November 7, 2023
From Socialist Worker (UK)

Photographic artwork from Alison Lloyd as featured in the Tate exhibition Women In Revotl!

Alison Lloyd’s work features in the new exhibition at Tate Britain

Women In Revolt! is a new exhibition at Tate Britain opening this weekend. It showcases the work of 100 women artists from 1970 to 1990, and Alison Lloyd is one of them. She spoke to Socialist Worker about her work, and why radical art by women is finally getting some recognition.

Tell us about the pieces you have in Women In Revolt!

I have work in two sections. In one are my photographs which centre around a shared student house in Cardiff from around 1976 to 1979. Some of them are of me getting ready to go to gigs. It’s black and white photography that I either processed in the darkroom at university or at commercial printers on the high street.

Some of the images are polaroid. I’d capture them using a timer, so I never would know exactly what I was going to get. These images, for me, are about a young woman figuring out her sexuality and identity—and how it’s possible to interpret the world in different ways.

My other photographs were taken during the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984-5. They are of me dressed as an angel holding up a Socialist Worker poster. I remember we’d gone out flyposting and we had a poster spare, so I used it for the image. Originally, I wanted to make the images into Christmas cards to raise funds for the strike, but that ended up being too expensive.

How have your socialist politics influenced your work?

Being an artist in a capitalist world will politicise you. After I left art college, I had to figure out how I was going to make a living as an artist. That mostly means, for most artists, that you do your art, but you also have a job that pays the bills.

I began working in a bakery and then a laundry on temporary contracts. I’d do my art in my room when I could. Throughout art college, I had become politicised, I’d been on anti-apartheid marches and CND marches.

When I moved to London, I started going to Islington Socialist Workers Party meetings and joined the Miners’ Strike support groups. I’d never featured political slogans until I did the photographs for the Miners’ Strike. My work has been about living that life. It’s been my rebellion created within the four walls of my house.

Why is this exhibition so important?

It matters that in a sexist world, this exhibition will focus on women and struggle. There will be some key names featured that people will already know. But there are many featured who are relatively unknown, myself included. The curators have also made a real effort to feature the art of black and Asian women as well.

I was contacted by the curator, Lindsey Young. She had evidently taken the time to look through my work and see it for what it was—and wasn’t concerned that I didn’t have a high-profile name. 

The exhibition also draws from a lot of archival work, which means it thoroughly captures women’s art in the time period. All of this is important because the art world is still sexist. Even the biggest names don’t get solo exhibitions in major galleries. And many women artists find that they only get any recognition when they are in their 40s,50s or 60s.

As an artist, I have faced sexism throughout my life. I remember being told by one art tutor that I wouldn’t be an artist, but I could be an artist’s wife.

Women in revolt! Art and Activism in the UK, 1970-1990 opens on 8 November at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG