Renee Vaughan Sutherland Waterhouse 25 April - 7 June 2015
TAP is pleased to present Waterhouse, Australian artist Renee Vaughan Sutherland’s first solo exhibition in a public gallery in the UK.
Conceived and developed during Vaughan Sutherland’s residency at Metal, Southend, Waterhouse is a multi-film installation, incorporating live performance. The exhibition explores the different representations and perceptions of women in Essex through history, with a particular focus on the practices of witches and witchcraft during the 17th Century, and the gender and regionally specific slur ‘Essex Girl’.
Vaughan Sutherland’s multi-disciplinary work is concerned largely with the female body in landscape and context, provoking ideas about the extent to which land shapes us and how the body inflicts itself on the landscape. In Waterhouse Vaughan Sutherland presents the convergence of the Southend tides submerging and revealing, the ducking and trapping of witches and the muddying of the Essex female identity through generations of denunciation, which has simultaneously established an isolated and lesser class of these citizens.
Waterhouse is attributed to Agnes Waterhouse, the first female on English record to be tried and executed for being a witch in Hatfield Peverel, about 25 miles from Southend-on-Sea. Waterhouse was the first of many women accused of being a witch within the Essex area. They were tortured or forced to confess, dying as a result of ducking or hung after ‘confessing’. The work has been designed to inhabit the gallery space both inside and below the surface. Continuing with the motif of submersion, the Waterhouse film physically tracks the space, in and under the structure of TAP, even into the capped well beneath the floor in the Winch Room.
I’m in Essex Girl enlists 17 local Southend women to tell notoriously degrading and violent Essex girl jokes. This work has arisen from discussion groups about the origins of the term ‘Essex Girl’ and how the label makes comment on appearance, intellect and sexuality. This reclamation piece incorporates performance, where the artist uses her own body as a screen; referencing the violence of witch hunts of the 1600s and how the derivative jokes project onto the body and regulate behaviour of women from the Essex area.
Describing the surface of the film as being ‘malleable and connecting with the body’, Vaughan Sutherland points to the direct relation of bodily transformations from spells and curses, to both historical ‘witches’ and women labelled ‘Essex Girls’. This is highlighted by Treatment, a double-projection of two individual films shot in the local landscape of Southend and Leigh-on-Sea. These films focus on the dichotomy of nature and the artificial. They incorporate into the developing process elements associated with ‘witches’ and ‘Essex Girls’, from human hair, herbs, salt and urine to peroxide, nail varnish, fake tan and fake eyelashes.
The hypnotic and symbolic film Evil Eye brings all of these worlds together - the landscape, the body and the legacy of the female. The film focuses on the notion of the glance; in the 1600s, this could denote accusations of witchery whereas in contemporary society, the constant scrutiny of women is perpetuated through the media. Shot locally and featuring a cast of local women and the artist, the work is inherently bound to the history and energy of Southend.
Vaughan Sutherland will be performing live in the space every Saturday at 3pm.
For more information on Vaughan Sutherland please see her website: www.r-v-s.co.uk