Exploring two decades of British feminist art: Women in Revolt! opens at Tate Britain

Exploring artistic responses to a changing era, the exhibition showcases the works of UK female artists between 1970 and 1990

Daria Hufnagel
Saturday 04 November 2023 06:30
<p>Gina Birch, still from ‘Three Minute Scream’ (1977)   </p>

Gina Birch, still from ‘Three Minute Scream’ (1977)

The late 20th century witnessed a dramatic evolution of the relationship between women, work, and the domestic sphere. It was during this time that a rising number of British feminist artists started incorporating related themes into their work, expressing defiance of traditional female societal roles, voicing discontent with expectations of domestic labour, and exploring the social and political implications of child-rearing.

On Wednesday, the Tate Britain opens Women in Revolt!, a landmark exhibition of feminist art in the UK from 1970 to 1990. Showcasing work by over 100 UK-based female artists and collectives, the exhibition explores how interconnected networks of women used radical ideas and rebellious methods to make an invaluable contribution to British culture.

Red Women’s Workshop, ‘7 Demands’ (1974)

Caroline Coon, ‘The Slits, Post House hotel, Cardiff’ (1977)

Helen Chadwick, ‘In the Kitchen (Stove)’ (1977)

Examining creative practice forged against this backdrop of extreme social, economic, and political change, the show features well-known artists – including Sonia Boyce, Susan Hiller, Chila Kumari Singh Burman and Lindner – as well as many women, who despite long careers, have been largely left outside the artistic narratives of the time.

Organised in chronological order and encompassing a diverse range of mixed media, such as painting, drawing, photography, textiles, printmaking, film, and sculpture, the exhibition opens with the first women’s liberation conference in the UK, Miss World protests and the formation of the Brixton Black Women’s Group.

Chila Kumari Singh Burman, ‘Solidarity with Sisters’ (1981)

Linder, ‘Untitled’ (1976)

Jill Westwood, ‘Potent-Female’ (1983)

Alison Lloyd, ‘SUPPORT THE MINERS, Solidarity will win!’ (1984)

The exhibition also delves into the influence of female artists who participated in key movements such as the BLK Art Group and the advocacy group and archive Panchayat, highlighting their role in the first National Black Art Convention in 1982. Featured in this context are artworks by prominent figures, including Lubaina Himid, Sutapa Biswas, Claudette Johnson, Pratibha Parmar and Rita Keegan.

Protests led by women are a central theme throughout the show. Banners, posters, and journals from the Greenham Common and Section 28 protests, as well as anti-racism and Aids campaigns, are on display.

The exhibition concludes with works created towards the end of the Thatcher administration, focusing on women’s response to Section 28, the visibility of lesbian communities and the Aids epidemic. The featured artists include Del LaGrace Volcano, Tessa Boffin and Jill Posener.

Red Women’s Workshop,Tough! My Message to the Women of Our Nation…’ (1979)

Jill Posener, ‘Fiat Ad’ (1979)

Tessa Boffin, ‘Untitled #1’ (1989)

Women in Revolt! will be on show at Tate Britain from 8 November to 7 April. Tickets are available here

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