Although it’s ostensibly the simplest possible title to depict a group show of female artists making work themed around food, the juxtaposition of the three words Women Art Food can be taken as a provocation in a way that “Men Art Food” just wouldn’t ever be: politicised, defensive, confrontational. Women and food is inevitably linked to women and body image, which as any student of the Beauty Myth or Fat is a Feminist Issue would attest, is a frequently problematic relationship, suggesting a heaving buffet of issues ranging from escaping the kitchen, to body acceptance and food positivity.
It’s certainly true that the work here in Munro House, majoring in illustration and printmaking, is aware of the arena it operates in, but for the most part this exhibition seeks a cheerful woman-to-woman solidarity instead of confronting these issues in agonising detail. There’s nothing here you couldn’t take home to meet your mother for a cup of tea and a slice of Dundee cake.
There’s a good deal of technical accomplishment on show that belies the relative youth of many of the artists. The sole photographer, Georgina Wager, offers an eye for patterns and abstraction in her work. Sarah Abbott’s citrus prints are stylised and tidy, while Hashtag House’s slick wooden laser cuts boast fittingly singed and toasted edges.
Printmaker Sarah Harris’ sparsely populated landscapes are all the stronger for fitting loosely into the theme – her landscapes depict harbours, follies called the Salt and Pepper pots, and the Buttertubs in North Yorkshire, and with no cakes or kitchens in sight they offer another perspective. Rachel Sedman’s lino cuts use shellfish forms to evoke fossils or zodiac signs, reminding us that we’re all part of a food chain with ancient roots.
Humour is frequently deployed by women around food as a defence mechanism, or perhaps a means of female bonding. To this end, Suzie Cichy’s collages riff on the tropes of women in the kitchen and 1950s conceptions of domesticity, while Buttercrumble’s sassy prints offer up a knowing wink and a Mae West quote or two.
Meanwhile, Krystina Chapman’s hand-inked screen print Fruit Salad has a juicy, splashy sensuality, like the results of a mango eaten in haste, that suggests a way forward for work about women and food – an uncomplicated sensual pleasure, joyously spilling out of its plate.
Exhibiting artists: Sarah Abbott, Buttercrumble, Krystina Chapman, Suzie Cichy, Sarah Harris, Hashtag House, Rachel Sedman, Aimee Sullivan, Georgina Wager.
Women Art Food runs until 25 May 2016.