National Museum of Women in the Arts: Revival (until 10th September 2017)
The body is a focal point of the show, where women artists use theirs and those of people around them as inspiration to produce creative responses to the world in which they are immersed. Thrillingly for a museum exhibit, curators have picked as vast a range of media as one could possibly hope for, spanning installation, video, sculpture, painting and craft, with thoroughly international origins. Swedish artist Charlotte Gyllenhammar has space towards the front of the first gallery with a dual video piece and a wonderful print 'Fall III', in which a female figure is hanging from a height facing the ground, yet is not struggling, instead beautifully poised in an extravagant dress, posing a manifestation of Stockholm Syndrome (if you will excuse the pun). This feeling of entrapment is stifling and undeniable, and is certainly something shared by Gyllenhammar's fellow artists, albeit in various forms. DC-based Sonya Clark, for example, builds upon her Caribbean heritage to highlight the fetishisation and exoticisation of afro-caribbean hair in the piece 'Hair Wreath', simply but effectively re-appropriating the symbolism of the Christmas wreath with strands of dreadlocks.
Petah Coyne is another artist I was surprised to be encountering for the first time, as her blockbuster-aesthetic sculptural works are visually stunning and arresting. Whether the theoretical, contextual side is equally as spellbinding is up for discussion but there is no denying that the Oklahoma-based artist has a real skill for drawing in the eye, art lover or not. While each artist is not always linked to the next in a meaningful way, the high level of passion in each example of contemporary women's art is truly awe-inspiring and such a pleasant experience to be part of, especially as we realise we are in the presence of some profoundly important art historical works, such as the relatively minute 'Topiary' sculpture by Louise Bourgeois.
In addition to being simply aware of the art historical significance of certain works, the inclusion of aboriginal artist Janet Forrester Ngala was again very pleasing, as her demographic is a highly underrepresented and truly undervalued one in Western contemporary art narratives. In the context of the exhibition, her work 'Milky Way Dreaming' is the first piece to address craftwork as a cliché in women's art. Forrester Ngala's practice of translating the 'dreamtime' traditions of the aboriginal culture to canvas is beautiful and atmospheric, bringing us to think of our own time and place in the world.