Halima Cassell took home The Grand Prize in 2018 for her sculpture Acapella. From texture and tone to intricate ripples, Acapella is an expression of her love of music. On the title, Cassell says it was “inspired by a song written by musician/songwriter Kelis. In her song ‘Acapella‘, she’s describes her feelings after having her first child – how her life became whole… Acapella subconsciously came to me and was so visually fitting for [the artwork], with how I was feeling at the time of being a new mum.” The designs and movements of the work are akin to the ebb and flows of rhythm, beats and sound becoming one together. By choosing clay and bronze as the medium, the materials offer permanency and versatility that also represent music’s place in our personal history.
In Cassell’s words, “for me, inspiring the future for women in art, would be through being a strong working woman and mother, as well as being determined by following a path that’s true to yourself as a whole.”
Last year, The Vogue Hong Kong Women’s Art Prize was snapped up by Saba Qizilbash for her artwork Inbezelment. As an artist Saba frequents the Middle East and India – continually contending the two regions, detailing dystopic cities, routes and urban terrain. This installation of graphite drawings on mylar paper and cast in resin picture barren lands on the Grand Trunk Road connecting India and Pakistan in times of historical conflict. By choosing the jewel-like medium she has created objects of material memory. This from a time where, as she describes, “many partition survivors [would] carry along with them small portable objects of value. These objects were brought along at the risk of being looted or lost in transit. Small pieces of jewellery, heirloom shawls, silver utensils were carried across the Radcliffe Line. Very reluctantly, the refugees left behind, their ancestral homes, farms, and properties.” By encasing these vignettes of land in resin and bezels she brings back the meaning and history into contemporary times.
In Saba’s words: “We can inspire a brighter future for women artists by recognizing and reducing invisible labour that seeps through the walls of her studio, giving her uninterrupted time to develop her practice.”
Our 2014-15 Public Vote Prize Winner Alia Bilgrami is known for her exploration of symbols and their meaning to different cultures and backgrounds. In her winning artwork, Diorama Desire, the subject is the tulip: an iconic flower that stems from a deep Persian and Turkish history where in context represents true love. She quotes, “[red] signifies love in poetry and historical paintings, particularly miniatures from the East, just like the tulip,” whereas in Western European and Dutch history the tulip came to represent capitalism. Alia’s work often talks to the duality of meaning. In technique, using the Persian tradition of ‘pardakht’ of fine detailed drawing, to subject choice – the multiple meanings of flowers.
In Alia’s eyes, to inspire a future for women in art we must, “never allow anyone else (or ourselves) to set limits on what we can or cannot do, by taking ownership and control of our own narrative, by building each other up, and creating our own opportunities and space.”
Fuxiaotong, winner of The Inaugural Vogue Hong Kong Women’s Art Prize, uses traditional embroidery tools to puncture handmade rice paper to form intricate images such as mountains, breasts and snake eggs: as seen in her winning artwork 163,630 Pinpricks. This minimalist methodology, where Fu meticulously creates holes one by one, is akin to acupuncture. This technique, the artist says, is “mainly influenced by [her] mother, who loved embroidery.” Her mother suffered from insomnia and used embroidery as a form of emotional catharsis to help her sleep. Fu remembers “crawling next to [her] mom while she was embroidering, and realizing that what [she] was really paying attention to the needle, the way in which it moved up and down… it fascinated [her].” Of the medium, Fu notes that no matter the emotional state of the woman, the embroidery is always beautiful – drawing into question how women can properly express their true feelings, which are so often ignored.
On the future of women in art, Fu encourages women to “stay positive. Take care of your body, and work hard to create your own future.”
From our 2009 Grand Prize winner, Debbie Han’s The Three Graces series works to challenge Eurocentric female imagery— addressing cultural dynamics and social relations between Asian and Western societies. Han says she was inspired to “create work that portrays the reality of Asia today.” These figures in their form and shape are not often sought after in commercial media, however, depict the natural and real beauty of everyday life. To end she adds, “they may be someone’s sister, mother, friend, and so on, socializing with friends. The power of art I believe is in its capacity to make people imagine and wonder about it.”
Her future for women in art strives for us to, “respect, appreciate, promote, archive, and buy art made by female artists.”
The 2011 Grand Prize Winner JeongMee’s practice is bold, bright and hyper-real. The Pink Project II explores how even across ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds, the colours purple and pink are used to separate genders and establish norms between the two. Pictured we see barbie dolls, clothing and accessories placed in between two young girls. In the crowd of items and wall of colour it forces us to consider the role material objects play in our social and behavioural development.
For a brighter future for women in art JeongMee answers, “it is necessary to rediscover and introduce the works of many buried and forgotten good female writers, and to change the structural problems of society altogether.”