Nudes Never Wear Glasses is Kate Davis’ first solo exhibition in Edinburgh and has been created especially for the context of Stills. Bringing together a new photographic series with drawings and recent moving image works, Nudes Never Wear Glasses includes the first gallery presentation of her Margaret Tait Award film Charity (2017).
Across mediums including moving image, drawing, photography and bookworks, Davis’ practice questions how historical narratives are produced and perpetuated. This has frequently involved probing the aesthetic and political ambiguities of particular artworks, and specific historical moments, from a contemporary feminist perspective. Her latest film, Charity, was inspired by the ways in which the work of film-maker, poet and artist Margaret Tait (1918 — 1999), invites us to contemplate fundamental emotions and everyday activities that are often overlooked. Charity takes artistic representations of breastfeeding as its focus, and explores how the essential – but largely invisible and unpaid – processes we employ to care for others could be re-imagined. In seeking to ‘re-vision’ history, Davis’ artwork often references the theory and practice of photography, placing it in relation to other mediums such as drawing and the moving image. This is the case with the series of new photographic works developed and printed at Stills for this exhibition. Taking found negatives of archetypal monuments as her starting point, Davis has drawn into, and then printed, these images to redefine the subjects they commemorate. These adaptations have been made in response to a remark made by photographer, writer, artist and educator Jo Spence that ‘nudes never wear glasses.’
The works in Nudes Never Wear Glasses are displayed on three temporary, purpose-built brick walls. Whilst evoking familiar domestic and institutional boundaries, the brick walls also act as a metaphor for the histories which are shaped and hardened within and beyond those boundaries. Davis’ practice persistently contests the notion of a ‘hard history’; institutional walls are acknowledged here in order to claim the past as a critical and ongoing process of revisioning.
The wall is a wall that might as well be there, because the effects of what is there are just like the effects of a wall. And yet not: if an actual wall was there, we would all be able to see it, or to touch it. And this makes an institutional wall hard. You come up against what others do not see; and (this is even harder) you come up against what others are invested in not seeing.
Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017)
A commissioned text by Lauren Dyer Amazeen accompanies the exhibition.
A limited edition silver gelatin print by Kate Davis will be available for sale.