Colouring Outside the Lines: The exhibition. Zine transcript; about the project

The following is a transcript of a conversation between myself Rachel Kaye (Gallery II) and Melanie Maddision (COTL zine) which was produced for a free zine available at the COTL exhibition which took place between June – July 2009 at Gallery II, University of Bradford.

Melanie Maddison: Colouring Outside The Lines started life in 2004 as a self-produced zine. The publication interviews female artists and includes reproductions of their art with the intention giving the artists the power and voice over their own creativity. The zine developed from my wish to know about and hear from female artists that I loved (but couldn’t find much information on, or much documentation of their voices). The artists said something to me, rather than the whole meta-art narrative by critics that worships at the foot of certain, celebrated (mostly dead) artists that didn’t necessarily hold any relevance to me as a 20-odd year old living in 2003-present, with a history in feminism, punk rock, diy, self-publishing, and queercore. The zine therefore focuses on artists working in less-conventional forms and gives a platform to those artists whose feminist and queer agendas are less ‘appreciated’ by the mainstream.

‘We were aware that a whole community of artists and cultural producers were not being represented together in the world, if at all.’ K8 Hardy in COTL zine

MM: The zine came from my will to celebrate women, document their lived-histories as artists, and crucially inspire and encourage others’ interest &/or others’ creativities that I believe we all have. Creativities that either bashed out of us by a society that would rather criticise than encourage, or through a lack of self-confidence, or the belief that art is only for ‘certain’ people. The zine was constructed from my position of ‘amateur’, from the position of ‘uninitiated’ I didn’t study art, don’t speak ‘art-speak’, and certainly don’t know as much as maybe I should – but that’s kind of the point… I am a firm believer in smashing the amateur/expert dichotomy that keeps so many women at a distance from their potential, from expressing their creativity, or from viewing and learning about others’.

Rachel Kaye: This exhibition evolved almost organically when I was offered my first opportunity of curating at Gallery II. After working at the gallery for some time I saw it as quite a uniquely independent space, in terms of the freedom that both curators and artists had. The gallery isn’t council owned or a commercial space supported solely by sales, so there is the freedom to show slightly less conventional work and to exhibit in less conventional ways. Because of this independence I felt that as a curator I could retain control and this gave me the confidence to attempt a project like this where I saw it as being essential to play with display and interpretation conventions. I had long admired Melanie’s work for COTL and felt she had the contacts and ideas to make an exhibition like this successful. I wanted to both give the work of the zine and the artists featured within it a wider audience and also to entice a new audience into the gallery. I was keen to see the artwork in the zine in a gallery because I think there is something unique about being able to see art face to face which galleries can offer. I think work such as Helen’s benefits immensely from the viewer being able to get up close and personal, because some of the detail and intricacies may be lost on the printed page.

MM: when Rachel approached me with the idea of bringing COTL to a gallery, as an exhibition, I was keen to extend the initial feminist philosophies of the zine. For me the exhibition was also a way to offer up the opportunity to be a part of this project to women who may not have had the chance before. Some of the artists we are working with are themselves like me, with no art training or schooling, and had never exhibited in a gallery setting, or had their work viewed in such a significant way before. Regardless of this, however these woman held onto their creative impulses and created and produced art work themselves, by themselves regardless; these were some of the women I wanted to champion. MM: As first time gallery curators we worked together to select work which departed from the ‘traditional canvas’ and conventional mediums of creation and production – quite literally, we wanted to show work that colours outside the lines.

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