A Woman’s Place at Knole

Six contemporary art commissions highlight the progression towards equality through the stories of the women who have contributed to the spirit & history of Knole.

KNOLE HOUSE, SEVENOAKS, KENT, TN15 0RP
17 MAY – 4 NOVEMBER 2018

Lubaina Himid

Two works by Lubaina Himid investigate the story of Grace Robinson, a laundry maid at Knole at the time of Lady Anne Clifford.  A series of small paintings, Collars and Cuffs, can be seen fixed to the drainpipes which lead down from the ornate guttering in Stone Court, while Flag for Grace flies from the tower flagpole. Through portraiture and motifs, clothing and pattern, the works link Grace’s laundry to the air and water that washed and dried the household clothes. Grace is one of the few people of colour who worked at Knole and possibly the only black servant in the laundry. Himid’s works highlight Grace’s presence in spaces she would not have had access to, and where a servant of her stature would not have been acknowledged.

Lubaina Himid is the 2017 Turner Prize winner. She was born in Zanzibar and currently lives in Preston. Himid is Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire. Forthcoming projects include: 2018 Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston, UK; Berlin Biennale, DE; 2019 Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, NL. Recent exhibitions include, 2017 ‘Navigation Charts’, Spike Island, Bristol, UK [solo]; ‘Invisible Strategies’, Modern Art Oxford, UK [solo]; ‘The Place is Here’, Nottingham Contemporary, UK [group], She is represented by Hollybush Gardens, London.

CJ Mahony

Still Life, Still Waiting reflects on the women whose sense of belonging was tied to Knole, despite the fact that it could never belong to them. Mahony draws on the historical convention of depicting patrons of buildings holding miniature versions in their hands, in stained glass windows. Here, the Gatehouse Tower is in the hands of a woman, giving Knole to those who could never own it. The screens surrounding and supporting the glass evoke the tension between what is hidden and what is revealed in public and private life, as well as referencing materials from Knole’s conservation.

CJ Mahony makes large scale immersive environments that seek to unsettle, and small-scale objects that mimic and pretend. She graduated from her MA at Camberwell College of Art in 2012 and was co- founder and a director of Aid & Abet, an artist run space between 2011-2014. Exhibitions include: ‘These Restless Objects’, New Hall Women’s Art Collection, Cambridge 2016 [solo]; ‘Shadow Optics’, Lubomirov/Angus Hughes Gallery, London 2016 [group]; ‘Machines to Crystallise Time’ (with Georgie Grace), Smiths Row, Bury St. Edmunds 2015; ‘Terminalia’, Charlie Smith, London 2015 [group]; and ‘The Hand That Takes’, Cambridge Junction 2014.

Lindsay Seers

2052 selves (a biography), 2018

Knole holds within its collections the original manuscript of the novel Orlando, described as ‘a love letter’, from Virginia Woolf to Vita Sackville-West. This highly edited, handwritten gift provided the impetus for Seer’s digital book and film, presented online, and to be experienced in four chapters episodically throughout the duration of the show.

The book is often described as a biography of Vita, and of the house in novel form.  Seers interrogates this idea by interweaving Woolf, Sackville-West and actor collaborator Sara Sugarman through the work, creating a new biography from the thoughts inspired by the objects, paintings, rooms and rhythm of Knole.

Partly shot whilst the house was under wraps 2052 Selves (a biography) provides an extraordinary sense of Knole being utterly present in several centuries simultaneously, edited and highlighted by objects and characters both celebrated and forgotten.

Collaborator on all parts – Keith Sargent

Actor – Sara Sugarman

Music-  Minski and David Dhonau

Additional camera – Tom Wright & Chris Stone

Lindsay Seers (born 1966) is a British artist working in London and living on the Isle of Sheppey.  Her works are in a number of collections including Tate and Arts Council and Artangel collections and the collection of MONA, Tasmania. She has won several prestigious grants and awards including the Sharjah Art Foundation Production Award, UAE; Le Jeu de Paume production award for the Toulouse Festival, France; the Paul Hamlyn Award; the Derek Jarman Award and a number of Arts Council and British Council Awards in support of her works.

Emily Speed

Speed’s fountain, Innards, borrows the form of a dressing table and makes public a space usually reserved for private ritual. Exploring the impact of Knole, and the mother-daughter relationship, on three women, Victoria Sackville-West, Pepita (her mother and infamous flamenco-dancer), and Vita Sackville-West (her daughter), water, architecture, gardening and intimacy are brought together to reference important elements of these women’s lives.

Structure built and installed by Dan Simpkins and Tom Antell.

One of Victoria Sackville-West’s many schemes was the short-lived opening of Spealls, a gift shop in South Audley Street, London. Emily Speed has created a bespoke letterhead as a nod both to Victoria’s enterprises and the letters that have provided so much background to the lives of the women at Knole.

Register here to receive this printed work this summer: www.emilyspeed.co.uk/letter

Emily Speed has shown extensively in UK and abroad, including Fort Worth Contemporary Arts, Texas, Oredaria Gallery, Rome; Laumeier Sculpture Park, St Louis, USA; Danielle Arnaud Gallery, London; Bluecoat, Liverpool; Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland. In 2014/5 she was the Derek Hill Scholar at the British School at Rome. Speed has recently completed projects with In Certain Places, Preston and has created a new children’s library area for Bootle Library. During 2018 she will exhibit as part of Scotland+Venice at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Look Again Festival, Aberdeen and as part of The Ring, a major new arts programme for the Canal & River Trust’s Arts on the Waterways with Meadow Arts. 

Alice May Williams

Williams’ work By The Accident Of Your Birth, takes its title from Vita Sackville-West’s book The Edwardians. The film considers primogeniture (inheritance by a firstborn son), which has determined so much of Knole’s history, exploring how we are formally categorised into groups at birth, by sex, nationality or family, and how this shapes our lives. The work is inspired by the disinheritance of Vita which went to her cousin Eddy. She keenly felt the loss of Knole, and the freedoms of being a man during the era in which she lived.

Alice May Williams graduated from her MFA Fine Art at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2014. Selected screenings, solo and group exhibitions include: ‘And Now…Grants for Irish Lesbians!’ Tintype, London 2017, Speke Of the Future, Speke Hall (National Trust) & Bluecoat, Liverpool 2015, An Unreliable Witness, Jerwood Project Space, London 2015, Liberties, Collyer Bristow, London 2015 and The Exchange, Penzance 2016. In 2016 she was selected for the Jerwood/FVU Awards 2016 and used her £20,000 bursary to make the film ‘Dream City – More, Better, Sooner’.

Melanie Wilson

This soundwork can be heard across Knole in seven parts and takes inspiration from the lives of Lady Anne Clifford and Lady Frances Cranfield, both residents of Knole. Women of Record, voices extracts from these 17th century women’s letters and autobiography, placing them alongside first person accounts of women today; women whose experiences echo or answer those of Anne and Frances.  Weaving three-dimensional sound recordings together with an original score and multi-layered narrative, this piece connects the listener to Knole as a witness to the progressive spirit of female endurance across time.

Melanie Wilson is an award-winning, multi-disciplinary performance maker. Her work is founded on the contemporary interplay between sound art, experimental forms of composition, language and live performance, and is under-pinned by political curiosity. Her work has been presented in the U.K and internationally and she has collaborated with artists and companies including Chris Goode, Clod Ensemble, Rotozaza, Shunt and visual artist Becky Beasley. Melanie also makes sound and composes for theatre director Katie Mitchell, including work for The National Theatre and The Barbican, London; Schauspeilhaus, Cologne; Avignon Festival; Theatretreffen, Berlin Festspeile; Schaubuhne, Berlin; Berg Theatre, Vienna, the Salzburg Festival and DeutscheSchauspeilHaus, Hamburg.

If you want to find out more about A Woman’s Place Knole, head to our Press page to see our full press release and all recent press coverage.

Lubaina Himid, Flag Design (work in progress), 2017. Image credit Lubaina Himid.

CJ Mahony , Knole Draft Glass Design, 2018. Image credit CJ Mahony.

Lindsay Seers, copyright Lindsay Seers / Keith Sargent

Lindsay Seers, copyright Lindsay Seers / Keith Sargent

Emily Speed, Rooms Designed for a Woman (film still), commissioned by Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Digital Video, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

Alice May Williams, Still from ‘By the Accident of your Birth’, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

Melanie Wilson, Landscape II, 2013. Production Shot, Image credit Tom Medwell.