What are you looking at?
An Exhibition of Portraits by Sue Spaull
The Strand Gallery , 32 John Adam Street, London,WC2N 6BP
2nd June – 8th June 2015
Private View: Tuesday 2 June 6pm-8pm
A controversial portrait exhibition shows famous women from politics, the arts, TV and radio against a backdrop of naked models to challenge sexism in the media
Artist Sue Spaull has produced a series of portraits of powerful and successful women, including the former actress Glenda Jackson, radio and television presenter Fi Glover, Baroness Helena Kennedy, Green MP Caroline Lucas, and Jane Garvey, the presenter of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
But controversially Spaull has hung the life-size portraits on a painted backdrop of naked women, inviting the viewer to explore and question the use of the female body.
Spaull’s new exhibition, What are you looking at?, highlights the impact of the sexualisation of women in the media, including topless pictures of women in newspapers and magazines.
Sue Spaull says: “I wanted to challenge the casual use of images of naked women by placing them together with portraits of well know women.
I’m hoping the portraits capture the gravitas of the sitters, pointing to the importance of professional women more generally. But then there is so much imagery in the media focusing just on women as sexual objects. I wanted to question whether that impacts on the way we see all women.”
Fellow contemporary artist Sirpa Pajunen Moghissi says of this approach : “Sue is asking us to challenge the identity of the women in the wallpaper. There is almost a slight element of comedy and discomfort in putting the portraits in this setting. But these two worlds do very much co-exist in today’s culture. By placing them together, she forces us to ask difficult questions.”
Chief among the questions is: “What are you looking at?” Do you really see the women in the portraits or is it the nameless naked women that draw your gaze?
The exhibition is at The Strand Gallery, 32 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6BP, from Tuesday 2 June until Monday 8 June, 11am – 6pm.
The paintings are on sale from £1,500.