HAZEL REEVES AND THE REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN PUBLIC ART.
CARMEN HUST | ARTICULATE #17 | OCTOBER 2018
The focus of Hazel Reeves increasingly falls on redressing the lack of representation of women in public art, after many years spent promoting gender equality internationally.
Hazel Reeves is a British artist, generating her artistic practice from her curiosity in people, their faces and their stories. Reeves is particularly fascinated by the politics of representation in art. Who is missing? Whose stories are rarely told? Who is stereotyped? Her focus increasingly falls on redressing the lack of representation of women in public art, after many years spent promoting gender equality internationally in her former career.
The aim of Reeves is to use figurative sculpture to make visible women’s achievements, to tell stories of their struggles for social justice as rights activists and peace advocates, and to invert the norms of portraiture by sculpting those who are rarely deemed worthy of capturing in bronze, whose faces and stories are effaced from history.
Through figurative sculpture Hazel Reeves wants to move people – move them to tears, to laughter, to tell their own stories, to ask questions, to participate, to take action.
To Reeves sculpting is a powerful, visceral form of expression. She finds clay to be the most highly responsive and sensitive medium for the way she works. Bronze is the perfect medium for public art; beautiful and durable. The molten bronze picks up every detail of Reeves’ original clay handiwork, right down to her very fingerprints.
“There is something quite timeless about bronze, yet you can sense the connection with sculptors of the past who used the same bronze-casting techniques as we use today – the lost-wax process”, Reeves explains.
For commissioned work, Reeves is responding to a brief; ideally the brief emerges from collaboration between the artist and the client, sometimes it is a competitive bid and Reeves receives the brief and is left to interpret it, presenting her vision to the client.
Reeves tends to immerse herself in the life of the subject, for example, the activism of the Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, and from this her ideas emerge. Her background in promoting women’s rights is underpinned by her deep political commitment.
It is only when Reeves pins down exactly what she wants to achieve from the sculpture that she lets herself play around with the visual elements that will support these aims, using drawing or by making rough maquettes.
“There must be a strong narrative to engage the viewers of the sculpture. This comes from being clear from the start about what you want to achieve”, Reeves points.
With the Emmeline Pankhurst composition (or pose), Reeves wanted to show her as the dynamic, courageous, dignified yet elegant activist, who inspired the Suffragette movement. Hence the 5ft (152 cm) Emmeline is caught mid-flow, arm out-stretched, urging women to rise up and demand the vote, atop a makeshift rostrum of a kitchen chair.
Reeves wants the viewers to think about what she might be saying to the crowds, to discuss whether they would have the courage to stand up and speak to a potentially hostile crowd, and to ask themselves what role they can play in progressing women’s rights today.
“Of course, a good composition must, from every angle, have something to entice the viewers to come closer”, Reeves adds.
Reeves is drawn to the work of other figurative sculptors, whose work breathes life, and has intensity and emotional depth. She’s inspired by such qualities in the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Camille Claudel and Medardo Rosso, who inspires her to dig deeper, look more intensely, aim higher, and settle for nothing less than her best.
This article about HAZEL REEVES takes part of the release of ARTICULATE #17. Check out the full release below