In the summer I was approached by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to work on the exhibition design for their upcoming Arts Council Collection partner exhibition WOMEN POWER PROTEST, marking 100 years of women being given the right to vote.
The exhibition is now open - and I implore you to go and visit.
It’s a real honour to be a woman working on the design for this landmark exhibition and it’s the most high profile arts project I’ve been part of. It was a joy to work with Curator Emalee Beddoes-Davis and bring her vision to life.
I worked on the original design identity and exhibition interpretation which included indication of typography, colour-ways (directly inspired by themes within the artwork itself in addition to the suffrage colours) and the most fun part ~ the holographic ~ a nod to Fiona Rae’s Dark Star, an exhibition highlight from Birmingham’s collection, and one of my all-time favourite artists.
Rae challenges the traditionally serious and male field of abstract painting with humour and energy. Her work knowingly adopts a ‘girly’ aesthetic of pink, glitter and hearts, re-examining their expressive potential
I delved in to colour theory - we didn’t want to just use the suffrage colours for the sake of them being suffrage colours - if they were to be used in the exhibition, what other meanings are attached to purple and dark green?
There were lots, and lots of pink in the preliminary stages of my design concept, which we toned down - we were keen on the reclamation of the colour ‘baby pink’, used as a gender signifiers at newborn age - and often used to infantilise women to ‘girls’.
I was particularly taken with Heliotrope - a purple hue - here’s what I’d written down after reading Colour Theory;
A colour once difficult to produce, Victorians should be forgiven for the lurid colour combinations in the 1880s where Heliotrope was paired with canary yellow, eucalyptus green and peacock blue.
In the victorian language of flowers, heliotrope signifies devotion, it was one of the few colours women were allowed to wear when they were in mourning after the death of a loved one. The cult of mourning reached its zenith during the C19, with ever more rules governing what people, particularly women, could wear in the months and years following the death of a relative - or monarch.
Badly behaved characters in literature are often described as wearing the colour.
The colour itself is intriguing, antiquated, unusual and just a little bit brassy.
My design work for the exhibition and branding was taken into creative marketing by an agency; GRIN, who developed the identity in to a cohesive campaign for the full promotional collateral including flyers, billboards and banner advertising.
There’s a celebration day taking place this Saturday 17th - and the launch of a zine that I’ve had the pleasure of designing (printed by the Holodeck) alongside the exhibition. The content of the zine, curated by Emalee and the BMAG team, is insightful. It opens up the conversation about the challenges of equality and intersectional feminism representation in museum collections for a modern-day exhibition; and how BMAG are striving to improve.
Above: a photo of the space, below: a screenshot of my work moodboard and original identity.