Lucy Bryant [left] and Pam Glew [right]
What do womanhood and femininity mean to you?
Lucy Bryant: I don't think femininity is quantifiable. Humans are a mix of masculine and feminine. I don't equate being feminine with tottering around in heels, but there are times when I feel a desire to watch make-up tutorials on YouTube and wear my brightest dresses. Is this me being female, being creative or me just being me? I definitely don't believe in gender roles like women being more nurturing than men, for example.
Pam Glew: Blimey! That's a big one. I don't consciously think about womanhood and femininity in general, but I am a mother of two boys, and my youngest is only 5 months old, so I guess I feel quite connected to womanhood at the moment having so recently been through pregnancy, birth and being a mother again. The whole birth thing is a very grounding process, but also there's humour in it. It's quite ridiculous, messy and just plain weird. I try to instil feminism into my elder son, who is six years old, and remind him that, while he can be whoever he wants, so can all the girls in his class. These new generations of men need to be feminists too and understand that in order for men to lead fulfilling and balanced lives, they need women to excel as well. I believe that the ultimate goal is a society that values men and women equally and gives individuals choices which are not gender based.
Who do you consider to be your female role models and how do they influence your work?
Lucy Bryant: I don't have role models, but I admire many women. Those who are not afraid to stand up for their beliefs such as Gina Martin, who succeeded in changing the law after she was a victim of upskirting, and the women who are being held in a Saudi prison for fighting to be allowed to drive. I also admire Caitlin Moran for making feminism accessible and funny, and Debra Francis White for her podcast, the Guilty Feminist, which takes an often humorous approach to feminism.
Style in terms of self-expression is very important to me and I absolutely adore Vivienne Westwood for her environmental outlook and punk attitude, and Molly Goddard for her breathtaking tulle creations.
I also love the work of Magda Archer (who makes brightly coloured prints often featuring puppies and kittens with slogans such as 'My Life Is Shit'), Sarah Maple, Juno Birch and Carrie Reichardt. Their art is subversive, but with a great sense of humour which I love. I like art that makes me think, but also smile.
No one in particular influences my work; rather, I am inspired by the world around me. I create art which I hope makes people stop and think, and then laugh. I want there to be a silliness underpinning my work, no matter how serious the subject matter.
Pam Glew: There's a huge list, but Iris Apfel, Frida Kahlo, Vivienne Westwood, Tori Amos and Jenny Saville all inspire me. I find the writings of Caitlin Moran endlessly entertaining and reassuring. Also, we need more women over 40 who are in the public eye like Mary Portas and I really appreciate that Newsnight is presented by Kirsty Wark and Emily Maitlis. I find that TV shows are generally quite bad towards women over 40. Countless shows are presented by men, often with a panel of four old men, and so I often find myself shouting at the TV, 'Where are the women?!'
Lucy Bryant: 'Lazy Sunday Afternoon' [left] and 'Amy' [right]
Is feminism still relevant in the 21st century or is it an outdated movement?
Lucy Bryant: Feminism has never been more relevant. We have come a long way, but we still have a journey ahead of us. I think it's easy for us in the privileged west to say we have achieved equality, but until women globally have the same rights as men, the fight must continue. It blows my mind that women must have a male guardian to accompany them when they are in public in Saudi Arabia. It's 2019 and women are still being treated like small children.
Pam Glew: Of course it's relevant. Women are still underpaid and underrepresented, so until all are equal in the world of work then yes, feminism matters. Women were only given the vote in 1918, and that was only for women over 30. Gender equality is still a long way off.
I think sexism is often invisibly entrenched. My science education at school, for instance, was appalling because the teachers ignored the girls and directed the class to the boys (I remember a few times the girls were told to stand at the four corners of the room and look at the wall!) So there was a whole generation of women who could have been amazing chemists, physicists and biologists but, as we were ignored in class, our imagination was not sparked. I think we all have a duty to encourage women to be whatever they want to be, to focus on something, live it, breathe and eat it and then become an expert in it. That's the thing, if a woman is an expert in a particular field and she is also interesting, entertaining and engaged in the debate, then she will be included. If we dumb down things for girls, then we are doing women a disservice.
It's about young girls getting involved from a young age. There is still only a tiny percentage of women working in music production, only 2% of music producers are women. Is that due to sexism, lack of opportunities, or confidence? If parents, carers and teachers are reinforcing gender stereotypes then there could be all the opportunities in the world, but there would still be no women to take those positions. We all need to encourage girls to learn, be curious and ultimately be badass at something. And also stop being so hung up about being so polite and apologetic. I believe that the idea that women need to be constantly thanking people and be overly apologetic gets in the way of professionalism.
It starts with childhood. Russell Howard pointed out that baby onesies for girls say 'future princess', baby onesies for boys say 'superhero'. We are reinforcing past stereotypes again and again.
Boden's new catalogue has just come into criticism as they wrote that girls are basically into flowers and boys into bikes. It makes me think again of that Russell Howard sketch with the girl with a bike with one wheel. 'Where are you going Jenny?' '...Nowhere'. It's the responsibility of us all to stop reinforcing this stupid princess syndrome.
In recent times, there has been a fierce debate over the exclusion of transgender women from women-only spaces in the name of feminism. What are your thoughts about it?
Lucy Bryant: I don't agree with the hard-line of banning trans women from women-only spaces. The inference is that trans women cannot be trusted and should be feared. I welcome all transgender people.
Pam Glew: That is such a big subject. Ultimately I think there is the need for safe spaces for women and transgender women too. Common sense needs to be used in order to safeguard both.
Pam Glew: 'To the Ocean' [left] and 'Messages' [right]
In the last decade, galleries and museums worldwide have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to address the gender imbalance of artists exhibited in their spaces. As we all know, not only women are shown less than men, but their works sell for far less money too. Have you experienced situations where you feel you were treated as a lesser artist simply because of your gender?
Lucy Bryant: At this moment, as a relative newcomer to the art world, I don't feel I am qualified to answer this. I certainly don't feel my gender has held me back and if it has, I am unaware of it. Ace Club has a pretty decent split!
Pam Glew: I have to say that I have been incredibly lucky and seen very little sexism in the art world from my point of view. I may have had positive discrimination a few times and been included in shows as they realised that they needed at least one girl. I sometimes do wonder, had I used a pseudonym, how it may have changed my perceived worth, but it's one of those things I will never know. The individual gallery owners who represent me are pretty much 50/50 male and female, so I don't think it makes much difference. What really matters is the work. If it's good work then people will show it. If it's bad, people won’t.
The issue of children is an interesting one though. Many male artists have kids and that doesn't ever get talked about, but as soon as you are a female artist who has kids, suddenly there is a sharp intake of breath, and from there on, it's all questions about bloody motherhood and juggling babies and work. I’m fairly sure that male artists with children never get asked about parenting, I wouldn’t ask Damien Hirst or Ai Weiwei about their kids, it's just not a topic of conversation related to their work, and if anything, I think they may be rather protective about it.
I think women can be sexist too. Marina Abramovic did many female artists a disservice by saying that having kids would have been a disaster. Her thinking appears to be that women aren’t as successful as men in the art world when having children. It's harsh. Women do work and the times of women being kept by a man are long gone in the main. Co-parenting is just as likely these days so that both parents can enjoy their children and also enjoy their working life too.
There seems to be also an increasing number of all-women shows. Do they give female artists visibility or are they just perpetuating the divide?
Lucy Bryant: I feel it perpetuates the divide. Shows should be for artists regardless of gender. When I look at my contemporaries I see a pretty even 50/50 split between men and women. I don’t feel that women-only shows do feminism any good because we are striving for equality, not segregation.
Pam Glew: Until we are in a place where women’s art is valued at a similar level to their male counterparts, all-women shows are necessary. It's about balance, there are loads of group shows that have an all-male lineup and no one even notices it. It's just called an art show! I think it's all about the people curators would like to hang out with. Do they want to hang out with male artists, female artists or both? It's the gallery owners and curators who call the shots. I am in an all-women show at Stella Dore in St. Leonards ‘Women of Mass Distraction’ from the 7th of March until the 6th of April with Sara Pope, Shuby and a heap of great women artists to celebrate International Women’s Day.
I think the playing field is more level in the art world than it is in some other workplaces. I am taking part in shows that are fairly balanced with male and female artists, so things are definitely improving.
Lucy Bryant: 'Breakfast of Kings' [left] and 'Black Friday' [right]
And finally, if you were to interview yourself as a woman and an artist, what question would you like to be asked and why?
Lucy Bryant: I would like to be asked questions about my work not as a woman but as an artist. It’s true that a lot of my work is feminist because I am reacting to my lived experience, but equally, I create very silly pieces too. For example, ceramic figurines of people eating burgers or drinking cans of Special Brew. or picture of a bi-plane skywriting a giant cock and balls. I am a feminist, but this does not define me.
Pam Glew: What's next? Basically, all anyone wants to know about an artist is what they have up their sleeve next!
I've got the 'Women of Mass Distraction' group show at Stella Dore from 7 March. In May I will be exhibiting in an Open House for Brighton Festival ('The Sage House', 71 Islingword St in Hanover). I love an open house, and this one is run by a good friend of mine, Victoria Homewood, who is a painter. So you can come and meet me and have a cuppa at the open house on open weekends in May.
I want to do more landscapes this year, so I will be trying to focus on them. I live in East Sussex between the South Downs and Brighton, so I'm lucky that amazing landscapes are everywhere. I grew up in Cornwall and my grandfather was a landscape painter, so I guess I've been sidestepping landscapes all this time and feel now is the time to embrace them. I'll upload my progress on Instagram so you can follow my journey. Then something really exciting is on the cards with Stella Dore Gallery later on this year, which is currently hush hush! Plus I'm looking forward to more Ace Club shows coming up in 2019!
Pam Glew: 'Sisters' [above] and 'Afghan Girl' [below]
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