It is presumptuous and perhaps even a little negative to view a show of all female printmakers and in an instant start to interpret undercurrent themes of femininity. Doing so is akin to saying something like, when a female is creative, their creativeness is bound to their body and its implied role in society. Jumping to such a reading only works to recreate and maintain any versions of the glass ceiling that still exists in our society. It is to reinforce the gendered nature of notions such as that while the masculine has the ability to transcend, the feminine remains under the control of gravity: inseparable from the crudeness of the body and held sway by routine and cycle, just like the seasons of this planet.
For Room with a View, the toured exhibition from The Print Circle print collective, that has recently made it to Hardware Gallery as part of Art Month Sydney, regardless as to whether the works are intended to be viewed with a loaded gender, it is interesting to see it through this lens.
So when The Print Circle decided to theme their group show Room with a View, I was decidedly torn as to whether to step into reading it as a domestic theme or a sort of Virginia Woolf-esqueRoom of one’s own assertion of female ability.
The Print Circle themselves write of being forged in the crucible of the seventies and the feminist revision of a woman’s life. So it would be right to see the room theme as being parallel to Woolf’s assertion that it is the typical lack of financial independence and space away from domestic duty that for so long deprived the other half of the population with creative freedom. But somehow it feels like Room with a View has both the domesticity and strong declaration of feminine creativity: Amongst the works there exists imagery and symbols associated with traditional views of the feminine, for example, many of the works incorporate fabric print elements or hand-stitching directly onto the paper – a domestic craft, repetitive, routine and certainly with connotations of motherly care, at the same time skilled and creative.
In another, the cycles of femininity are interwoven with the natural world, as the symbolism of the moon in Christina Cordero’s work reminds us. With this in mind it becomes apparent how much this exhibition chooses to depict the Australian landscape. With only a few exceptions, the interpretation of the Room with a View theme decides not to be interpreted in any lofty or metaphysical way, but remains firmly grounded and tangible. Yet far from a coincidental interpretation of the theme, this affinity with our immediate natural surrounds cries: Forget the transcendental plane of art, leave that to foolish men. Here, we the female artists are concerned with not an eternal soul but with the temporary body we inhabit, as the comparison of the feminine to natural cycles of life and death remind us; we the female artists are concerned not with abstract truth, but with subjective reality, and its imperfect facets. A greater truth in itself, as the charred Australian landscape reminds us.
In the manner that this show owns its engendered-ness, it illuminates what a male-dominated art world neglects, the corporeal limits to ourselves, the subjectivity and imperfection this entails and how we all possess this. Regardless of our sex.