Monday, 29 August 2011

106. CENTRAL STATION by SARAH HENDRY



84x112cm
MALL GALLERY
BITE: a new show of artists making prints

I chose Central Station first because of its beauty, its strength, its economy and its ability to surprise. And I wanted to know more.

It was first shown in Sarah Hendry’s exhibition - Learn from the Old -at the Russian Cultural Centre  in Glasgow last year. The title comes from one of the works of an early 20C Russian woman painter, Varvara Stepanova - Study the Old but Create the New.

I remember in 1999 going to the Royal Academy's Millennium show of wonderful paintings by Russian women artists of that period, which we in the West had never seen. It was called Amazons of the Avant Garde.  Stepanova was among them and she has been a significant influence in Central Station. 

Hendry's brief for last year's exhibition was to create a body of work that combined her interest in propaganda and Russian avant garde art with what was going on in Glasgow, a town twinned with Rostov-on-don. In Central Station the mixture appears in subtle ways. The blue, red and white print in the background is taken from a Stepanova fabric print intended for use as a uniform in post-revolution Russia. But in a way Stepanova herself  is the 'fabric' that unites Russian and Scottish cultures. Overlaid are images of Glasgow Central Station – hence the title. 
The station was built in 1900 and must have opened up opportunities for the expansion of trade, industry and personal freedom. Its  solid and apparently unmovable structures are combined with Stepanova's dynamic shapes and patterns.  Stepanova was also feeling the momentum of current changes to life in Russia, and was trying to communicate the hope  of a glorious future. Feminism pervades Hendry's work. She reminds us that women were strongly present in all spheres of social change in Russia in the early 1900s. There had been equality in marriage legislation since 1860. And being a wife and mother was not the only option. Some were marching, implementing social change and making amazing art through paint, print, literature and theatre. Unlike most other countries, in 1914 30% of students in universities were women. Artists were generally said to be  ‘West End girls and East End boys’ i.e. girls were of higher social class, so equality 'balanced out'.

Hendry says ‘ I feel these references to revolution in artworks are very relevant today....I feel that we are teetering on the brink of some major social changes right now in the UK’.


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