Artist Ingrid Pollard and MK Gallery win £100k Freelands Award 2020

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Artist Ingrid Pollard and MK Gallery win £100k Freelands Award 2020
For four decades, Pollard’s important photographic collages have offset traditionally idyllic representations of Britain with unseen legacies of xenophobia and exclusion. Photo: Emile Holba.

LONDON.- Freelands Foundation today announced that MK Gallery, Milton Keynes has won £100k to host a solo exhibition by artist Ingrid Pollard (b.1953, Guyana) across its 500-square-metre galleries in 2022.

The fifth annual Freelands Award will enable MK Gallery to stage the first exhibition to span Pollard’s practice, which explores different perspectives on the human figure, as it passes through landscape, history and printed material, using photography, film, collage, sculpture and installation.

For four decades, Pollard’s important photographic collages have offset traditionally idyllic representations of Britain with unseen legacies of xenophobia and exclusion. Pastoral Interlude (1988) places the Black figure within an imagined picturesque setting, undermining perceptions of ‘urban’ and ‘authentic rural’. Seaside Series (1989) combines cyphers of coastal tourism with stories of historic and contemporary immigration to the UK. More recently, Seventeen of Sixty-Eight (2019) documents how the African body is represented in popular signwriting. Pollard is currently developing new work for the exhibition that looks at different choreographies of the body, including rowing, bowing, dancing, boxing and rambling.

The annual Freelands Award was established in 2016 to enable arts organisations outside London to present an exhibition, including significant new work, by a mid-career female artist who may not yet have received the acclaim or public recognition that her work deserves. It has previously been won by the Hepworth Wakefield and Hannah Starkey (2019), Spike Island and Veronica Ryan (2018), Nottingham Contemporary and Lis Rhodes (2017) and the Fruitmarket Gallery and Jacqueline Donachie (2016).

This announcement comes alongside the Foundation’s fifth report into the ‘Representation of Female Artists in Britain’, which shows a steady decline in the number of solo exhibitions by female artists in public galleries outside London over the last three years. Written by Dr Kate McMillan, the report includes essays by art historian and writer Jennifer Higgie on women in art history and art critic and writer Hettie Judah on art and motherhood.

The report traces the reversal of fortunes for women who, despite making up 74% of Art A-Level students, represent only 3% of the highest grossing auction sales at the other end of their careers. It also looks at the scant representation of works by women artists in Britain’s national collections, which represent only 1% of the National Gallery Collection.

Higgie’s essay concludes, Gender exclusion isn’t a theory: it’s a fact... It’s essential that a very bright light continues to be cast on the dark spaces of discrimination that continue to flourish in the arts.

In addition, the report investigates the challenges facing women artists in 2020. Writer Hettie Judah interviewed over 50 artists to explore the impact of motherhood on their careers. Data from art schools and universities highlights the disparity in gender balance between permanent professorial positions and precarious zero-hours teaching contracts. Author Dr Kate McMillan goes on to ask:

What might the impacts of COVID-19 mean for female artists? It is clear that existing inequalities will be further exacerbated during, and in the aftermath of the pandemic, possibly for years to come... despite changes in the workplace and public policy, the personal is still political for most women.

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