2011/12: Ruth Ewan

  • Ruth Ewan
  • Ruth Ewan
  • Ruth Ewan
  • Ruth Ewan

Ruth Ewan works in a wide variety of media, creating project based works involving the collaboration and participation of others. Her works are grounded in context-specific research into hidden histories which are then brought to life or revisited in the final work. Many of her projects have focused on individuals from the past who have utilised creative means to reimagine and reshape the world around them. She has previously produced works in London with Tate Britain, Artangel, Art on the Underground and has shown works in museums and galleries across the world. Ewan worked with the Art Department and year twelve students at Clapton Girls’ Academy, Hackney throughout the academic year 2011/12.

 

Ewan carried out research in the school archive and became particularly interested in the school’s first headmistress (1906-1928), Dr Mary O’Brien Harris who was one of the first women in the UK to receive a scientific doctorate. Described as a ‘visionary educationalist and egalitarian’, her personal life was noted for ‘all sorts of unconventional things’ such as vegetarianism, rambling and having a husband who ‘did all the chores’. Within the school she favoured secular lessons, drawing on the writings of Kipling, Ruskin and Shaw. In 1923 her book, ‘Towards Freedom – The Howard Plan of Individual Timetables’ was published, in which she set out her vision of timetable reform, the establishment of a vertical house system and the elimination of homework.

Exercises in Optimism 2012

Drawing on the progressive history of Clapton Girls’ Academy, Ewan invited every young woman in the school to take part in a lesson in which they were invited to consider significant women of the past and present, including those the school buildings are named after: Tereshkova, Parks, Nightingale, Pankhurst and Curie. They were then asked to imagine who such women in a near or distant future may be. The collection of drawings range from the idealistic to the provocative and the absurd to the pragmatic including Avatar Warriors and the first Muslim woman in space. As a collection they offer a valuable snapshot into the outlook of young women growing up in East London today.

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