Saturday 29th May 2021 to
Saturday 7th August 2021
The exhibition reflects on the construction of female identity in relation to geography, partly inspired by research into the imagery of the Thames Estuary. More broadly, Alicia has explored the metaphorical dimension and rich symbolism of the sea, and of estuaries and rivers, considering them as areas of movement, exchange, transition and renewal. Within this context, she examines historical female figures, such as notable swimmers, among others. Global relationships of mutual support and women’s empowerment are also explored.
Alicia’s paintings and sculptures focus on a dream-like, instinctive process, referencing water and the notion of fluidity/change as positive forces in the formation of the female self. The Beecroft Art Gallery has remarkable paintings of ships and seafaring, and also an ensemble of vintage wedding dresses and women’s period bathing costumes, the iconography of which has informed the making of some of Alicia’s works as a kind of subtext or backstory. This has led her to create visually impacting portraits of women, rooted in a complex, emotive past.
Formally and visually, the exhibition’s aesthetic is anchored in the blue and white ceramic tradition of both European delftware and Mexican Talavera tiles. Alicia imitates in oil painting both the look and surface of the tiles, using a myriad of trompe l’oeil techniques. The works in the exhibition are part of her on-going Laughing Walls series, in which multi-faceted representations of jubilant ‘walls’ allow for an exploration and interweaving of narratives. In the context of 18th century rococo ornamentation, the paintings playfully consider the decorative as a pictorial tool. The works often incorporate the image of a speech bubble, as a way of representing female expression and shared creativity, through a kind of ‘conversation’ between the represented portraits and figures.
The motif of the ‘tree’ in relation to the shape of estuaries is also explored, as a symbol multiplicity within unity, and of nature’s cyclical life-flow. Sculptural installations composed of brass and also plywood silhouettes, as well as over-sized ceramic necklaces, further expand on the exhibition’s themes.
For the sound piece Soñadoras, Michael has composed and edited an interplay of original musical arrangements and recorded dream narratives. The dreams are narrated out-loud, both in English and Spanish, by a group of ‘dreamers’, made up of women artists and art-world professionals. This presentation of the oneiric subconscious seeks to create a modulated, intimate and aesthetically impressive experience that we hope will captivate the public, in graceful dialogue with the dreamlike creativity of Alicia’s paintings and sculptures. The sound piece, which was first presented by Michael at the Leonora Carrington Museum in Mexico, is available to the public by scanning a QR code visible both at the Beecroft Gallery and on the exhibition’s poster, installed throughout Southend-on-Sea.
Listen to the Sound Piece
About the artists
Alicia Paz is a Mexican artist based in London. Alicia’s paintings, collages and sculptures deal primarily with identity and the notion of a divided author, and explore the mutability of subjectivity. Alicia focuses on the female figure: the Self is experienced and presented as multiple, paradoxical, and in flux. Inhabiting fantastical landscapes, her feminine subjects become fused and combined with organic life. Her work at times incorporates visual elements taken from applied and decorative arts, such as ceramic delftware, using these registers as a vehicle for intertwining narratives. Other recent subjects include cultural hybridity and representations of family, exploring the complexities of kinship and lineage in a globalized world.
Alicia has had several solo exhibitions in the UK, France, Germany, Mexico, and Argentina, and recently with Michael Szpakowski at the Museo Leonora Carrington in Mexico (2019). Her show at Kunstmuseum Magdeburg, Germany (2016) was accompanied by a bilingual monograph published by VfMK, Vienna. As a multi-cultural artist, Paz’s work was included in the group exhibit Tous, des sang-mêlés, held at MACVAL, Vitry-sur-Seine, France (2017). Earlier solo projects include an exhibit at Dukan Gallery in Leipzig (2014), Mexican Cultural Institute in Paris (2013), Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London (2006) and Ruth Benzacar Gallery in Buenos Aires (2005).
Michael Szpakowski is a British artist, composer and educator, well known in the international scene of contemporary art, as evidenced by his extensive record of exhibitions, awards and high-profile publications throughout Europe and the United States. He has been awarded a PhD by publication from the University of Westminster for his body of work and dissertation entitled: Scenes of Provincial Life: An online video sequence and commentary. His short films have been shown throughout the world. He is a joint editor of the online video resource DVblog. Michael’s work explores the mystery of everyday life and of being human in a particular place and time. His extensive artistic practice encompasses not only film and video, but also painting, drawing, sound works, and critical writing.
Lassla Esquivel will act as guest curator, liaising with the Beecroft Art Gallery and ESCALA (Collection of Latin American Art of the University of Essex, partners in this project). She is an Art historian, consultant, independent curator and researcher. She has an MA in History and Business of the Contemporary Art Market (with an emphasis in Latin America) by Warwick University. Her curatorial projects have been showcased in Latin America, EMEA and Asia- Pacific regions and the UK. She has collaborated with not for profit projects and organisations like PAC (Contemporary Art Patronage, Mexico City) Bold Tendencies (London), Edge of Arabia (London) and Barbican (London). Her latest research has been published by Routledge in the anthology: Art Museums of Latin America Structuring Representation in March 2018. Lassla is founder of Periferia Projects, a curatorial platform creating connections between Latin America, the UK and Europe. Periferia’s focus is to develop projects with artists from emerging hubs to enhance their visibility and promote collaboration with new galleries, artists and institutions.
Alicia Paz, Pirates and Poets (detail), 2021, photo by Steve and Jackson White
Alicia Paz, Juntas (detail), 2021, photo by Steve and Jackson White