Coined as a third wave of feminism, this movement kicked-off in the 90’s to further promote the equal treatment of woman across the globe and quite frankly, you must be living under a rock if you’re not aware of it. However, if like me, your most memorable and somewhat vocal involvement in the movement to date, has been incessantly waving the victory sign in any poor, unassuming male’s face, imploring ‘I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want’ followed by declaring ‘girl power’ every hour on the hour between 1996-1999, then clearly we are on the same page…
However, recently on my quest to become a ‘better’ feminist I began exploring avenues related to the movement, and where better to start than art; the preferred medium of expression for so many and for so long. Moving away, only for a hot second, from the ever prevalent, exigent developments of subjects such as global abortion laws, equal pay between the sexes and general sexist exploitation, to the rise in young female artists inspired by the female form and who are creating empowering and inspiring pieces, impacting even the least learned of feminists amongst us.
I caught up with Brixton based artist Venetia Berry, whose work caught my eye a while ago thanks to her use of beautiful pastel hues and bold abstract forms, and not least her subject matter. In her own words Berry seeks to ‘challenge the archetypical sexualisation of the female form and to avert the male gaze via the use of distorted, elongated silhouettes and contemporary techniques’. I am particularly drawn to the whimsical and languid forms which appear to glide gently across the backdrop and her mission of portraying the female form in a modern and feminist light. I caught up with Venetia to find out what feminism means to her, how it inspires her work and which artists she would invite to her all-star dinner party…
Q&A with Venetia Berry
What inspires your work?
I am most inspired by the work of other artists. I love going to exhibitions and seeing artwork in the flesh. There is no comparison, in my opinion, to seeing work in real life.
Even in an era where feminism is now mainstream there is still so much confusion, from both men and women, on the exact meaning of the word ’feminism’. How do you define feminism?
The defining feature of feminism is the desire for equality across all genders. I think it’s great that the word feminism is now being used so widely, as only a few years ago it was seen as ‘extreme’, with the image of women burning bras coming to mind. I think the aim with feminism is to integrate it into our everyday language, with the hope that one-day the word will cease to exist, instead, equality does.
This year it seemed that International Women’s Day was more prevalent than ever. What does International Women’s day mean to you?
It is a day to look around at the female community and appreciate the talent and brilliance present. It is also a day to appreciate the women surrounding us and be grateful for the female friendships in our lives. The 8th March is also the anniversary of my aunt’s death. She was the most inspiring woman who continues to be my role model, so this day has a deeper layer of meaning for me.
Describe a day in the life of Venetia Berry…
I set my alarm around 6.45/7am and aim to go to a hotpod yoga class or go to the gym – although this doesn’t always happen! I then head to the studio. As soon as I arrive I do a 20-minute meditation. Afterwards my working day can start and I have a big mug of black coffee whilst I look through my emails and see what needs to be done that day. My jobs really vary from practical to admin to being out and about. Around 1pm I have lunch – usually leftovers or something I have made a big batch of. After lunch I have a cup of tea. In the afternoon I continue to get through my to-do list. This could be getting some painting done, working on a commission, getting deliveries to the post office, collecting from the framers – anything really! I aim to finish it up in the studio around 6.30pm when I head home. I love cooking in the evenings, it really helps me to wind down. I watch TV or read my book and head to bed around 10/10.30pm.
If you could have dinner with any three artists, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
Matisse – I adore Matisse’s work. I love the way he can create such a depth with such a simple line. He has the ability to create the feel and essence of someone or something – something I strive to achieve in my work.
Frankenthaler – I often look to Frankenthaler’s use of colour to inspire my work. I love the scale that she used and the confidence she achieves in her work.
Kusama – Kusama is an intriguing character that rarely gives interviews. I would love to be allowed into how her mind works to create such captivating paintings and sculptures.
As an interior designer I believe that artwork brings a scheme to life and many clients are willing to invest heavily in pieces for their home. As an artist why do you think, for some people, art is such an integral element of the home?
I think that a bare wall doesn’t only look boring but I know in my experience can drive me crazy with boredom for the room it is in. I love to cover my walls in artwork and to change the layout around regularly. This makes it feel as though you have ‘redone’ the whole room, without having to move any furniture around. I think artwork is so integral to the home as it brings character and reflect the type of person you are.