Exhibition review: North South Divine at WW Gallery

Nestled in the heart of the diamond district, to find the WW Gallery you have to be seeking it; the building is narrow, unassuming and could easily be missed. But to miss it would be ill-advised, for within this hidden gem in Hatton Garden is a fantastic collection of contemporary art – the North South Divine exhibition.

Kate Davis - The Wind Rises

Kate Davis – The Wind Rises

Featuring the work of eight artists, the display, which will tour upcountry to Middlesbrough, supposedly plays on “the age-old geographical and traditional social tensions between both ends of the country”. Anchored on the Southern side of the coin and surrounded by artworks that could be found anywhere in the country, this seemed far-fetched. Tensions were explored, but these were rooted in feminism rather than geography.

Boa Swindler, who has three works on display, uses inverted feminism in her pieces to commentate on the shift (post-recession) of many modern-day women, who now desire nothing more than to be 50s housewives – to serve their husbands, to bake cupcakes and to have babies. Swindler accompanies her artwork with voice-overs, which are delivered in a steady, clear and serious tone. This isn’t the voice of sense, but of the automaton woman, and the sincerity with which it calmly asserts: “Day after day there are girls in the office, men will be men. Don’t send him off to work with your hair still in curlers, you may not see him again…”, while you look at a pair of tasselled sugar and salt shakers, is chilling.

Kate Davis’s The Wind Rises is equally provocative. A steel table, about 7ft high, with four lemons as bases for the four legs, and a portfolio of drawings and texts perched on top (which, as a woman, you can’t reach or entirely see) – the piece is a physical representation of the glass ceiling: “The unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.” Davis’ lemons show the sour foundations for women: that from the off they are destined for failure, and the work that they want to grasp will forever be out of their reach.

North South Divine may not deliver on geographical tensions, but it certainly raises long-standing questions over the sexes and the female role, and is well worth a visit.

Verdict: ••••   

Alice Audley



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