The works in this room subvert materials traditionally associated with feminine craft and the domestic sphere to address gender division and political themes.
Made over four decades, and markedly different in tone and technique, these works share an interest in textile production, a heavily gendered activity which has played a huge part in the construction of women’s identities as housekeepers, family carers, makers and workers.
Margaret Harrison made Homeworkers in 1977 to denounce the working conditions of women in Britain, who were often treated as second-rate labour and encouraged to perform low-pay manufacturing jobs from home. At once a political banner, a symbolic painting and a social study, it represents the everyday life of a working woman alongside advertisements for make-up and data on the history of workers movements.
Rosemarie Trockels knitted works resist associations with ideas of female craft by becoming standardised industrial products. Her machine-made patterned fabrics, mounted on stretchers to resemble geometric canvases, turn symbols of power into decoration, and geometric motifs into subliminal propaganda.
In Annette Messagers The Pikes, soft figures and little drawings mounted on sticks initially suggest a parade of makeshift toys. On closer inspection, however, they reveal a darker nature, with severed heads and limbs alongside images of traumatic events from history and the mass media.
Confounding the private and the political, Tracey Emins quilts create a dissonance between their explicit content – in this case a rebuke of Margaret Thatcher’s involvement in the Falklands war – and the homely values associated with quilting.
Curated by Ann Coxon and Valentina Ravaglia.
Text by Valentina Ravaglia.