by Meike Brunkhorst
Art on a Postcard (AOAP) was launched in 2014 to raise money for The Hepatitis C Trust towards its campaign to eliminate hepatitis C in the UK by the year 2025. Originally started as a one-off secret postcard auction, it was so successful it has become an ongoing project in its own right.
The 2020 auction coincides with International Woman’s Day and proceeds will go into funding the women’s prison team. The prevalence of Hep C in female prisons is particularly high as the majority of women are imprisoned for drug-related offences.
The beautiful surroundings of The AllBright in Mayfair couldn’t be further from the world of criminal justice. The women’s networking club provides the perfect setting for this year’s auction of almost 400 postcard sized original artworks donated by more than 100 women artists curated by Beth Greenacre.
Bidding is now open here, until 11 March 2020.
The exhibition was opened with an artists’ talk featuring artist and activist Caroline Coon, abstract and installation painter Vanessa Jackson RA and prize winning painter Lara Davies who gave a fascinating overview of what it means to be a woman artist across the ages.
Caroline Coon went to art school when women were expected to marry and have children rather than a career. She rebelled against her privileged upbringing and has been an active human rights and feminist campaigner from an early age. When she attended Central School (before its merger with St Martin’s) in the mid-60s there were no women teachers. Most of her peers no longer paint and many women artists were erased from the history or are only posthumously recognised. The list is long with one prominent example being Pauline Boty, a founder of the British Pop Art movement.
Vanessa Jackson remembers there to be no female tutors at the RCA in the 70s with the ratio female to male students 4:18 every year. She was only the third woman to hold the post of Head of Painting at Winchester School of Art when she was appointed in 1988. Undergraduate art courses are now almost exclusively female while men tend to opt for film and media studios.
Feminism was about the right to earn money until the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970. Prior to this women’s wages were half of men’s with restaurants and factories the most likely employers. Caroline Coon opted for live modelling where a 3-hour session paid the equivalent of a full shift at a restaurant. She didn’t graduate because of the power of the money. As a dyslexic, teaching was not an option.
The youngest artist on the panel, Lara Davies left Ruskin School of Art in 2006 after just one year to pursue the stability of a maths degree instead. Following a career in insurance she has since established her art practice alongside a part-time museum job and is about to return to art education at the RA. Painting itself is the object of her practice and she paints from images on her iPad. Her paintings of other people’s paintings are predominantly taken from art books, therefore predominantly by white men.
None of the panel have gallery representation.
Caroline Coon’s figurative work was not popular with the establishment and her subject matter deemed shocking. Working outside the art world has given her the freedom to paint what she wants and freedom from the pressure of producing sixty paintings a year.
Vanessa Jackson’s generation was dominated by Marxist and feminist thought and a strong anti-Cork Street sentiment, with the height of success a show at an artist-run gallery or a large painting placed into the public domain for almost nothing.
Whereas new graduates were told to go away and get good at it, degree shows have become a major source of discovery in recent years.
Meike Brunkhorst runs factor-m, a consultancy providing essential guidance and strategic support for artists seeking to improve efficiency and to achieve set goals.