Image: ’25 abductresses’ (2018) and ‘Pastoral Drama’ (2018) at Tramway, Glasgow. Photograph by Keith Hunter, courtesy of Tramway, Glasgow.
Humber Street Gallery in Hull and Grand Union, Birmingham, have announced independent, but connected, ‘sister’ exhibitions by artist Jamie Crewe that will be showing simultaneously in both venues. Solidarity & Love will show at Humber Street Gallery from Saturday 18 January until Sunday 29 March and Grand Union will show Love & Solidarity from Saturday 8 February until Friday 17 April.
This is the first collaboration of its kind between Humber Street Gallery, Hull’s dedicated contemporary visual art space and Grand Union, a gallery and studio complex in Digbeth, Birmingham. Both institutions aim to support artists at a pivotal stage in their development and are interested in connecting narratives that span the North East and the Midlands, as well as championing underrepresented artists, including queer and feminist voices within their programmes.
Taking inspiration from Radclyffe Hall’s novel The Well of Loneliness (1928), the exhibitions address the provocations of the book, which has had a lasting impact on generations of queer, lesbian, and transgender people. Crewe touches on themes of heartbreak, experiences of transphobia, LGBT solidarity and conflict, as well as exploring the legacy of the novel itself.
This new body of work will centre on two videos, both based around conflict and camaraderie, simultaneously looped in the galleries. “The Ideal Bar” – “Le Narcisse” – “Alecs”, draws inspiration from a scene in the novel, dramatised as an exchange between two non-binary people in a Glasgow nightclub.
Crewe has created a series of sculptures that are shared across both galleries, which draw upon motifs from the novel and beyond, including a fox puppet which appears briefly in “The Ideal Bar” – “Le Narcisse” – “Alecs”: its body is displayed at Humber Street Gallery as “Little red fox”, and its severed tail appears at Grand Union as “Bedraggled little brush.”
A set of 25 collaboratively produced fired clay pieces also span both exhibitions and draw on the artist’s experience with the tradition of well dressing: the creation of decorative pallets of clay which are erected around the wells of Derbyshire villages and towns each summer. The making of these fired clay pieces in their original, unfired forms, is shown in the second video work, “Morton” – “Beedles” – “An abyss”, which documents a group of Crewe’s friends and family constructing untraditional well dressings. The video focuses on the participants’ hands, using flowers, wool, and seeds to create designs that reference romantic estrangement, the demonisation of trans women, the life and legacy of Radclyffe Hall, and more.
There will also be a printed text work, titled “Womanhood”, of which around 3,000 freely available copies will be made and displayed across the two venues. The cover design of this is based on the cover design of The Sink of Solitude (1928), an illustrated lampoon of The Well of Loneliness written by Beresford Egan, P. R. Stephensen, and ‘Several Hands’, and its contents use drawn, printed, and collaged material both to illustrate Crewe’s engagement with The Well of Loneliness, and to frame a parallel text: a letter of deep bitterness, anger, and disappointment, whose recipient is unclear.
As part of the extended programme we have co-commissioned a publication with new writing by Juliet Jaques, Nat Raha and Shola Von Reinhold, which will be available online and digitally distributed.
Humber Street Gallery’s Senior Curator John Heffernan said: “Humber Street Gallery aims to collaborate with partners across the UK and internationally with the ambition of championing the production of contemporary art and to support artists at a pivotal stage in their development. The chance to work with Grand Union and Jamie Crewe celebrates the gallery’s ambition and provides audiences in both Hull and Birmingham with an exciting new body of work by the artist.
Both exhibitions investigate traditions that originate from across the north of England and the Midlands such as well dressing, along with new dialogues that add to the debate around gender, identity and how these are portrayed through historical and contemporary literature.”
Kim McAleese, Programme Director at Grand Union, said: “The Well of Loneliness has been an influence for many queer and lesbian women and continues to be a topic of debate when thinking about gender and sexuality. Crewe touches on themes of heartbreak, transphobia, queer solidarity, kinship and conflict as well as exploring the legacy of the novel itself. I am delighted to be working alongside Jamie on such an evocative body of work and pleased to be presenting with our ‘sister’ partner at Humber Street Gallery.”
Both exhibitions are supported by a series of events exploring the themes of the exhibitions across Hull and Birmingham. Further details about the Hull exhibition and events programme can be found at www.humberstreetgallery.co.uk and www.absolutelycutured.co.uk, details of the Birmingham programme can be found at www.grand-union.org.uk.