‘Her Kind’ is an exhibition of paintings, sculpture and collage by six internationally based artists whose work explores complex shades of femininity, often with a darker undertone. The show includes works by Dani Jakob, Rezi van Lankveld, Alisa Margolis, Ree Morton, Evren Tekinoktay and Alexis Marguerite Teplin. The telling of their unabashedly female tales allow for multiple readings, with a consciousness of the clichés of its perceptions, and a willingness to operate in this rich territory without restriction. The title of the show is taken from a poem by Anne Sexton that personifies the character of the witch as a vilified but ultimately heroic character of identification.
At first glance, Rezi van Lankveld’s paintings may appear like abstract swaths of marbled paint but, with a closer look figures become visible. Van Lankveld develops the visceral imagery through a process of pouring paint on to board. Frequently the figures that emerge from the oil are female characters with a strong presence that is corporeal and intimate but defiantly ambiguous. Her paintings are darkly phantasmic with glimmering possibilities, ’The gloom, as in fairy tales is not one-dimensional. Despite the grisly intimations, a clarity of feeling, even a light heartedness occasionally makes itself felt – look at these paintings too long and your eyes begin to adjust to the dark’. (1)
Alisa Margolis’ paintings have morphed baroque and gothic flower paintings into the realms of outer space and the spirit world, influenced by such films as Dario Agento’s ‘Suspiria’‚ and Speilberg’s ‘Poltergeist’‚ in which the aura surrounding the female protagonists has a tangible luminosity. The paintings revel in the seduction of their surface into which brightly coloured flowers seem to melt and bleed, infusing a landscape between beauty, decoration and gore.
Evren Tekinoktay collects popular images from her family’s photo albums and the media, which she subtly re-draws and re-presents in a complex iconography about growing up in the 1970s and 80s. Rather than offer the familiar feminist critique of sexism in the media, Tekinoktay traces a historical shift in female identity without judging its protagonists, or its outcome. Woman becomes a curious creature that appears in many forms, both familiar and made new by Tekinoktay’s collages, drawings and sculptures. A parallel project she has undertaken is the opening of her shop ‘Tekinoktay Lingerie’‚ based in her hometown Copenhagen. The shop itself is like a collage which brings alive a crossover female universe.
Dani Jakob takes her influence from a variety of eclectic sources: German Romanticism, esoteric, Hip-Hop, Heavy Metal and Far-Eastern, as well as Western styles of cultural history build up the mnemonic vocabulary of the artist. Jakob has developed a process of silk painting, a technique that enables her to achieve extreme illusionary effects, with colours flowing into one another to form magical depths. At the same time there is something ordinary about silk painting; it calls to mind batik kitsch, rock concerts and ‘women’s crafts’. In ‘double xx (shizo mix)’ the figure of hip-hop queen Foxy Brown appears like a high priestess of alchemical magic. Foxy re-appears in many of Jakob’s paintings as the artist is fascinated by her iconic but fractured self-presentations.
Alexis Marguerite Teplin’s sculptures incorporate elements of dress and costume that are potently linked to a history of feminine seduction. In this work she has recreated elements of the attire of the infamous Dutch spy and exotic dancer, Mata Hari. Teplin has turned Mata Hari’s crown and breastplate into intricate sculptural objects encrusted with amber Jewels. The work is formed from the artist’s memory of one of Mata Hari’s actual costumes, as seen in the Imperial War Museum. It is also influenced by Greta Garbo’s characterisation of her in the film. As such, it is involved in layers of projected identity and performance that parallel the life of Mata Hari herself.
Ree Morton died in 1977 at the age of 40, and although her life as an artist spanned only a decade, she had a pervasive influence. Looking at her work now it seems incredibly contemporary, with a focus on the personal and opaque we now take for granted. Morton’s work often hovered between painting and sculpture and in its later phase she irreverently used a material called celastic, which can be draped like fabric and then hardened. Challenging the hegemony of minimalism, Morton self-consciously embraced and played with a decorative ‘feminine’ aesthetic. She was fond of banners and ribbons emblazoned with cryptic phrases; in ‘The Plant That Heals May Also Poison’ (1974), she personifies the ambiguous emotional powers of the plant world. A folded and curved celastic fabric clings to the wall. Dangling below, like ingredients for a spell, are five ribbons of words, each punctuated by a light bulb. The words are names of plants that indeed may heal or poison.