Jann Haworth – ‘Close Up’ Exhibition

The artist Jann Haworth describes her use of materials as the “language of women.” She is a pioneer of soft sculptures and textiles, and in her own words she is “using her work to push forward an important art medium that has been over-looked for too long.” Pushing boundaries and assumptions, she purposely creates her artwork from materials with domestic associations such as fabric and thread to address and question preconceived notions about women in art and society. The exhibition Jann Haworth: Close Up is surrounded with installations of wall hangings and sculptures made from soft fabrics and dating from the 1960s to the present day. She was a prominent figure in the British pop art scene, which emerged in the 1950s and developed into 1960s. Like many pop artists, Haworth responded to political and social issues of this era. At Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, you can see a small part of Haworth’s work come to life.

Haworth produced many well-regarded works of pop art but did not receive the same attention as her male contemporaries. For example, she co-created the front cover of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely-Hearts Club Band(1967). However, the praise was given to her collaborator Peter Blake. Today, this can be seen as stereotypical. As a woman, she was not seen as being as powerful as men, so she didn’t get the recognition she deserved. Today, you can see Haworth in the limelight. At the exhibition you can see a continuously growing 28-foot mural which offers a Sgt Pepper- like collection of prominent women from history. Haworth expressed the lack of women that were not represented within the album cover. She wanted to amend the balance of the work and create another piece of artwork to correct a particularly distinguished piece of historical bias. Haworth worked alongside her daughter to acknowledge and praise each female leader through history. She might have been creating a hidden response to highlight that she will not be neglected as a leader and artist, in the past or present. 

The part of her work that particularly caught my eye was her instalments that are based around Walt Disney. Who is Afraid of Uncle Walt (2013) is a piece of work that resembles a photograph cut from a film strip, its contents are briefly frozen in time, showing an unmistakable outline of a Disney character, which in this piece of work, is Minnie Mouse. The installations depict gender and how women are seen in the art world. This piece of artwork is presented in a way that portrays “the idealised woman” with the use of feminine colours, the dress, pattern and the way they are designed to show an idyllic pose through the ‘floatiness’ of the material, seen perhaps in a sexualized way. By noticing Minnie Mouse’s iconic arms in the background, it can give the artwork a lighter approach because it comes across a lot more innocent with being a cartoon for all ages. Like Haworth, Disney links with my childhood also, I have very fond memories of watching the films and falling in love with the magic. The way her artwork is presented, shows bright colours with a 3D effect, they literally pop off the canvas. 

This exhibition is not just about loved classic Disney characters; the work illustrates gender in a way that is presented as stereotypical but can also be interpreted in your own way. Haworth explored Disney as her subject and created the serious issue of women and stereotypes into something a bit more light-hearted and fun. Her project is said to have created a visual language that reflected the era and concerns within that time. 

Ending 23rd February 2020, this is something you will not want to miss!

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