Written by Lana Lopesi
Graphic Matters is a monthly column on issues and ideas related to New Zealand Design Culture
Founded in 1980, the Association of Women Artists formed as a supportive network to connect women artists practicing in isolation and to also highlight and raise awareness of the institutional structures as well as art works which had been (and arguably still do) denigrate and oppress women. The association hosted monthly slide talks, films, discussions, performance evening as well as exhibitions and other art projects.
Between 1993 and 1996 the Association of Women Artists worked on an exhibition project at Lopdell House Gallery now Te Uru which looked to celebrate the centenary of New Zealand’s Womens Suffrage. Made at a time where e-mail and faxes were providing an increased speed of worldwide messaging, the exhibition titled Envoys, attempted to resist what they deemed as impersonal by celebrating the “intimacy of the personal, individually handmade postcard”.
Carrying on from that legacy, next month from 8 September – 28 October 2018, Te Uru is seeking to celebrate the 125th commemoration of New Zealand’s Womens Suffrage by re-showing the original postcards and inviting a new generation of women artists to create postcards to show alongside the original set. The new exhibition called Envoys Onwards shares the original aims of Envoys which are “to strengthen the voice of women’s common concerns, to acknowledge the universality of their gender, and to generate images from the present that will touch future generations”.
The great thing is, there is an opportunity to be a part of this event! If you wish to be part of the event you can email James Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your current postal address. You will then be sent two pre-printed postcards on archival paper for you to create an image in any manner that still permits postage – woodcuts, linocuts, etchings, photographs, xerox, laser prints, letter press, wire mesh, collage, embossing etc. What’s great is that all postcards from the 1996 and 2018 exhibition will be archived as a boxed set at the National Archives in Wellington as part of the formal winding up of the Association.
While much less formalised than the Association of Women Artists, there are similar albeit much more earnest attempts to create networks amongst the women in the design community here in Aotearoa namely through the DA Women in Design get together and Ladies, Wine & Design hosted by Dow Design. Inspired by Jessica Walsh who started Ladies, Wine & Design in New York “after doing a lot of thinking and reading on why there are so few female Creative Directors”, Dow Design believes that as a “female led creative company in Auckland”, that the city has it’s own “fair share of exceptionally creative women”.
While it is definitely a year where women are being celebrated, glaring inequalities are also being pinpointed, if there was ever a time for women to get together it seems like now is the best time.