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The Review - FEATURE
Published: 16 October 2008
Detail: There's a rat in me kitchen,   by Sam Heywood
Detail: There’s a rat in me kitchen,
by Sam Heywood
A woman’s work is Novas done

Charlotte Chambers explores the work of female artists – but, as they explain, it’s a world where the F-word is definitely banned

FAMOUSLY, wom­en can do more than one thing at a time – in fact, they’re celebrated for it.

But are women being asked to do too many things at any given time?
That’s just one of the questions posed by a new three-woman exhibition at the Novas Gallery in Parkway, Camden Town.
The exhibition’s name, Stolen Hours, alludes directly to the little time women – particularly mothers – have to themselves.
Each of the three artists on show has children, a job or a husband, or all three, and very little time to do their artwork.
One of the pieces – a sculpture by St Martin’s College of Art graduate and mother-of-two Annis Harrison – depicts a naked woman lying on a bed with a list of the demands placed on her by our modern society.
“I don’t want to over-explain but it’s obviously to do with motherhood and the struggle of keeping a balance between you and your job and your children and the household,” said Ms Harrison of the piece.
“There are too many pressures on women – you’re supposed to be successful, own a house, be sexy, snap back into shape after two children. It’s not really the expectations our mothers had.”
Another of the artists, Sam Heywood, has installed an ironing board adorned with the melted grisly figures of Barbie dolls. She put them in the oven.
“I never really understood why people play with things like that,” said the ceramics graduate. “The stereotyping that girls are bombarded with – dolls and the responsibility of motherhood. It symbolises the segregation between the toys that boys and girls are given.”
But in a somewhat unfair post-feminist irony, any mention of the “F” word is shushed and batted away by the women: they say any mention of it will frighten the men away and get them “labelled”.
“We wanted something that wasn’t in-your-face feminist,” says Ms Harrison of the exhibition’s name. “I think it [the word feminism] stops a lot of men within the art world; they’ve got preconceived ideas – and we want to sell our work!”
In-your-face the exhibition ain’t. A softer side of motherhood and femininity emerges from between the gallery walls – perhaps best explained by the third artist, Azin Wake.
An Iranian, Ms Wake’s work is a series calligraphy sculptures in the Persian language Farsi, featuring words such as Peace and Freedom. “Since I’ve had children I’ve seen the good life the new generation deserves,” she said. “There’s always concern but there’s always hope and laughter.”
And the exhibition is also a Camden tale. All three of the women live within five minutes of each other in Mornington Crescent and spent the past year and a half working together in the Novas studio in Arlington Road.
“We’re very pleased and happy to have this show together,” echoed all three artists. And they’re not the only ones: on their opening night the small gallery was packed with more than 300 people.
Not just there for the free drink, they were intrigued and – rightly so – ready to get their ­wallets out.
Stolen Hours is at the Novas Gallery, 73 Parkway, Camden Town, NW1 until October 30. Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 6pm, Sunday 11am to 4pm

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