Shoulder to Shoulder is Samantha Donnelly's second solo show at Ceri Hand Gallery, Liverpool, and investigates what it is to be consuming, and consumed, in today’s image obsessed culture.
The title is taken from a dark and ironic BBC historical drama series, depicting the women's suffragette movement in Britain, first broadcast in 1974. The series ends in 1918, when women ‘of property’ were given the vote.
Today in the UK, new sisterhoods have taken over culture, and have huge mass marketing potential. Sisterhoods based around branding, possession and aspiring to look and be viewed a certain way, epitomised by nail extensions, falsies, fake tan and cheap imported bling.
Purchase power, revelation and masquerade runs throughout Shoulder to Shoulder, as a series of collages, sculpture and relief works incorporating ceramic, brass, acrylic, plaster and latex - display and strut across the gallery, occasionally rudely interrupting and reflecting each other.
Among the key works is Public Pattern, a series of relief works based around the humble jay cloth. This throwaway commodity has been spray-tanned, with a series of tide-marks and absences created using stencils of page three girls and sportsmen. Limbs, cut from colour adverts, are stitched and fixed, with buttons, net, mirrors, plastic film, cellophane, ribbons and false nails and eyelashes.
These montages suggest a skewed portraiture, combining glossy, amputated imagery, proffering a 'Sex in the City' aspirational lifestyle, butted against a more down-at-heels DIY tabloid 'celebrity' of exposé. The combination of these publicly available sources offers up a disposable, almost one dimensional pattern, perversely seductive.
Handstands & Headstands features a gang of a tall, proud, bamboo lengths, driven into plaster, rooted into a plastic, fake terra-cotta plant pot. Lurid coloured fashion scarves are knotted around the phallic rise, implying their ability to mask an identity - a requirement of religion or a need of warfare.
Coursing through the centre of the space is Features Column. A barely tangible pallid green plastic membrane, originally made to wrap sweets in, drops in wide strips from ceiling to floor, clipped together with a series of everyday fasteners that hold small collages. The collages incorporate body parts and areas of flesh, severed from advertisements, reflecting how we are represented as aspirational eye candy in today’s media. The plastic acts as both a mirror and looking glass, setting up each side of the gallery and presentation as potential structures of artifice.
Other sculptural works in the show, such as Modern Muse (Bust), further reflect on the tension between representation, perception and desire. Unwieldy, organic plaster forms, covered with tacky latex, precariously balance on top of light-boxes, illuminating collages that no longer promote or sell anything whole.
Notes for Editors
Samantha Donnelly was born in Manchester in 1978 and lives and works in Greater Manchester. Solo exhibitions include 'Compendium', Vitrine Gallery, London, 2010 and 'Sheer Sliver', Ceri Hand Gallery, Liverpool, 2009. Recent group exhibitions include 'The Shape We're In', Zabludowicz Collection, London, 2011, 'Perhaps Something, Perhaps Nothing', Leeds Met Gallery, Leeds, 2009 and 'Collage London/New York', FRED Gallery, London, 2009. She will feature in a group exhibition ‘Passages’ at the CASS Sculpture Foundation in Autumn 2011 and will be presenting new work at Volta 7, Basel in June this year. She will have a solo exhibition at the Cornerhouse Gallery, Manchester in 2012.
‘Shoulder to Shoulder’, the six-episode BBC historical drama series depicting the women's suffragette movement in Britain, first broadcast in 1974. The series came about as Georgia Brown, an actress, complained to the BBC about the lack of meaningful roles for women in television drama, the BBC in response suggested she locate something she would like to be in. It was then that Brown with Midge Mackenzie, a script editor, wanted to produce a drama concerned with the true story of the women's suffragette movement, focussing on the Pankhurst family, in the early 1900's. In 1918, a time when law decided women of property over 30 could be given the vote, the series ends.