With a show titled Introspective, Firstsite gallery in Colchester brings together 200 of Gee Vaucher’s art works. Some are recognisable, like the cover art for punk rock band Crass’ first album, The Feeding of the Five Thousand, while there are others that haven’t ever made it out of her studio before.
“As I opened cupboards and drawers it was like finding friends I hadn’t seen for years,” says Vaucher of selecting pieces for the show. “Finding old sketchbooks was interesting, as was finding projects I thought I had finished.”
The selection curated by Firstsite’s Marie-France Kittler and Stevphen Shukaitis, Senior Research Associate in Art History at the University of Essex, not only celebrates the artist’s prolific career, but creates a timeline of political thought.
While Vaucher has worked in several different mediums – collage, photography, sculpture, painting and video to name a few – what stays constant is her unique brand of political activism, a certain provocative engagement with social issues of the time.
“Politics runs through the entire show and underpins the different groupings,” explains Kittler. “The exhibition takes her well-known political Crass work of the 1980s as the starting point and introduces visitors to her lesser-known work that was being made before and after, so [the show] is anchored on this timeline.”
The show offers a walk-through of some of her first commissions as political illustrator for The New York Times and New York magazine, amongst others in the 1970s. It then leads to album art informed by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government and posters that address the Iraq war.
The exhibition also features an installation entitled The Sound of Stones in the Glasshouse. Created in collaboration with artist and typographer Christian Brett, the installation critiques the US’s involvement in war and references pivotal times in recent history, including the election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency.
Vaucher’s body of work is so vast that even picking 200 pieces was a challenge, explains Kittler. “We had set out some key bodies of work we wanted to include, and from there it was a process of elimination. Some series had to be shown in their entirety, others we could be more flexible about.”
“This show does represent a certain breadth of my work,” says Vaucher, “but as usual many works had to be left out due to lack of space! However, it is certainly a broad illustration of how and what I work with.”
Introspective is on from November 12 to February 19 at Firstsite, firstsite.uk.