CIRIN Talk - Maternity Artists' discussion

photo of mother and child in art gallery

Anna Ilsley's Underbelly: Contemporary Art Explores Motherhood – A Conversation with Simon Foxall and Helena Haimes. Recorded on November 29, 2023, at Benjamin Parsons x Hannah Payne Gallery, Oxford.

Ahead of the opening of her show, Underbelly, at the Benjamin Parsons x Hannah Payne contemporary art gallery in Oxford, Anna Ilsley discussed her paintings of the maternal body with fellow fine artist Simon Foxall and arts writer Helena Haimes. A recording of the event is available to view and was convened on 29 November 2023.

Her painted bodies contain multitudes: they might be bursting with lusty warmth but they are also swamped with the weight of responsibility that comes with motherhood. Figures that could be children accompany many of these round-bellied women too – balancing on knees or riding on necks. Ilsley is is tapping into a subject with a long art historical trajectory; from the numerous portrayals of the maternal icon of the Virgin Mary to Alice Neel or Louise Bourgeois' frank depictions of motherhood’s messy realities, the figure of the mother has long held a fascination for artists, informed by the social, political and religious ideals of their times. With her acknowledgement of motherhood as replete with conflicting emotions and responsibilities, Ilsley presents us with artistic takes on the topic that are explicitly contemporary.

Anna Ilsley is based in the east of England in Suffolk. She graduated from Royal Drawing School in 2010 and University of Brighton’s BA in Fine Art Painting in 2006. Recent exhibitions include Gutug at Asylum Studios, So Happy Together at Galleri Tom Christoffersen (2022), Crab Bisque at St Chad’s Projects (2022) and Lovers Lane at Oceans Apart (2021). She is Artist Associate at British School at Athens and has taken part in many Artist in Residence schemes, most recently at Newnham College, University of Cambridge (2019) for which she received an Arts Council Research and Development Award.

Simon Foxall is a fine artist whose work explores queer bodies. He trained at the Royal College of Art, held a residency at the prestigious FAAP arts institute in SaoPaulo, Brazil, and has taught both fine art and art history at Slade School of Fine Art, Central St Martins, University of Brighton, Teeside University, Hollins University and Oxford Brookes University.

Helena Haimes is an NYC-based art writer. Helena has written features and reviews for print and online publications including The Brooklyn Rail; MAP Magazine; Objectif Journal; Temporary Art Review; Garageland Magazine and Doggerland Journal, among others. She has contributed catalogue essays and book introductions about artists working in a range of media, with particular emphasis on contemporary painting and video installation.

This event was organised by the Creative Industries Research and Innovation Network (CIRIN) at Oxford Brookes University.

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