The W Project: Blessed Are The Art Makers

To mark 100 years of International Women's Day, the exhibition celebrates female creativity in contemporary art, film, fashion and culture

Jiggery Pokery: 125 Magazine

The W Project honours the International Women's Day with an exhibition featuring some of the most exciting female talent from the worlds of contemporary art, photography, fashion, film and culture. The exhibition, which takes place at The Russian Club Gallery, will be coupled with a series of special events and activities including talks by designer Fred Butler, photographer Amy Gwatkin artist Josephine Chime and Caryn Franklin and Debra Bourne from All Walks Beyond The Catwalk, an initiative set up to encourage diversity in the fashion industry. There will also be film screenings by The Firm Cinema along with a Q&A session hosted by The Edge Picture Company on why there are so few women film makers. Dazed Digital spoke to art director Lauren Davies and Anna Lomax from Jiggery Pokery, artist Amy Gwatkin and photographer Nina Manandhar who are all contributing to the project.

Dazed Digital: Why is it important for you to celebrate women in the arts?
Anna Lomax:
 Nurturing creativity in young women paves the way for a more positive way of building self esteem. Realistic goals based on skill and flair within the arts give women an exciting and important thing to work towards and celebrating women in the arts gives people the strength to realise that this is achievable.
Nina Manandhar: I think it's important that initiatives like the W project bring women together to collaborate and celebrate their achievements, rather than pitting them against each other, which is what happens so often in the world and the industry. We need support networks like this in the creative industry! The very fact that there's still a need for events which are about showcasing women's work shows there's still a feeling that women's work is somehow sidelined, less valued or not being represented as it should be.

DD:How does it feel to be described as a positive role model for young women?
Lauren Davies: Probably the biggest compliment we could ever hope for. It always gives us a great sense of satisfaction when we receive emails from students/aspiring creatives letting us know that we have inspired their final major project or given them the confidence to pursue a pathway they hadn't considered before or didn't know existed until they discovered our work.

DD: Do you think our society has actually gone backwards in terms of gender equality?
Amy Gwatkin: Sometimes I do look at how sexualised culture has become on the most everyday, banal level, and I’m not sure this is an empowering, liberating form of sexualisation – so yes, in a sense, I think we’ve gone backwards. A good index of that is how young women think of feminism. I think for many people the term has become synonymous with a bitter, angry, po-faced misandry, which is obviously not what feminism is about. It makes me sad that girls would be shy to stand up and say that they deserve to be treated with the same respect as their male counterparts. 
Nina Manandhar: For centuries the creativity of so many women has been 'invisible' in many senses. It's gone into their everyday lives.There is still a myth that to be a successful woman you have to behave aggressively, I think its more about being tenacious and persistent, whether you're male or female.

DD: Is it harder to be a woman artist?
Lauren Davies: In certain male dominated scenes, definitely. From very early on we had support from our close male contemporaries but it took a while for others to realise that we were out there doing exciting stuff. At one of the large events we did, an acquaintance of Anna's boyfriend came up to her and was like "Wow, I didn't realise you actually did something... I just thought you were someone's girlfriend!" Neither of us have ever felt we needed to show off about projects we were working on as we have worked very hard to get to where we are and feel confident in the work we produce but it is funny when a guy looks at your website after three years of knowing you and is surprised by what you've achieved.
Amy Gwatkin: I think of myself as an artist rather than a woman artist. And then I see what I’m actually doing, my obsessions, my preoccupations, and the way I explore them, and even the way I title them and I think, “Fuck. It’s actually really important”. I suppose women still have to work harder to be taken seriously. But I don’t think it necessarily has to be harder.

DD: Who are your favourite female contemporaries?
Anna Lomax: One of the main reasons we are excited to be involved in this exhibition is that in includes work from many of our favourite female contemporaries such as Fred Butler, Jasmine Raznahan and Suzannah Pettigrow. In addition we have a lot of love for Annie Collinge, a photographer who we often work with, Sharmadean Reid who runs Wah Nails, Anna and Victoria of Lightning & Kinglyface and last but not least the wonderful Chrissie MacDonald.

The W Project: Blessed Are The Art Makers takes place between the 8th March (private view) and 11th March at The Russian Club Gallery, London, E8 4DA

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