Feminage: The logic of feminist collage — 2 August to 15 Sept 2012

2 August to 15 September 2012

Opening: Saturday 4 August at 3pm


Feminage Roundtable: Saturday 1 September at 3pm. Chaired by Jo Holder with Catriona Moore, Deborah Kelly, Virginia Fraser and Jacqueline Millner

Artists: Karla Dickens, Elizabeth Gower, Emily Hunt, Mehwish Iqbal, Deborah Kelly, Fiona MacDonald, Paula do Prado, Sangeeta Sandrasegar, Sally Smart, Tai Snaith, Nancy Spero, Jemima Wyman. Curator: Jo Holder with assistant curator Sofia Freeman



Feminage. The logic of feminist collage


Feminage frames collage as one aspect of the diverse legacy of feminist art practice. In the 1970s, informed by feminism, gay rights and conceptual art, women artists created a logic of collage, together with a feminine subjectivity composed from alien forms, the domestic and child's-play associations. Collage’s dynamic, chimerical logic of fragmentation and suture continues to open new angles on sexual, post-colonial and cultural identities.


The small, often violent encounters of family life, work, immigration, welfare and religion, demanded a more nuanced form of collage, a process of cutting-and-pasting together of new forms of identity, new social competencies, and alternative ways of being in the world. Feminist collagists took up the radical lessons of Hannah Höch, boldly presented in the late 1920s to the mid-1930s to examine the equivocal status of women in Germany, and reinvented the everyday in a social as well as purely aesthetic sense, summed up by Miriam Schapiro's art historical slogan 'feminage'. Catriona Moore observed, in her history of Australian feminist photography Indecent Exposures (1994), that: 'The idea of woman as object (but not subject) of the media gaze is thus initially registered and destabilised by foregrounding the material grain of the medium itself'. In this chapter of Feminage, paper itself is the matter — ground, split, flayed and then restitched.

The artists in Feminage keep to the classical approach to collage and use montage and assemblage techniques as their primary medium. In an era when media mash-ups, morphing and online surfing are familiar cultural processes, Feminage weighs collage’s rejection of singularity and paradoxical logic and its enduring ability to fragment and reconstruct the subject. Each artist adopts collage as radical verb, embracing collision and weaving and an affective spectrum running from the slow pulse of stitch and weave to sharp, kinetic shock.


The artists span the first- and second-wave feminist art generations. Each considers images of or about women as a 'body politic', a site of resistance, and deploy various conceptions of the self and its representation as 'sign'. Some, with great wit, use mock magazine spreads and adverts as an arch field of pornographic desire regulated by commercial interests (Do Prado, Kelly, MacDonald, Snaith); others use collage to paint a guerilla or monstrous feminine based on the ancient Sheela-na-gig figure (Dickens, Smart, Spero, Wyman); or apply techniques of detail and accumulation (Gower, Hunt, Iqbal) or the minimalism of silhouettes or cut-outs (Sandrasegar). All pay tribute to a feminist art historical lineage.


Feminage. Backstory and forwardstory


The Feminage exhibition is the first in a series of three annual exhibitions accompanied by three roundtables to guide a proposed new National Feminist Art Exhibition in March 2015. Much of feminist thinking was seemingly comfortably absorbed into the post-modern movement, yet in most democracies women artists only occupy twenty per cent of the walls of museums and galleries. (See n.paradoxa statistics page.) This lack of statistical redress extends to the institutional neglect of feminist thinking and aesthetics.


Two decades ago, art historian the late Joan Kerr (1938-2004) initiated a three-part women's art project using Australian Research Council funding. There were three main outcomes. The first, the thematic and collaborative compendium Heritage: The national women's art book, 500 works by 500 Australian women artists from colonial times to 1955, was launched on the 20th Anniversary of International Women's Year at the National Gallery of Australia. The National Women's Art Exhibition organised by Kerr and Jo Holder with more than 150 exhibitions, of both historical and contemporary art by women envisaged as a 'great imaginary exhibition', opened on the same day in 1995. Finally, Kerr and Holder edited Past Present: The national women's art anthology memorialising and critiquing the program with commissioned texts, extracts from catalogue essays and reviews. The National Feminist Art Exhibition in March 2015 will cover some of the decades of feminist art practice that followed.



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Karla Dickens, On the eighth day (series of 8). Vintage paper collage and ink, each 25 x 25 cm Karla Dickens, On the eighth day (series of 8). Vintage paper collage and ink, each 25 x 25 cm Elizabeth Gower, Savings 7, 2010. Paper cuttings on canvas, 90 x 90 cm
Sangeeta Sandrasegar, from The Shadow Class, 'Untitled (carpet weaver)', 2008. Felt, beads and cotton 


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Emily Hunt, Germaine Greer, 2012. Watercolour and paper collage, 50 x 65 cm
Emily Hunt, Richard Neville, 2012. Watercolour and paper collage, 50 x 65 cm
Deborah Kelly, A  Whistling Woman and a Crowing Hen, 2008-10. Collage on stonehenge paper, each 77 x 98 cm


Mehwish Iqbal, Kiwi Shoe Polish, 2012. Paper collage, acrylic, ink and found material, 46 x 132 cm


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Fiona MacDonald, Ag Show-1956, 2012. Vintage paper collage, each 30 x 22 cm
Fiona MacDonald, Ag Show-1956, 2012 Paula do Prado, Sepiasiren, 2012 (series of 16). Vintage paper collage, each 24 x 33 cm Paula do Prado, Sepiasiren, 2012 (series of 16). Vintage paper collage, each 24 x 33 cm


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Tai Snaith, Woman Vs Wild, 2012 (detail). Paper collage, watercolour and cloth
Tai Snaith, Woman Vs Wild, 2012 (detail)
Sally Smart, Argument (In Her Nature), 2011. Acrylic and collage on canvas, 187 x 92 cm Nancy Spero, Parade, 1998


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Karla Dickens, Big Boss Woman, 2012. Vintage paper and photo collage and acrylic, 92 x 92 cm Jemima Wyman, Blaze, 2011. Photo collage, 200 x 200 cm
Sofia Freeman, Feminage Poster, 2012



Feminage poster

Virginia Fraser, 'To the person who said feminism is over as though she was right', Art Monthly Australia June 2012, pp34-38.

Deborah Kelly, 'Whistling Woman and Crowing Hen', recitation, 2011



GOMA and Radio National, April 2012

GOMA Talks Art and design | Can women rewrite history?

Chair, Fenella Kernebone, ABC arts presenter with participants: Julie Ewington, writer, broadcaster, curatorial manager of Australian Art, Queensland Art Gallery and GOMA; Niki Kalms, academic, publisher, writer on contemporary architecture and urbanism; Justene Williams, artist and Jenny Kee, pioneering Australian Fashion designer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqsDzGJGjA4&noredirect=1

GOMA Talks Sex and science | What's the gender question?

Chair, Natasha Mitchell, science journalist, ABC with participants: Cordelia Fine, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne Business School and author of Delusions of Gender - the real science behind sex differences; Christina Lee, Professor of Health and Psychology, University of Queensland, Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Behavioural Medicine; Emily Maguire, novelist, author of the non-fiction Princesses and Pornsters, Sex, Power and Identity, and Your Skirt's Too Short; Amanda Third, Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Languages, University of Western Sydney, President of the Cultural Studies Assn. of Australia. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuOedEi2j1E

GOMA Talks Nationhood | Who creates cultural identity?

Chair, Sarah Kanowski with participants: Rebecca Huntley,  research director of Ipsos Meltay Report, author of memoir, The Italian Girl (2011); Deborah Kelly, artist and activist working also in public and web-based art; Maura Reilly, Professor and Chair of Art Theory at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, founder curator at the Brooklyn Museum's Sackler Centre for Feminist Art, author of Curatorial Activism and Ethical Responsibility (forthcoming); Judy Watson, artist and historian. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqLuawMcNYo