Curated by Jack Trodd, founder of BWG Gallery, Spirit Within brings together an exciting selection of emerging women artists whose practices look beyond the known to worlds within and beyond. Broadly speaking, the artwork on show engages with spirituality, mysticism and occulture to varying degrees of sincerity and comes at a timely moment, coinciding with a wider cultural resurgence of interest in alternative ideologies such as witchcraft. Through exploration of countercultural, esoteric and occultist aesthetics and practices, the exhibiting artists enliven a feminist discourse that looks to empowerment, de-colonisation, and symbiosis with the natural world.
The women artists featured in the exhibition each take a unique pathway, in terms of both medium and subject matter, to journey the viewer through realms of mystery, spirituality and their inner-worlds. Salome Wu is developing a cult following for her abstract and deeply emotional canvases that fluctuate between tones of red and blue to present a complex personal mythology entirely of her own. Her work reflects back her own sensitivity and porousness, offering an unmatched yet veiled vulnerability.
Lisbon born painter, Mafalda Figueiredo embodies the exhibition title, Spirit Within through her paintings on show. In her work Burn it Down (2022), the naked female figure stares back at the viewer, deeply self-assured, unabashed and brave. Bathed in orange light, she appears almost unaware of the ghostly arms that reach towards the flames and allude to forthcoming ritualistic revelry. There is a sense that she has been caught in the act, looking back at us from her space of sanctity and power.
Slade graduate Alexi Marshall, meanwhile, works between a variety of mediums to create pieces heavily engaged with folk law, and traditional mysticism. Women in her works ooze the wild, dark, nature of the feminine, revelling in mystery and resisting a fixed identity. There’s an intangible quality to her work, it appears like a relic from another time or system of belief that we do not yet understand.
Esoteric surrealist artist Hazel Florez builds microcosmic, imaginary worlds with such attention to detail that they can never be fully grasped. Recalling Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights in their style, while drawing subject matter from sources as diverse as Greek and Egyptian mythology, the arcanum of the tarot, Hermetic philosophy, alchemy and Jungian archetypes. Her compositions are a visual spectacle, born from in-depth research and grounded in largely overlooked alternative ideological systems.
Like Hazel, Vancouver based sculptor Kendall Jones lives deep within the world she creates. Her artwork takes influence from her shamanic practice, bringing form to meditative experiences and lucid dreams. Her works on show were inspired by time spent with the Pueblan culture in Mexico, articulating complex identities and notions surrounding cycles of life and death with many faced figures.
Rosie McLachlan forages naturally occurring river-bed clay to create ceramic works that are deeply connected to her studies as an archaeologist. Working with and through materials found in her locality, she both practically and ideology explores our connections to place and the natural world while imbuing her process with symbolism. Her work is intricate and timeless, with a clear relationship to vessels and bodies long past, and bringing forth ideas of divinity and mortality. Jones and McLachlan are united by their use of the Anagama Kiln for firing, an ancient and deeply involved method requiring equal parts skill, chance and a deep understanding of natural materials akin to alchemy in its specificity.
For Anna Sebastian, the inner-self is explored through memories captured on the canvas, with mythology and symbolism teased out of passing moments from her daily life. Her paintings fluctuate between hyperrealism and blocked out or faded spaces, recalling the experience of remembering and the mystery held within that which remains subconscious. Also working through painting, Olivia Mansfield renders voluptuous women in moments of rapture, with ethereal visions, barely decipherable symbols and scenes from mythology and religion finding their way to the canvas.
With just a week left, head to Greenwich to catch this unmissable exhibition that takes a surreal, otherworldly and emotional journey through esoteric and occult practice as manifest in the work of contemporary women artists. Taken together, the artworks on show offer access points into troubled histories of patriarchal persecution while excavating new routes to resistance, rebellion and collective empowerment. Timely questions emerge concerning our relationship with nature, with one another and ultimately with ourselves. The exhibition series continues with Visions of Healing, a show of women artists looking to the restorative potentials of nature, taking place at Hallam Conference Centre, 44 Hallam St until February 2023.
Spirit Within runs until the 28th of August 2022 at Ben Oakley Gallery, 9 Greenwich Market, Turpin Lane, SE10 9JA
Visions of Healing runs until February 2023 at Hallam Conference Centre, 44 Hallam St, W1W 6JJ by appointment. Private View on the 24th of August, 5-9pm.
Find out more about BWG Gallery: www.brusheswithgreatness.co.uk