In one of the most ground-breaking projects in our history, GWL is extremely excited to be hosting our first ever solo exhibition by an international artist – and what an exhibition it is! From the launch party on Thursday 1st February until closing on Saturday 17th March, we will be exhibiting the latest project from talented and socially savvy New Zealand artist Fiona Jack as she introduces us to a new series of incredibly moving and inspiring works centring on her incredible Great Grand Aunt, the prominent suffragette Helen Crawfurd. It is even more exciting as our ability to exhibit the works has both a historical and personal significance to Fiona and Helen’s legacy, as the library is located only around a mile from where Gorbals girl Helen was born, and Glasgow Green – the place Helen frequently campaigned over 100 years ago.
The exhibition is the culmination of over a year’s worth of interest, love and study as Fiona researched her incredible family member and created a visually stunning and emotive artistic response to the passion, dogged determination and life-long battle against injustice she discovered her distant aunt had waged. Included in the exhibition are numerous artistic works across diverse and varied creative mediums, including sculptures, ceramics, books and banners, all paying homage to Helen and the legacy and sacrifice of not only her, but also of the many other women across the world, as we approach one century since The Representation of the People and the Parliament Qualification of Women Acts.
If you search for Helen Crawfurd online, you’ll be brusquely informed that she was a ‘Scottish suffragette, Rent Strike organiser, Communist activist and politician.’ All of this is correct, but it doesn’t do a women like Helen justice. Of course, just like all of us, Helen was so much more than a simple description of a woman who lived a hundred years ago. Aside from her accolades as a lead suffragette, deep involvement in the Red Clydeside movement, member of the left-progressive Independent Labour Party and Secretary of the Women’s Peace Crusade, Helen was also a daughter, a wife, a Gorbals girl, a rebel, an intellectual, a visionary, an example, Dunoon’s first woman town Councillor and, most of all, an extremely courageous and forward thinking woman.
Her great grand niece Fiona Jack is an artist hailing from New Zealand’s largest city Auckland. Her creative and theoretical interests focus on socio-political issues, especially those concerning the different ways we represent ourselves to each other as a species and ambassadors of different cultures, identities, causes and genders. If you study the main body of her work, you quickly find a concentration and fascination with ideas surrounding the complexities of social participation and community, informed by in depth research and collaboration with the peoples or groups who comprise the subject of her art. One of my favourite examples of her work is The Heraldry of Presence (2014), which uses these integral approaches of personal observation and historical study as a methodological and creative framework through which to present her celebration of heraldry and its ability to unite, gather and inspire groups of people. Furthermore, as she does so evocatively in Our Red Aunt, Fiona seeks to provide deeper understanding and a wider platform to explore and praise the perseverance and often life-threatening work of those who have broken new socio-political ground through their capitalisation on social participation and perception. My favourite of the works dealing with social change and political commentary is perhaps the one which ties in most thematically with Our Red Aunt – the ongoing In time I will see things a little differently (2010 – present), which intricately and expertly engages with historical photographs, serving as a reminder that time changes all things – especially the social and political viewpoints and ideologies of the community. The combination of fascinating creative interests such as socio-political art practices, community and collaborative art and the use of art in public spaces as a tool for inspiration and change was the ideal recipe to fuel Fiona’s interest in her great aunt – and the thousands of other women like her – and commemorate and immortalise her – and their, and our – struggle.
If you’d like to attend the exhibition launch on Thursday 1st February, please either book your spot online or call us on 0141 550 2267. If you’ve booked a place and are no longer able to attend, please let us know promptly so we can make your place available to someone else. The launch is open to all and free to attend!
This project has been supported by The Elam School of Fine Arts PBRF fund and Creative New Zealand.