Updated: Mar 6, 2019
'This article is written by Abhilasha Sharma, who also wrote on the Norman Rea Gallery and the English Department's collaborative exhibition, 'Thin Ice Press'. In this article, she looks at the focus of the exhibition, and explores the meanings of a key pieces, including those from Elizabeth Waite, Julia Triston and Katy Jallili. 'Keep Gazing' is on display until the 11th March 2019 at the Norman Rea Gallery, University of York.'
Keep Gazing - A Bold Expression
*All article photographs are taken by the author.
*Main photograph taken by Nafsika Hadjichristou @nostalgim of Katy Jalili’s ‘Women with Moustaches’, Film.
This exhibition couldn't have had a better title than ‘Keep Gazing’. The moment one steps in to the gallery, the exhibition just engulfs you in its spirit. It ventures on making a statement about people, their ideas and the diverse meaning of gender and sexuality for each individual. It portrays the true beautiful, the shear beauty of embracing one’s own self, which is not defined by societal definitions, expectations or pressures.
Like a breath of fresh air, the exhibition was successful in breaking taboos and stereotypes of what genders and sexuality are ‘supposed to be’ and displaying how diverse the phenomenons are. A variety of mediums are used to put this exhibition together, sculptures, installations, paintings, photographs and videos all bound together with a great impact of the ambience with lights and music.
Many of the works display sexuality has been repressed for so long around the world. Elizabeth Waite’s work ‘Renaissance Revealed’ is composed of three individual pieces covered with fabrics, all three differently decorated and their threads intertwined together at the bottom, making one think how female sexuality has always been kept under pretty and very feminine images of ‘being a lady’ and women from across the globe, no matter how diverse face the same situation together.
The work of Kayla King demonstrates ‘toxic masculinity’ and how ‘being a man’ is a notion of the society that has a great impact on young boys growing up, which stirs a lot of emotional issues and turmoil.
‘The Lethal Inhalation of Self-Exploration’, by Ibrahim Ince tries to put that turmoil and struggle that is faced by each individual, male or female, in not only expressing but embracing their own sexuality and sense of gender.
Along with these great works of art, very bold pieces of expression were curated and displayed in this exhibition which were a voice of liberation and voiced accepting and embracing the different colours of sexuality.
‘Show us your knickers’ by Julia Triston is a well renowned work which was lent to display at the gallery. Many people had their contribution to this piece through a workshop at ‘A Carnival of Feminist Cultural Activism’ in March 2011, organised by the Centre for Women’s Studies, University of York, where everyone brought together their knickers which symbolised important times or phases in their lives and sewn together on elastic strings. This piece of art celebrates women of all shapes, sizes, sexuality, background and stories of illness, sexuality, menstruation, violence and mundane life.
The works that explored and expressed individual sexualities include ‘Blue Tiled Bathroom’ and ‘After Ania’ by Olivia Humphrey giving a peak how of how she sees her personal sexuality.This continues with the picture series by Rachel Cox and Laurie Esdale showcasing the bright and colourful side of the queer community.
The sculpture piece by Louise Brown - Stop policing our hair growth Is a bold expression against the policing of hair growth “wrong places”. It sheds light on how porn and different notions have clouded the thinking of people in thinking of how a ‘perfect body’ should be.
This continues with some intriguing installations in form of films. The variations of films by Katy Jalili addressing the unspoken but very pertinent subjects like female hair growth, female nudity, queer identity and the unapologetic expression of being one's own self.
With only a few examples mentioned above, this exhibition is a culmination of very engaging and thought provoking installations. It is certainly a statement expressing the diversity and individuality of each human being, the challenges faced by everyone in facing it, channelising it and embracing it and also sets out to break the shackles of judgement and demonstrates the beauty of every individual’s sexuality displays it very vividly.