Against The Odds
Against The Odds
Prompted by the recent purchase of a significant early painting by the Melbourne-based artist Helen Maudsley, Against The Odds celebrates the work of women artists held in the State Art Collection.
The exhibition focuses on art made in the 1950s in Australia by Maudsley’s contemporaries, and features the work of thirty-two artists, working across all media. These women identified as professional artists at the time, but the details of the careers of many have since faded from view.
It was largely women artists who championed modernism in Australia in the early twentieth century, and the works on display here illustrate how a modernist sensibility, and a drive to abstraction, remained key to the practice of many into the 1950s. During their working lives many of these women had to balance the demands of the private and professional in ways that their male counterparts did not, including the fact that the identity ‘artist’ was aligned almost exclusively with the masculine, while women were expected to be either muses or helpmates to a creative male.
Invention and adaptability were also important aspects of these women’s lives and ranged from the need to work at a smaller scale due to lack of dedicated studio space, choice of domestic subject matter that was readily to hand, to modifying a washing machine mangle into a printing press. Despite constraints, these artists also include amongst their number winners of major art prizes, the director of a commercial gallery, a member of an international cultural delegation, and the maker of major public sculptural commissions.