The artist Joyce Gunn-Cairns and the curator Julie Lawson have worked together on several exhibitions. In ‘Heroines’, specially devised for the New Hall Art Collection, the works reflect the writers and female fictional characters who have inspired and fascinated them both. They regard this body of work as “a tribute to our shared love of those women who have struggled as we have to define themselves”. Julie started out as a student reading English Literature at New Hall, before changing to Art History, to follow the path that led to her becoming Chief Curator at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. This exhibition is a kind of ‘coming home’ in several senses.
The works in the exhibition, although referring to particular women writers and their heroines, represent Everywoman - different aspects of women’s experience. There are some images that seem to be about vulnerability and suffering while others speak of resilience, the strength to endure - to survive.
Here is a quote from Joyce that says so much about her stance as an artist:
“I refuse to be nice any longer, and demure, and apologetic because I have physical and intellectual imperfections. I celebrate what I have in common with my sisters, but I also celebrate what it is that sets me apart, and this very apartness, this insistence on difference, should be enough, paradoxically, to enable all women to celebrate each other’s beauty and uniqueness…”
(Joyce Gunn-Cairns, 2004)