What Does ‘The Female Gaze’ Actually Mean? | Panel Chair at The Royal Academy

On March 14th I chaired a panel with Partnership Editions’ artists Venetia Berry, Fee Greening, Hester Finch and Alexa Coe, at The Royal Academy. The talk was not recorded, but here is a short piece I wrote for The Partnership Editions’ journal, about the female gaze and how it relates to the artists on the panel.

One of the greatest misconceptions about liking art, or owning art, is that you need to know art. You do not need to ‘know art’. You just need to know what you like. Or rather, you just need to know a curator you like; and then, quite frankly, she, or he, does the hard work for you.

Georgia Spray is one such a curator. Like many of my friends, I have been impressed and enamoured with Partnership Editions – both in a visual sense and for its affordability and lack of pretension – since it began. I relished the opportunity to work with Georgia on How She Looks, with a panel conversation about the female gaze, in collaboration with The Royal Academy and some of Partnership Editions’ most recognisable artists.

How She Looks is based on the female gaze.

What does ‘the female gaze’ actually mean? It means seeing women through the lens of a woman. It means seeing them for their beauty and their flaws and the beauty in their flaws. It is not about posturing, or pretending. There is an honesty in the work of these four artists, and their representation of what it is to be a woman: her curves, her fears, her possessions.”

There is a sumptuousness to Venetia Berry’s work – a playfulness that refuses to conform – and a colour palette for every interior (when choosing artwork, I find colours inform my choices as much as subject matter.) I adore the Contrapposto series, particularly No. III.

Hester Finch’s multi-coloured pastels are frank yet vulnerable – Pregnant Nude with Turqouise Wall, introduces the dimension of motherhood, offering up a more unusual type of nude.

Alexandria Coe has become well-known for her bright blue figurative women. But she has shown she is no one-trick pony – the snapshots of the Art of Nude poses interesting questions about nudity in the era of social media, while her Milk and Honey series is warm and graceful; I can scarcely think of a wall it would not dress well.

There is an intricacy to Fee Greening’s work, but don’t mistake detail for clutter – she is drawn to the talismans of a woman; the objects that make her see the world as hers. I love Frida Kahlo Vanitas, with Kahlo’s idiosyncratic skull.

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