Finding Space

A review by Sophie Haywood

Mary Modha’s ‘Finding Space’ exhibit brings together women and nonbinary artists exploring the relationship between space and gender. It examines how space configures and perpetuates gender stereotypes, dictating the terms by which femininity manifests and responds to a patriarchal society. The work traces spaces that are public – both working environments and the wider public sphere, like transport – domestic scenes that have historically coded women as homemakers, thereby restricting their authority to the home, and more intimate spaces, like the body, which attempt to resist the sexualised male gaze. It’s a thought-provoking collection of art across different mediums which encourages viewers to confront gender as simultaneously constructed by and resistant to the boundary lines drawn by patriarchy.

Some standout pieces include Merrie Carlton’s depiction of a naked woman on a packed tube, defiantly joyful and alive with colour, contrasting the drab (mostly male presenting) passengers. It’s a darkly funny representation of a gaze which both craves and shames female nudity – an indictment of a society that will endlessly consume pornography, but decry proudly naked women as ‘sluts’. Implicit in this work is the lack of privacy feminine bodies have in public, where leering and sexualisation is commonplace. Carlton’s painting is precarious; it is defiant, but patriarchy must inevitably inform why the naked female body can be read as so transgressive.

Karyn Johnstone’s mixed medium sculptures offer thoughtful commentary on the relationship between the fashion industry and feminine bodies. The soft curves of the torsos are pierced with barbed wire – the ‘skirts’ reminiscent of bones that fuse with flesh. Fashion has historically been used to restrict gender, delineating rules which must be adhered to in deference to a binary of masculine/feminine. The brutality of the ‘clothing’ reminds viewers that fashion has been synonymous with pain for women. The sculpture’s head tilts down to look on itself, a poignant awareness of a body that fights against the rigidity of gender presentation.

A final standout for me was Chloe Tam’s pastel domestic spaces. It is a dollhouse like view of the home, with windows cut out and backlit. There is a curious blurring of boundaries between outer and inner worlds, an undercurrent which runs through the whole exhibit. This effacing of true privacy is prescient; even in their own home feminine bodies are subject to discourses of gender which inform how they relate to the world around them.

Mary explained that finding an exhibition space hadn’t been the easiest. It speaks to a culture which forces women to find space for themselves, and is itself a liminal site that pushes back against a world built for masculinity, undermining its legitimacy from within. There are some viscerally uncomfortable pieces in the exhibition, but they are necessary commentary in a time where gender-based rights are being stripped back. Commentary on gender and its place within the world is as prescient as ever, and the exhibit’s dedication to highlighting these kinds of issues can be uncomfortable at times, but it is mingled with feminine hope.


As a Maker and Installation artist , my practice involves time consuming , repetitive processes, with an obsessional attention to detail. As I manipulate and push  the possibilities of my chosen materials, expectations and outcomes are left unsettled , emphasising the physicality and materiality of the work. My Installations have a presence that disrupts a space.  Structures are built from the accumulation of lines and tape . The resultant pieces can be read as abstract, or as hinting at other qualities - perhaps reminiscent of the innards of the body,  or organic plant growth.I often incorporate found objects as a component of my work. 

The Swan Maker is concerned with change and transformation. Seeking refuge and healing in nature. It is about reality distortionand finding a place to escape to whether real, imaginary or through art. 

I am a visual artist and writer.  The piece was inspired by caving during an artist residency in the Yorkshire Dales in October. I found a connection to nature and my body as it moved through the space, singing, dancing and seeing the darkness and light. Being part of the rock but moving with the spirit of the water.

My current artistic practice explores expressive instincts during the slow, meditative process of hand-stitching. I use experimentation through contrasts in textures and tone to create atmospheric, abstract, textile pieces. Conflicted by subtlety and exaggeration, driven by themes of mood, self expression and texture, each piece is a personal and visual reaction to a moment in time. Working freely and intuitively, I explore the boundaries of the embroidery hoop, a nod to and rebellion against traditional craft.


‘The Beast’ was made during the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown and reflects motherhood at a time of unease. A reaction to national and political events, the piece was fuelled by anger, frustration, fear, hope and strength.  Watching birds nest in my garden I imagined building my own nest, a place to keep my family safe from harms way. My stitching took the form of a nest-like structure, layer upon layer, stitches entwined, details and feelings buried for safe keeping. For me this piece represents being a parent during adversity.


Jemima Burrill grew up in London, and studied Visual Anthropology and Linguistics in Manchester in the 80s, going back to study at Chelsea School of Art and then at the Royal College of Art in the sculpture departments. Her videos have been shown internationally, including at the Museum of Modern Art in Lyon, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Arts Santa Monica, Barcelona; Florence Lynch Gallery, New York; and in various shows with the Pacific Design Centre, LA. She shows with Galerie Houg, Paris; and curates a new public art space on Greenwich Peninsula.

My work can be summarised as multi-media social narrative.   It finds inspiration in observations of contemporary reality seen from a female perspective and seeks to challenge accepted norms of behaviour. My creative inputs are eclectic with the result that I express my observations in a variety of media to include paintings, drawings, photography, small installations and sculptures, sometimes using conventional materials but often repurposing everyday items in an original manner.  I find that I visualise ideas in specific formats which inform the medium of expression.

Humour sometimes find its way into my work and my intention is to arouse a response the viewer, no matter what that might be.

Robin Clark

My work draws on my keen interest in fashion and design history, popular culture and social history, and explores our encounters with the past through objects, places and images. I examine the slippery nature of binary pairings such as modernity and preservation; futurism and historicism; reality and fantasy; artifice and authenticity. Visual motifs in my work evoke lifestyles, playing on social and subcultural preoccupations with personal taste and style. In the piece shown, I hint towards presence and absence of people in domestic interiors.

I look at objects and things, what they represent, and the ideas which are important to me.  In response to these encounters, I explore materials and see where they take me.  The nature of mark-making and drawing as a device is both a lens to view and an experiment to engage with idea and material.  

My piece Catching Sight grew from a photograph I took whilst out walking.  Exploring the hedgerows I took a photograph in which I accidentally caught myself looking back through the brambles.  I am reminded that by following convention or doing what is expected, it is possible to lose sight of who you are.  Both the ornate dressing room mirror and the floral motifs are signifiers of femininity. The gap in the paint gives an opportunity to consider that.  

Alison Dollery is an Interdisciplinary (Hybrid) Artist who uses her body's materiality as the medium, combining film, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, performance art and writing (Manufactured Body Language). Alison uses her body as research for the Manufactured Body Project, practice research based upon the artist's lived experience (ten stone weight loss), transformation and body positivity within the material reality of our bodies. Alison's research focuses on how we have socially manufactured our bodies and how we can experience them differently. The work is entangled in theoretical research from psychology, philosophy and art theory.  Alison holds a BA (Hons) in Fine Art CIPD in Learning and Development, exhibiting, performing and running workshops internationally and nationally, including photography awards and performing at the Tate Modern in 2019.

My work is a jumble of personal narrative, myths and archetypes; positioning the desirable, the morbid, the maternal and the sexualized, with the familiar everyday. Tensions between desire, loss, humour and the body are played out through the marriage of materials, images and objects. I am drawn to images and objects that come from another era and which arouse nostalgic feelings and notions of femininity and desire. The work engages with the history of craft, I combine found objects, with which I often have a personal connection, with handmade ceramics, embroidery, casts and clothing. The body is fragmented, fetishised and displaced as it becomes a relic of a psychological or bodily experience. I seek to preserve and reanimate these artefacts imbuing them with meaning and memories, entering them into new relationships. I am fascinated with beauty and the domestic and their ability to subvert and cover up what we would rather not see.

Over the past two years I’ve documented  the  Covid pandemic  through paintings of soap. From the outset, keeping our hands constantly washed gave me the idea to explore  the subject of soap, taps  sinks and bathrooms as a new still life genre. The subject describes the experience of  our worlds becoming smaller and more limited through successive lockdowns. By focussing on soap as a concept, I’ve been able to channel the stress of the pandemic into the domestic  tradition of still life in a way that has never been more relevant. Morandi’s compositions of jugs come to mind in terms of using the same subject repeatedly, while of equal interest are the repeated images of  Edward Ruscha as he photographs series of palm trees, gas stations or makes  dozens of drawings of broken panes of glass.

Generally my work explores time, place and the notion of home and belonging  through the recording of objects and places. I investigate how we attach meanings and memories to objects as we travel through time and space, and in what ways they connect the owner to identities and experiences.

Eleanor is a performance artist and filmmaker based in London making surreal political comedy about power, authority and conventions - wrestling with the contradictions and impossibilities of being a woman today. The characters Eleanor creates may lull you into an absurd, mad world, but their behaviour is all too familiar.

Assembled with a philosophy rooted in Brechtian theory & a deliberately playful approach, my work is an exploration in societal expectation of how we occupy space and gives a means to ‘play’ in this arena. The work considers the notion of aspiration, exploring the status given to objects and the effect they can have on our outlook & persona. It looks at the relationship between art & life and makes everyday materials and practices momentary icons. It is concerned with the connections between utopian living and domestic space as well as how we develop ways to coexist in communal spaces.

Usva Inei is a queer, non-binary visual artist, mainly working with topics of lived experiences of immigration and queerness. They primarily work through mixed media installations, withpainting and printmaking being central elements of their practice. Usva’s work is critical,political, and feminist, exploring such themes, as identity politics, acculturation, normative structures, and the role of physical space in directing behaviour. Usva is a Finnish-born Russian immigrant, currently based in London, UK.

Interested in the human mind, the subconscious and the connection with our ‘inner child’ Karyn is particularly interested how this relationship informs our mental health and manifests into our lives. 

Her work is multidisciplinary in nature and explores these disparities in both two and three dimensions, experimenting and juxtaposing ideas and material processes. Often combining domestic objects, textiles and hand embroidery, which express clearly the materials traditionally embraced by women but also consider the fabric of human relationships, addressing the tension between darkness and beauty, inviting the viewer to question the conflicting views of womanhood. The domestic archetype, the unrealistic beauty standards and cultural ideas of female objectification.

Important in her work is the interaction between the figure and the environment they inhabit using colour, light and materiality to describe the ambience. Balancing the ambiguity between light and dark, vulnerability and strength and of being a woman verses being feminine.

Sophia is a multi-disciplinary artist. Her work combines painting, embroidery, soft sculpture, drawing and performance to examine issues of representation in the Western art canon.

Halina Kubicki

My work seeks to refer to the body as both the subject and object of itself. By using the body as a material in films, performances, drawings and photography, I aim to comment on experiences of an ill and failing body; one which never feels quite like home. I have found through, specifically, performance and film I am able to regain a previously fleeting sense of bodily control. My practice has diversified into one which shows the ill body as delicately vulnerable, layered in subtly alongside a depiction of the disgusting, visceral body laced with taboo. These seemingly opposing approaches sit in alignment within my understanding of living in an ill body; there is a conflict between mind and body- societal expectation and medical objectification. Thus, the works often emulate a ‘push and pull’ of how much information is revealed and how much remains hidden. Acutely aware of the politics and ethics of performance (especially those depicting intimate bodily images), current works demonstrate an awareness of the camera. While my work may depict intimate female forms there is no intention to sexualise or objectify the body rather better understand it through close inspection/examination and reclaim that which has become lost to the invasive practices of medical science.

I'm originally from the Baltic region in Germany but have been based in London for more than 10 years. I frequently escape to the remote parts of the UK - particularly Scotland - to hike, kayak, swim, recharge in general. Lots of my inspiration comes from these trips but I'm increasingly finding wild fragments in the city itself.

Painting is an expressive outlet for my emotions and has helped me not only understand myself, but help family members and friends understand me. By painting pictorial responses to my feelings through self-portraiture, the results are deeply personal and almost invasive (from the viewer's perspective), encouraging the viewer to look behind the facial facade and into my mind. With surrealist influences like that of Magritte and Bacon, the settings and elements of my paintings disturb and confront the viewer with potential reflections of their own mental wellbeing. My work attempts to be relatable and bring you along a journey (though tough) towards stability and to find strength in myself. Inspired by Leon Spilliaert in his changing perceptions of the self through portraiture, my paintings each capture a snapshot of an emotion at a certain point in my life marking my progression and elements of mental health that are not represented in the media, or are often too ‘taboo’ to discuss. Whilst most of my paintings depict myself, the different stages of mental illness manifest in my physical appearance and how I consequently portrayed myself, thus though I remain the subject in most pieces, it is sometimes difficult to ascertain who has been illustrated and whether it is the same character throughout.

Mary Modha

I’m interested how people are shaped by their environment, experience and history.

I use domestic objects as a starting point for my explorations and reframe them in unconventional ways to expose underlying mythologies.  The concept of ‘Both/And’ in which different interpretations of the same reality can be considered true is an important part of my work, especially in relation to feminine performance.  This feminine performance is often associated with the kitsch and the trivial - a performance that is required and ridiculed by society and embraced by those of us who participate.  My work seeks not to reject that performance, rather to reveal it and expose the underlying realities behind it, enabling perfection and abjection to occupy that same space. 

My current practice is a painting practice in search for something lost or hidden. I am trying to leave myself in the work and let the painting come to me. At least I have aspired to have a sense of patience in this practice. I have tried to reject my known movements, my inherited scripts, gestures that have proven to be my own rhetoric. I have tried to always begin again, not repeat myself. To find something new in myself and in the work. I think little of myself when I am painting, I just think about the canvas, the paint, and making moves, making choices that lead to more. Like a game of chess but without the presence of the ticking clock. Time becomes irrelevant only coming back into play when I find the worries of time hiding in me and jumping out in the work.

Heavily influenced by a childhood immersed in her father’s eccentric collections, from voodoo dolls to 18th Century farm implements, Victoria Neave creates strange worlds with ambiguous narratives, drawn to ideas around magic and transformation. She often exploresthemes associated with myth and fairytale, creating uncanny spaces to make the familiar appear unfamiliar and evoke a sense of unease. Victoria is a multi-disciplinary artist, working with an eclectic range of materials including wood, bronze, clay and textiles. She is relentless in her experimentation with processes, mediums and materials in order to communicate her intention and concept. The ideas will dictate the form and the materials used. Light plays an essential role in her work, allowing her to examine the threshold between interconnected worlds: the imagined and the real, the public and the private - often with underlying themes of mystery, dread and threat. Victoria has long been interested in our connection to the natural world and this is often reflected in her work. Nature is at once a safe haven and a place of impending danger – a duality that is explored in many of her projects, often with a narrative theme. Forests in particular are a recurring image in her practice as places of enchantment and unease.

Venetta is a UK based artist that is inspired by the world around her. She likes to create loud statements which aim to communicate with the viewer. Venetta is inspired by Afro Symbolism, Pop Art , Abstract Expressionism and contemporary art. Her imagination and ability to transform her canvases in works of communication makes her finished pieces timeless and engaging. Venetta also uses art to transform art into fashion states and is creating her own range of home ware and clothing.Venetta also enjoys combining old trends with modern ideas, this creates a sense of nostalgia. Late night Botanicals is a contemporary statement which portrays women's vulnerability and her connection and protection with nature. She feels tired but she is also empowered.

Susan Noble

This piece originated in my workplace. As walls were being repainted so the paint tray travelled around the site, accumulating layers and becoming a tough and dry, skin-like substance. I was intrigued by the thickness and it was like excavating something precious when peeling it out of the tray. This paint, intended to be applied to the walls, was now an independent material in my hands. Moulded to the ridges of the tray, its impressed pattern resembled the cast of a ribcage and the plasticity of its form, that of a corset. It became a symbol to signify woman’s experience in the world at large: societal pressures and expectations of conformity to meet unrealistic ideals – the spaces of domesticity, work and the body. Skin on bones and paint on walls are intermingled at once as a corpse of connotations. The sgraffito crafted into the surface of the piece, marks a shell of a place that has been left behind; a state in which one can escape from.

Tabitha is currently studying at the Art Academy London in her final BA Fine Art year. Her work revolves around contemporary womanhood and interiority, often woven with a confessional element. A softly colourful palette and fluctuating paint application creates a disconcerting, dream-like realm for her paintings to exist in. She lives and works in London.

The Meldrum dinner Ladies are a strong group of a generally invisible work force. Each with their own character and challenges working hard in a difficult job. My mother was a dinner lady for over twenty years and it is a special environment a closed world to outsiders who don’t get to know each individual and their lives.It’s a working class place and not one entered by painters and artists who often overlook the rawness offered by their everyday lives.I tried to capture the feel of the place and the busyness and the feel of movement amongst the throng of the living. A place I was once very much a part of as a school pupil and daughter walking in and out. 

Born to parents from the East and the West, I have always been fascinated by cultural hybridity and how this has shaped my senses, and the lens through which I experience the world. In pursuit of a fleeting moment, I contextualise and reframe the presence and absence of family members and my memories through paint.

'The Wait' is about women waiting, especially ancestors as in the past they were the ones at home waiting for loved ones to return. The space inhibited in 'The Wait' is silent and loaded with anticipation.

With mindfulness techniques, we can become absorbed in what’s physically happening right now, so that there's no thought of the next moment and no distractions. I often take the time to stop and notice my senses during the mundanity and routine of everyday life.  These solitary and silent moments can be highly sensory and I am interested in this silencing of noise.


I use snapshots of scenes, from intimate angles, to make series of acrylic paintings that capture these delicate moments in time. While the figure in these paintings unknowingly has her personal space invaded, the process of creating these scenes is highly constructed. I will often use myself as a model, filming myself getting on with things in my studio, my home, wherever.

The paintings I create are often on wallpaper lining or sometimes painted directly onto fabric, connecting the tactility of the material to the sense of touch. The colours are cool, the painting could be described as controlled, clinical. The background is left blank, exposing white canvas, paper or patterned fabric. The imagery used in my work is often private in nature. The painted figures are engrossed in their own moment, unaware of the viewer. Their bodies float in space.

In this series of works – Self, Memory, and Nakedness – I examine memory and the sense of self by interrogating notions such as authenticity, vulnerability, veracity, and belonging through highly personal pastel drawings on paper. My drawings weave together childhood memories with more recent events in ways that remind us that the past is remembered and re-imagined through the lens of the present. These memories are re-presented as visual images within domestic, private, yet ambiguous spaces that blur the boundaries between past and present, fact and fiction, and time and space. I touch on memories that occupy a space between trauma and self-discovery, where traumatic experience was transformed into an opportunity for deep exploration and introspection in my childhood. More specifically, spaces of involuntary confinement transformed into absolute absorption in solitude.

‘Enough’ is a minument to a moment.  It could be a feeling in the stomach or the pulse of adrenaline.  Minuments are a series of unapologetically small works. While they compositionally refer to monuments, they do not celebrate an individual or event, rather they look at the less salubrious or less tangible aspects of contemporary life.

I am a figurative artist born in China, now based in London.

My work examines myself, my family and my motherland through different lenses, sometimes documentarian and sometimes romantic. I often take inspiration from scenes of everyday life and photos from Chinese media. My work questions stereotypes by illuminating universal emotions, values and states of mind, which can help break down barriers when presented to viewers from different communities and social groups who empathise with my subjects. I paint in multiple mediums and my colour palettes and brushwork are inspired by my cultural heritage.