"Keep Gazing": Q&A with Grace
Written by Matilda Bentley
“Keep Gazing”, the Norman Rea Gallery 2018/2019 Committee’s final exhibition, celebrates and explores “gender” within the artistic sphere and gallery space from a 21st Century perspective. As an inherently personal subject, “gender” does ‘mean something different to each of us’. This is important, and is explored throughout the exhibition through various modes of artistic expression. “Gender”, which was in the past thought of something which was static and binary, conformed us to either “male” or “female”. Now, in conjunction with greater exploration of our personal identities and role within society, we rightly define for ourselves our gender and sexuality. No longer are boundaries limited or limiting, they are fluid. To enable and further such discussion, the Norman Rea Gallery’s exhibition seeks to ‘tap into current debates, conversations and theories around gender and sexuality’ in order to contribute to the breaking down of societal barriers, towards a greater inclusivity. The exhibition also crucially explores art’s role and function within this discussion, seeking to promote the work of artists from different perspectives and backgrounds. In doing so, “Keep Gazing” also hopes to ‘challenge and illuminate the discourse around the male gaze and its role in fore-fronting cultural representations of women and girls in popular culture’.
To explore these ideas further, I took a Q&A with Grace Frazer, the NRG’s Director.
Q: Why the theme of “gender” for the 2018/2019 NRG Committee’s final show?
A: Since an all-female committee was elected during the last elections alongside the issues with YUSU surrounding the presentation of the nude in the gallery space, I was interested in creating a show that challenged and exposed this topic.
Q: What does the exhibition title mean to you?
A: Taking influence from John Berger who established the concept of “the male Gaze” in the 70’s in his influential book Ways of Seeing, “Keep Gazing” transcends this ideal to a 21st century perspective. Having confrontational undertones, for me the title “Keep Gazing” can be accessed by every audience and succinctly discussed the theme of the exhibition.
Q: What pieces interest you most?
A: We have been very fortunate with this exhibition, being able to display a range of media and mediums. Positioning film-based work alongside a more traditional medium of sculpture, allowed for the viewer to manoeuvre the space to see the works in isolation but also in relation to each other. I could not choose a single work that interested me the most. Instead, (perhaps cheekily) I choose the whole exhibition. Not in such a way that I am patting myself and the team on the back, but in terms of how the works correspond with each other. Each work contributes to the concept of Gender. By being able to exhibit such a variety of work we are able as viewers to understand how each artist explores this theme.
Q: What did you think about the exhibition?
A: Following a diverse programme in the Norman Rea Gallery, ending on such a political and relevant issue of Gender, there was potential for this exhibition to be received negatively. However, with the exhibition having a committee that were passionate about the topic, the Gallery was able to tap into a variety of viewpoints.
The opening night was extremely successful with a large audience coming to see the show. Speaking to the variety of visitors, I was overwhelmed with the positive reception. I am pleased and honoured that during my time as director I have explored a topic that is personally of interest to me and to have worked with an amazing team who are also engaged.
Q: Your thoughts on the curation?
A: Being able to discuss the curation and layout of the exhibition was important due to the variety of works in the show. With there being a selection of films exhibited, considering environmental influences such as light and sound was important.
Q: Why is social media important to the “gender” conversation?
A: Being a 20 year old female during this era, I understand how everyone is constantly challenged with the pressures of social media and creating an online presence and brand. Prior to this exhibition I had an awareness and studied the works of Amalia Ulman (an Argentinian performance-artist who explores the concept of gender on social media platforms such as Instagram). With this exhibition I wanted to take inspiration from a similar view- point and commentary that Ulman takes. Questioning the role of the viewer. Questioning the role of the media. And questioning the role of social pressures.
Norman Rea Gallery website
Norman Rea Gallery website