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11 Must-See Exhibitions by Women Artists in the UK

The art world's leading ladies...

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The fairer sex comes to the fore. By Caiti Grove.

After too many years sidelining women in culture, this summer seems to herald a new dawn as galleries dig out little-known names who deserve attention and pioneering artists who have represented the fairer sex for decades.

1. Lis Rhodes: Dissident Lines

Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham

Lis Rhodes
Cutting and collaging chunks of film, Lis Rhodes jumps between political narratives and otherworldly poetry. Her surreal sequences make Gaza, gender inequality and the MP’s expenses scandal feel like a dystopian dream, or a satirical take on the politics we should have. An artist in her 70s, her work has a longitudinal perspective often rare in the art world. Relevant and raw. Until 1 Sept;

2. Cindy Sherman

National Portrait Gallery, London, WC2

Cindy Sherman
Prom Queen, a politician’s wife, a 50s film star – Cindy Sherman has been them all. Using herself as a model, the artist has dressed up as fictional characters and well-known celebrities for 40 years. She challenges the illusion of perfection and asks what meaning we attach to images – all before Instagram was even invented #seeyouthere. Until 15 Sept;

3. Natalia Goncharova

Tate Modern, London, SE1

An artist from the south of Moscow, Natalia Goncharova’s Russia was bright, celebratory and traditional. She was nostalgic for her rural childhood and wove folk art and embroidery into paintings, set design and costume throughout her long and varied artistic career – diversity that cost her wider recognition as critics insisted on identifying her solely through her theatre career. This exhibition spans early paintings from 1911 such as Peasants Gathering Apples, through to her fashion designs when she designed costume and set design for Paris’ ballet. Costume for life or art made Goncharova a pioneer of gender and the body awareness. Celebrated in Russia, this essential figure of Modernism deserves a second look in Europe.
Until 8 Sept;

4. Paula Rego: Obedience and Defiance

MK Gallery, Milton Keynes

Cindy Sherman

The first artist-in-residence at the National Gallery and a member of the London Group where she exhibited with Hockney and Auerbach, Rego is a prolific figure in the art world. Now 84 and still working, this will be her first major retrospective in 20 years. She usually draws inspiration from fairytales by JM Barrie and Lewis Caroll, often looking at the stories from a dark and mysterious perspective, but here she will prove her solidly political outlook as she covers slavery in North Africa (1996-98), abortion (1998-2000) and female genital mutilation (from 2009), all in her signature precise use of pastels. Paula Rego is one of our most lovable and talented artists. Treasure the time spent with her. Until 22 Sept;

5. Lee Krasner: Living Colour

Barbican Art Gallery, London, EC2Y

‘Any woman denying prejudice,’ said Krasner in the 70s, ‘should be slapped’. She sounds like a sparring boxer but on seeing this exhibition – work which only started to gain recognition at the end of her life, it’s hard not to get angry. Always known mainly as Jackson Pollock’s wife, now she is getting recognition on her own terms. Each room is different – sometimes each wall – as she evolved and changed her style. Studying drawing from Hans Hofmann, he said her work was ‘so good you would not know it was done by a woman’. Not long afterwards, she had a well-received exhibition – and sold nothing. Starting again, she ripped up all her work in a rage, which she then used to create vibrant collages of frenetic energy and colour. She refused to be part of Peggy Guggenheim’s 1943 Women exhibition, insisting that ‘I’m an artist, not a woman artist, not an American artist’. Agreed – but it is also the reason we know her only as Mrs Pollock – until now. Until 1 Sept;

6. Beyond Faith: Muslim Women Artists Today

Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

Aida Fouroutan
Exploring identity, faith and memory, five Muslim artists trained or based in the North West are to present their work. Artist Usarae Gul describes herself as ‘Unglish’, the hybrid of Urdu and English her family spoke at home, and combines the two in bright joyful paintings of takeaways and terraced houses. Painter Aida Foroutan grew up in Tehran – ‘Women’s Life’ is based on interviews with Iranian women at different dramatic stages of their life and their struggle for rights. Shabana Baig’s layered works represent her identity as a second-generation Asian woman growing up in the 90s – complex, tangled and beautiful. Three cheers to the Whitworth for making different voices heard. Until 10 Nov;

5 Best Solo Retrospectives Of Women Artists

1. Yoko Ono: Sky Pieces

A retrospective of sculpture, music, film and performance will explore Ono’s love of the sky – a feature of her work that symbolises freedom, peace and our unknowable universe. A tiny gallery with big ambition. Until 6 Oct;

2. Grete Marks: An Intimate Portrait

Grete Marks_Untitled_n.d

Grete defied Bauhaus supremo Walter Gropius to forge her art her way. Deemed ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis, derided by Goebbels for her geometric shaped ceramics, this exhibition is a tribute to her originality and grit. Until 27 Oct;

3. Ifeoma U. Anyaeji : Ezuhu ezu – In(complete)

1269 Baltic

© Colin Davison

Plaiting plastic bags and bottles into sculpture, Anyaeji celebrates Nigerian folklore, fashion and poetry while highlighting society’s excess and throwaway culture. Recycling at its most beautiful. Until 22 Sept;

4. Bridget Riley at Scottish National Gallery

Riley’s oeuvre is an investigation into how we see. Inspired by Seurat, Monet and Matisse, she translates their energy and colour into an abstract language that warps and expands like a score sheet of a Soho bar on a Saturday night. Until 22 Sept;

5. Barbara Hepworth: Artist in Society 1948-53


© Matthew Hollow

A newly explored phase in the life of Hepworth – her superb figurative drawings and community-based work in Hertfordshire – reveals a new phase of her development as Britain’s major post war artist. Until 8 Sept;


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