Review: The Female Gaze: Elizabeth Brownsword and Lois Tierney

The Female Gaze: Elizabeth Brownsword and Lois Tierney
ROAD Studios
, until Sunday 29th January 2017

Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith

A studio gallery on the top floor of a listed building, slightly off the beaten track. Not the place you’d think of as a thought leader? Well it might be time to think again. ROAD Studios has shown big ambitions with recent exhibitions. Exhibitions that look to question some of the most complex myths and misconceptions in human philosophy.

Now, I’m not saying that they’re ground breaking ideas, or that the exhibitions are world changing. What I want to draw attention to is the dedication to questioning that seems to be spilling out of this top floor studio. Artists, researchers, performers and programmers work from these walls, so it’s not your standard artists’ studio. There’s the slight tint of being back at uni in these walls.

You know the feeling, sitting round, feeling informal, but with a compulsion to put the world to rights? It’s that kind of wilful demand for answers that makes their recent exhibitions so enriching.

The latest show, by Elizabeth Brownsword and Lois Tierney, which ends on Sunday (view by appointment… or try your luck with a knock on the door), focuses on the Female Gaze. If you’ve not been to art school, it’s sort of lesson one, but one that stays irreversibly with you. A starter course in looking at things without prejudice or stereotypes.

In many ways, the first step to becoming an artist, by simply looking afresh. That’s just what this exhibition has done. It looks differently and challenges, within the confines of ROAD, contemporary perceptions of femininity and feminism through line drawing.

For anyone looking to engage with these global questions and just isn’t sure where to start, this exhibition actively seeks you. Exactly you. During its run there was a life drawing session with a first-time life model where visitors were asked to respond openly to the exhibition. The results are on display now, and aren’t exactly accomplished, but they are revealing.

The outcomes of the life drawing sessions show an honest response; a simple line; an honest reflection of the female figure they were presented with. There’s no vulnerability in anything on display. No confidence. No screaming intention. What there is, is a neutral presentation that wants elevated responses.

This exhibition follows Amanda Marie Atkinson’s Homelessness: The Human Cost of Austerity. Another exhibition that took important issues and put them in a comfortable space for lively debate. Atkinson is a researcher at LJMU, so perhaps her presence in the studio has been rubbing off, leading to this strange and intriguing pseudo-degree that ROAD is becoming.

Either way, whether you want an education, or to just feel part of a bigger question, it’s a brilliant space to explore those thoughts. And there’s no better time than this Wednesday (25th January 2017) to visit, while another studio resident hosts Liverpool’s weirdest regular life drawing event Deviation: A Surreal Life Drawing Event, in the gallery space from 7pm.