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With more than 350 artworks on show at the South West Academy’s open show it’s hard to know where to start - we head to a room set aside for female artists inspired by this year’s centenary of votes for women, writes arts editor Carol Burns
MARGARET, AGED 96
In the arts world as with the rest of the globe, women haven’t always been at the forefront. While male artists make up most of the top sellers and take up more of the exhibition space, female artists are likely to be ignored or discovered at the end of their careers; don’t just believe my feminist diatribe - every artist in the top 100 auction sales last year was a man, and just eight per cent of public art in central London was created by women.
So what better time to focus on female artists than 2018? It’s the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which first gave some* women the vote (and all men over 21). The South West Academy Show at Exeter Castle celebrates this landmark with one room dedicated to the centenary and female artist’s response to it.
The South West Academy is always a byword for quality artworks working in fine and applied arts so you can be assured of finding something you love somewhere in the exhibition.
Work on show includes that of its core membership: the academicians who are outstanding practitioners of fine and applied arts with varied practices, backgrounds and styles. But the show also features entries from the general public. The price tag is equally varied – works begin at around £200 and go up to around £6,000-£7,000.
Here are just of the works on show the castle’s ballroom this month. June Arnold SWAC chose to focus on Margaret Smith (1913-2015) who studied maths at University of London (before women were allowed to have a degree) and became a socialist, radical and environmentalist. “Post-war she and her husband abandoned London to try their luck at farming in Devon. Perhaps she had been influenced by Olive Hocking’s year as a Land Girl in Devon. I first painted her when she was 96, still active in her garden and in the community. Then again aged 102 when she became sad at the loss of independence and love of life.”