'Contemporary British Women Artists: In their own words' features a series of interviews. It presents an in-depth study documenting an important and influential sample of contemporary British women artists' thought. Each artist’s interview was carefully edited in a formal collaboration between interviewer/editor and artist.
My introduction to the book reflected on the interviews themselves, drawing out issues of the artist’s influences and processes, as well as outlining the status contemporary women artists currently hold in the UK today. In addition to the interviews, the book is illustrated with a new body of work - a series of black and white photographic portraits I have taken of the artists.
The 20 women included in the book all are internationally recognised artists, selected to represent a diversity of practice and age. They included: Tacita Dean, Jane Harris, Maria Chevska, Gillian Ayres, Vanessa Jackson, Maria Lalic, Hayley Newman, Sonia Boyce, Anya Gallaccio, Paula Rego, Lucy Gunning, Christine Borland, Claire Barclay, Tania Kovats, Jemima Stehli, Emma Kay, Tomoko Takahashi, Tracey Emin, Jananne Al-Ani and Runa Islam.
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Painting, Documentation, Visual Intelligence, Feminism
Rebecca Fortnum read English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford before gaining an MFA from Newcastle University and taking up a fellowship at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, USA.
With a distinguished history of teaching in the arts, Rebecca Fortnum has been a Visiting Fellow in Painting at Plymouth University and at Winchester School of Art; Visiting Artist at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Senior Lecturer at Norwich School of Art and Wimbledon School of Art; and Associate Lecturer at Bath Spa University and Central St Martins School of Art. She is currently Senior Lecturer at Camberwell College of Art, University of the Arts, London and Research Fellow at the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts, Lancaster University.
She has received numerous awards throughout her career as a visual artist, including the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the British Council, the Arts Council of England, the British School in Rome and the Art and Humanities Research Council. She has exhibited widely including solo shows at the Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, Spacex Gallery, Exeter, The Winchester Gallery, Kapil Jariwala Gallery, London, Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham, The Drawing Gallery, London and Gallery 33, Berlin; her work has been shown in group shows in New York, Maine, Budapest, Salzburg, Marseilles and Gdansk as well as numerous UK exhibitions. Recent group shows include 'Fluent: painting and words' (2002) at Centenary Gallery, London and 'Unframed: the politics and practices of women's contemporary painting' at Standpoint Gallery, London in 2004. Artist, writer, curator and researcher, she has contributed to various conferences, journals, magazines and books and was instrumental in founding the artist run spaces Cubitt Gallery and Gasworks Gallery in London.
"My current research has evolved from my visual art practice, writing and curatorial work and includes the following:
A chapter in 'Unframed: the politics and practices of women's contemporary painting' (ed Rosemary Betterton) entitled 'Seeing and Feeling': By positing the notion of the spectator as 'the site where the work happens' I explore the 'choreography' of the viewer. My account of the viewer's engagement positions 'looking...as a serial activity' that unfolds over time and is 'materially situated'. I also raise the question of the ethical relations between the artist, the work and her audience.
• My book, 'Contemporary British Women Artists: in their own words', (I.B. Tauris 2006), contains the interviews made during an AHRC research project. The book documents an important and influential sample of contemporary British women artists' thought. My introduction to the book reflects on the interviews themselves, drawing out issues of the artist's influences and processes.
My curatorial project 'Inspiration to Order' is one outcome of the Visual Intelligences Research Project, an initiative within the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts that I have lead since 2004. Visual intelligence is used here to investigate the way visual artists think and make and the relationship between their thinking and making. Its overarching research question asks if documenting and evaluating artists' processes can demonstrate visual intelligence. The exhibition 'Inspiration to Order' documents artists' processes and outcomes.
My exhibition at The Drawing Gallery, London in 2005, contained two series of works. The 'Rococo' series examined earlier critical accusations of decorativeness and the uncanny nature of symmetry. The work attempts to explore the emotional resonances of the purely decorative in order to ask questions about its communicative powers. A second series 'Lyric', incorporates disjointed lyrics and continues an earlier enquiry about the nature of looking and reading visual works."