties; the change they undergo when mixed or burnt. There is also a presence of chance and the will to allow a material to evolve itself, such as with the copper plates which Daglish believes will eventually oxidise. 

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Another thing that really got me was the reflections. I don’t know if this was intentional, but given her depth of material understanding I’m going to assume it is. Her use of the fluids against the solids worked beautifully in the sense that people’s reflections fell across the liquids creating a movement in the otherwise static works. This was the case with both ‘Sweet Bath’ and ‘They Eat Not Man’s Food’ (above). Not only that, but there is the contrast between these liquids themselves. In the case of ‘Sweet Bath’, the liquid is encased in a solid frame (which Daglish was hoping would not leak!) and then with ‘They Eat Not Man’s Food’ it sprawls itself in a lazy puddle across the floor. Again there is edible material present, although this time it is in the form of treacle not oil. The urge to touch and the connotations of taste bring in the element of human presence which is hinted at throughout her work. Not only does it have sensory appeal, but also a physical one. The layout of her works in the space forces you as a viewer to navigate your own route; there is no direction, again merely the element of chance. 

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I think my favourite works were the copper plates. I loved how beaten they were, how handmade they looked yet at the same time, how the words were perfectly formed. I’ve worked with copper before and it is not the most obedient of materials! It can also be a very laborious process, but I feel this comes naturally to Daglish in her work, there is a strong sense of will to push boundaries. The words beaten out hinted at the source of Daglish’s inspiration for all of this: Greek mythology. Her exhibition guide reads: “Ichor is the ethereal fluid that is the God’s blood; said to hold the qualities of the immortal’s food and drink; ambrosia or nectar. Golden in colour, Ichor is considered to be lethally toxic to humans.” It sounds so lyrical yet simultaneously menacing. And I suppose in my opinion that sums up her pieces. They are all works of contrast, feeding off each other in a dialogue where material is the undercurrent for it all. Touch, taste and human traces are all integral in this journey of material exploration. And what an experimental journey it has been for Daglish. 

Exhibition Preview

IMG_0499Last night I attended a couple of exhibition previews that were going on simultaneously. One was in Gallery North and the other in the University Gallery. It was a truly inspiring evening with so many interesting people. And lots of wine. Let’s not forget the wine! The exhibition held in Gallery North was Laurence Kavanagh’s ‘October’. Yes you heard me right, an exhibition called October in October. Slightly misleading for the posters but there we go. It was beautifully presented. It was a collection of purely monochrome works whose textures were so temptingly tactile. The gallery space had been fully utilised and the lighting successfully manipulated to really highlight the work. The lighting was also very atmospheric for the evening, I almost felt like I was in some kind of film where all the characters have flyaway hair, speak fluent french and wear fancy black coats as they scrutinize the artwork. Whilst holding a glass of wine. Although for Kavanagh’s exhibit wine was not allowed into the gallery which I’m assuming was because of some of his floor based works. At this point in the evening I hadn’t got my camera out (stupid I know) but don’t worry, I will be going back and photographing ‘October’ for an upcoming post where I will go far more depth about the exhibition. For now I want to talk more about the evening itself because it was damn good night!

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The University Gallery had Hope Stebbing and Oliver Perry’s collaborative work they did for The Great North Run. Having successfully pitched their idea to the Great North Run’s panel they were given approximately a year and £4000 to complete their work. What they created was put at different points of the Great North Run but when run together the words read ‘onward’ ‘together’ ‘as one’. They choose to paint these words in the most gorgeous pastel colours. Honestly, having seen this, pastel is my new thing! The atmosphere across the two galleries was very different I felt. This was interesting and of course inevitable given how different the works and the layout were. Kavanagh’s exhibition was slightly more reserved and serious. People were quieter and observing. In Stedding and Perry’s exhibition people were milling about, laughing loudly, fighting for the incredibly yummy cheese and other nibbles on offer! It’s nights like this where you can learn so much just from looking and being there. Listening is what I did for half the night and some of the things I heard and left thinking about will stay with me. 

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Suffragette

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I went to see ‘Suffragette’ yesterday and I think it’s safe to say it is a film you cannot afford to miss! It is truly truly brilliant. It is incredibly well cast – Carey Mulligan and Helen Bonham Carter do not disappoint! I was however worried that by using such well established actresses, the film would be overshadowed by their star status. Thankfully this is far from the case. Their star status is almost consumed by the film’s sheer brilliance; their positions in the acting world are irrelevant! To my surprise Meryl Streep features incredibly briefly as Emmeline Pankhurst, whilst the main character is in fact the fictional Maud Watts. I’m not sure how I feel about a fictional character playing the lead, as I felt it took away the film’s historical credibility. Yet at the same time it works so perfectly. By using artistic license to create a made-up character who the entire film revolves around, it does in fact highlight the lives of all ordinary women at the time. Everyone knows the story of the Pankhursts. Everyone knows the Suffragettes were extreme. What people don’t know is the side stories of every woman involved. And every woman affected by the changes. And I suppose this film is designed to highlight that. 

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Not only is the film an incredible feminist piece (no surprises there), it is also beautifully artistic. The cinematography features an almost ridiculous amount of extreme close ups, yet as a viewer you feel you would be lost without this intensity. We look straight into the eyes of characters, see the shadows forming on the tears rolling down their cheeks. There is no escape from the emotional intensity of this film. A lot of the filmwork is also done using the handheld technique, which only amplifies the chaos you are experiencing as a viewer, particularly during scenes of riot and political unrest. Another thing I loved about the filmwork was the constant switch between being sharply in focus and being so blurred you can only make shapes out. It is incredibly effective as it really draws you into the film and the experience’s of the characters. The director Sarah Gavron has in my opinion, created quite a masterpiece. The Suffragettes would be very proud. 

Images courtesy of:

https://www.thecapitolhorsham.com

http://www.theguardian.com