Small Steps and Art Activism

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Last Thursday saw Small Steps events take over Make on North Liverpool Docks.

Small Steps runs events to highlight social issues through the arts. Last Thursday saw an eclectic mix of performance, a breathtaking visual arts exhibition and engaging workshops drawing attention to Mental Health.

Cork-based artist Ann Mechelinck showed us how craft-based practice can highlight mental health issues with several pieces she exhibited at Make. Mechelinck spent many years living and working in Belgium as an administrator. On her return to Ireland, she decided to re-engage with her creative passions and began a body of study Crawford College in Cork. The most prominent of her works in the exhibition was ‘Release’. In this, she explores the restrictions we face in life by materialism, relationships and expectations. Using a knotted structure which she allows this to
‘Release’ free onto the floor. An exceptional fibre artist using structuring techniques to explore mental well-being.

Rebecca Hancock brought some intensely scratched text art to the exhibition. Hancock is a recent graduate from Central St Martins in the Capital. She uses her work to express; fantasies, hopes and dreams, but equally, vulnerability, anxieties and fears. The work exhibited ‘March 2016-Present Day’ presents hand scribed re-writing of eight months of diary entries. The period covers changes in medication and severe depressive episodes combined with panic attacks and anxiety. Raw, unmoderated, expression of coping and not coping with evolving cerebral turmoil.

We were taken on a journey by Moscow based film-makers Diana Galimzyanova and Artem Gavrilyuk-Bozhko. Galimzyanova’ rapidly expanding collection of award-winning short films have been shown at more than sixty festivals and fifteen countries. ‘Painting the Abyss’ came to Make last week stunning its audiences. The actor begins to paint his face with a light reflection of a cross central to the screen. As black is added the face paints formate into a type of warpaint, a kind of camouflage. As this progresses, old-dated, black and white train travel scenes are superimposed onto the footage. The narrative climaxes as the actor drops his head back and looks towards the ceiling. He marks a cross on each side of his neck indicating where to cut was an assumed knife. This progresses into the removal of the paints from the face. Powerful use of moving image which confronts us with the grim realities of ending one’s life.

Painting the Abyss

Not forgetting the painted works of Philip Chandler identifying with long-term depression. Gender roles were challenged by the embroideries of Jonathan Beavon. The floor space was occupied by another showing of Alison Little’ SV: Sex by Violence in Liverpool.

A remarkable exhibition, a fully engaging evening and evidence that art activism can make a real difference.

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Small Steps

Make

Ann Mechelinck

Rebecca Hancock

Diana Galimzyanova

A-Z of Amazing Women

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A-Z of Amazing Women is the new range of prints from Alison Little. The main print takes us through a range of iconic women alphabetically, these are combined with a range of prints of individual women with short statements. She Talks us through why she selected the women for the new range:

Anne Frank                                 The young girl whose diary gave us a real insight into the                                                      Holocaust.

Mary Berry                                  A national treasure, the cooking show host who                                                                      frequents our TV screens.

Cruella Devil                              The 101 Dalmatians leading lady that really kicked ass.

Diana, Princess                         She stole the heart of the nation, her legacy will live                                                               on for eternity.

Emmeline Pankhurst                Led the Suffrage Movement into women gaining the vote.

Florence Nightingale               The nurse who became a Victorian icon and through                                                             making her rounds became known as ‘The lady with the                                                       Lamp’

Ariana Grande                         The singing superstar who helped survivors after a suicide                                                     bomber detonated an explosion at the Manchester                                                               Arena during her performance.

Barbara Hepworth                   The sculptor who led the way for women to work with                                                             heavy materials such as bronze.

Laura Ingalls                              The pigtail parading young lady who inspired young girls                                                       during her appearances in ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Joan of Arc                               The 15th Century female warrior who led the French to                                                           victory, when finally capture she was executed.

Kelly Holmes                              Double Olympic Gold winning runner who was awarded                                                       a Dame hood.

Sarah Lucas                              Leading feminist artist who represented Britain in the                                                               Venice Biennial in 2015.

My Mum                                   The ladies which raise, support and cherish us throughout                                                      our lives.

The Nolan’s                               The seventies all Irish sisters who sung there way into the                                                        limelight in the seventies.

Oprah Winfrey                         The all loving talk show host who became America’s first                                                        multi-billionaire Black person.

Pocahontas                             The native American who stared in the folk tale by saving                                                      the life of an English man held captive when her own                                                            father tried to execute him.

The Queen                               Simply, the Monarch.

Eleanor Rathbone                   The Liverpool member of the Suffrage movement who                                                          helped get women the vote.

Sylvia Plath                               The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet acclaimed for her                                                                    collections.

Tracey Emin                              Turner prize-winning artist famed for ‘My Bed’, the                                                                     installation which caused controversy.

Eunice Huthart                         The contestant that beat the Gladiators then went to                                                            Hollywood to become a stunt double.

Vera Lynn                                 ‘The Forces Sweetheart’ who entertained the troops during                                                    World War Two.

Amy Winehouse                       Legendary for hit such as ‘Back to Black’ and ‘Rehab’ her                                                       music will live on forever.

Beatrix Potter                            The writer and illustrator who brought us books such as                                                           Peter Rabbit.

Malala Yousafzai                     The once school girl who survived being shot by the                                                              Taliban for going to school.

Renee Zellweger                     The Texas-born artist who became Bridget Jones.

All prints are A4 in size and available from Arts Hub.

Arts Hub

 

 

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Virginia Woolf and the Hours

Hours

The Hours

Three Women, One day.

Michael Cunningham’ novel, The Hours and the movie version, Directed by Stephen Daldry, gives a very accurate portrayal of Virginia Woolf beginning with her final act: suicide. The narrative intertwines the lives of three women: Virginia Woolf, Laura Brown an unhappy housewife in 1950’s Loss Angeles and Clarissa Vaughan a bisexual woman living at the end of the twentieth century in New York City. In this, we explore mortality, social roles, lesbianism and artistic endeavour throughout both the novel and the film.

The prologue begins with Virginia Woolf walking, almost marching towards the River Ouse to ultimately drown herself. On her way she stops to pick up a large stone, admiring its form as she does so. She then proceeds to enter the water, the actual death scene in the film echoing the great painting Ophelia by John Everett Millais of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood. Virginia takes in every detail of everything around her until the life has gone from her. We then switch back to 1923 when she is not so unwell, a happier time, the day when she begins to write one of her most successful novels ‘Mrs Dalloway’. Throughout the day she adds details to the novel from events which occur. After the embrace with her sister, she decides that Mrs Dalloway will have been in love with another woman when she was younger. After observing a dying bird she decides that Mrs Dalloway will commit suicide over something very trivial, a domestic choir. She later changes her mind, lets the character live but replaces the act with the suicide of a soldier. After handling her servant, Nelly badly she decides that Mrs Dalloway will be remarkably good at handling servants and writes this into the dialogue. Her sister is in fact very good with servants and her presence in the novel provides a contrast to Virginia. The production also gives a strong insight into her mental health the penultimate climax of her narrative being her journey to the train station where Leonard her devoted husband finds her and takes her home to keep her from harm’s way.

Laura Brown is living in Los Angela’s in mid-twentieth Century America. In this she is living the American Dream, she has a beautiful house, a loving husband, a war hero, a son and is expecting a second baby. However, ultimately, she is deeply unhappy with her life and the domestic role which she has been handed. This is symbolised by the Cake which she bakes for her husbands Birthday: Although the cake is perfectly adequate she wants it to be a work of art to reflect how perfect she is at domestic life, so she throws it out and starts again. Later in the novel, she becomes enraged when Dan, her husband, spits slightly when he blows out the candles. Her neighbour, Kitty, presents a contrasting character to Laura. She is loud, glamorous and was very popular at High School, where she was more interested in reading. Kitty character introduces the theme of fertility to the hours, Woolf never having children herself. Laura and Kitty embrace in a similar way the sisters earlier in the novel. Laura’ activities link to Virginia Woolf through the reading of Mrs Dalloway, taking time to ensure she reads more of the works. Her narrative climax’ in a hotel room where she seriously contemplates committing suicide. Outside of the context of the book, she fails in an attempt to commit suicide in recovery she leaves her family and moves to Canada.

Clarissa Vaughan is a bisexual woman living at the end of the twentieth century in New York City. Her character embodies the character of Mrs Dalloway in the Woolf’ novel. Her close friend and former lover, Richard is in-fact the grown-up child of Laura Brown who she abandoned. He calls Clarissa ‘Mrs Dalloway’ or ‘Mrs D’ for short. Clarissa has some doubts over her domestic set up, she is living with Sally her lover, however, it is not an exciting relationship it is mundane. Clarissa is pre-occupied with morality throughout the novel, in glimpsing a movie star she ponders over when they have died they will live on through screenings of the film. The climax of Clarissa’ narrative is the suicide of Richard, in losing his battle with Aids he decides to jump from the window of his apartment saying good buy to Clarissa before the ultimate plunge. After Richards death Laura Brown, now an elderly lady comes to meet Clarissa in New York. Clarissa does not blame Laura for leaving her family, although she witnessed Richards torture from this act she shows understanding of her actions as a mother.

This Novel and film created over half a century after Virginia Woolf’ death explore her and the writings in the greatest artist sense. Many themes are embrace throughout the three different days of three different women. On a surface level through Clarissa we see how attitudes towards sexuality have changed, acceptance being shown through her rather unremarkable same-sex relationship.

However, the suicide of Richard shows how times have not changed since Virginia’s generation. Again we have a frustrated writer, unhappy with his work mental health problems brought on by Aids who takes his own life. Could Virginia Woolf been happy in a modern climate, would she have escaped her demon’s, or would the same fate be waiting? Who knows but we certainly have a stunning novel and film which is a tribute to the Virginia Woolf we have presented here.

Alison Little