Iwona Blazwick, OBE, former Director of the Whitechapel Gallery has announced Helen Cammock as the seventh winner of the prestigious Max Mara Art Prize for Women at a ceremony at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, on 16 April 2018. The Prize, which has been awarded in alternate years since 2005, supports UK-based female artists who have not previously had a solo survey exhibition, making it the only visual art prize of its kind the UK.
London based artist Helen Cammock (b. 1970) was chosen by a panel of expert judges from a shortlist including Céline Condorelli, Eloise Hawser, Athena Papadopoulos and Mandy El-Sayegh, all of whom presented proposals for an artist residency in Italy. As the winner, Cammock will now spend six months in Italy during 2018 on a residency tailored to her interests, creating a new body of work that will be shown in a major solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 2019 before touring to Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia, Italy.
Helen Cammock works across moving image, photography, writing, poetry, spoken word, song, performance, printmaking and installation. She is interested in histories, storytelling and the excavation, re-interpretation and re-presentation of lost, unheard and buried voices. Cammock uses her own writing, literature, poetry, philosophical and other found texts, often mapping them onto social and political situations. Her work has drawn on material from Nina Simone, Philip Larkin, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and Walter Benjamin. These texts often direct her choice of medium, such as her evocative moving image work which oscillates between the private and collective.
Cammock was born to an English mother and Jamaican father in 1970s Britain and remembers growing up questioning notions of blackness and womanhood, wealth and poverty, power and vulnerability. Her artistic practice has grown out of her experiences working with people and awareness of collective society, whilst remaining faithful to its own imaginative autonomy.
Her winning proposal for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women focuses on the expression of lament. Reflecting a central aspect of her work; the role of the voice and the feeling of mourning or loss, resilience and survival, in the political and historical, individual and collective, Cammock wants to focus on how emotion is expressed in Italian culture and society, with a particular focus on opera, classical and folk music, art, poetry, writing and dance. She will explore hidden female voices across Italian histories, aiming to create through collage, layering and juxtaposition a collective lament reflective for our own time.
Cammock’s bespoke residency, organised by Max Mara and the Whitechapel Gallery, starts in May 2018. It is divided between six Italian cities Bologna, Florence, Venice, Rome, Palermo, and Reggio Emilia. A key focus is meeting with experts, scholars, associations, institutions and communities in areas of interest to Cammock, overseen by a local tutor for each city.
Beginning in Bologna and in Florence, she will study Baroque art and architecture, history of music and literature and society, to consolidate her knowledge of Italian culture. Practical singing lessons will take place throughout so that Cammock can further develop her singing and learn how to perform a 17th century pre opera lament.
In Venice and Rome Helen will have artist-in-residency opportunities at two prestigious institutions. At the Fondazione Cini (Venice) she will stay at The International Centre for the Study of Italian Culture as an independent researcher with access to its specialist libraries and cultural initiatives. At the American Academy (Rome) she will benefit from the affiliate fellowship at AAR with the opportunity to collaborate with other international residents exploring diverse disciplines including music and history. In Rome, she will also be welcomed by Istituto Nazionale Centrale delle Grafica to discover different engraving and printing techniques.
In Palermo, Cammock will explore Sicilian notions of lament and the female voice in visits to the Archivio Etnomusicale del Mediterraneo and Palermo University as well as meeting women living in the centre of Palermo and some of the newer migrant communities in Sicily today.
The residency will end in Reggio Emilia. The city gives its name to a radical model for education through wellbeing. Cammock is particularly interested in the way the project was established following World War II to rebuild community and education. She will use the model as a guide to conducting participatory research and conversations with those living on the margins of the city society today.
The judging panel for the seventh Max Mara Art Prize for Women was chaired by Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, and joined by gallerist Vanessa Carlos, Carlos/Ishikawa, London; artist and previous recipient of the prize Laure Prouvost; collector Marcelle Joseph and art critic Rachel Spence.
Helen Cammock said “It’s incredible to have been awarded such a supportive and artist focussed prize. I have never before experienced a structured opportunity that encompasses travel, research, making and then showing over a sustained period. Over the six month residency I’ll find myself in a culture that is new to me, meet practitioners who work in different ways to me and consider how my practice can move into dialogue with new histories. It is an opportunity for space and time to focus on being an artist – this is perhaps the most significant aspect of this prize. I’m used to working (as many artists are) balancing projects, commissions, teaching and other paid jobs; sustained and uninterrupted time to sit with ideas and process has been a rare luxury – until now.”
Iwona Blazwick OBE, former Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, said: “Helen Cammock is a pioneer in her cross disciplinary practice which brings together art and music. Her prize winning proposal for the Max Mara residency will trace a confluence between jazz, Italian Baroque opera and Reggio Emilia’s pioneering educational techniques to create prints, film and music that give voice to the marginalised.”
Notes to Editors
-Helen Cammock’s work has recently been screened as part of the Serpentine Cinema Series and Tate Artists Moving Image Screening Programme. She has exhibited at venues including Cubitt, London; Galerie Futura Alpha Nova, Berlin; The Tetley, Leeds; Open Source Contemporary Arts Festival; Hollybush Gardens, London; and 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, London. She has written for Photoworks and Aperture magazine and was shortlisted for the Bridport poetry prize in 2015. Her work has been published in The Photographers’ Gallery journal Loose Associations and in a new artist book and vinyl 12” with Bookworks, London. Cammock was co-director of Brighton Photo Fringe Festival for 4 years. She is currently working on a commission with Void in Northern Ireland and will be working on projects with Serpentine Galleries and Novel as part of Reading International in 2018/19.
-The Max Mara Art Prize for Women in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery is a biannual award established in 2005. It is the only visual art prize for women in the UK and aims to promote and nurture female artists, enabling them to develop their potential with the gift of time and space. The winner is awarded a six month Italian residency tailored to fit the artist and their winning proposal for the Prize. During the residency which is organised by Max Mara and the Whitechapel Gallery, the artist has the opportunity to realise an ambitious new project which is presented in major solo exhibitions at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The prize is open to women artists living and working in the United Kingdom who have not previously had a major solo survey exhibition. The partners of the prize are Max Mara, Whitechapel Gallery and Collezione Maramotti who collaborate on each phase of the prize. Each year a jury chaired by the Whitechapel Gallery Director and including a gallerist, critic, artist and collector agree a shortlist of five artists before the winner is decided based on a winning proposal. The Max Mara Art Prize for Women was awarded the British Council Arts & Business International Award in 2007 and has enabled winning artists to take major steps in their careers.
-Previous winners of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women are:
-Emma Hart (2015 – 17) – Hart (b. 1974) created a large-scale installation titled Mamma Mia! Following a six month bespoke residency divided between Milan, Todi and Faenza.
-Corin Sworn (2013-15) – Sworn (b.1976) created a work drawing from the Commedia dell’Arte improvised plays originating in 16th century Italy. Sworn was awarded the Leverhulme Prize 2015 which recognises the achievement of outstanding researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future career is exceptionally promising.
-Laure Prouvost (2011-13) – Laure Prouvost created an ambitious new large-scale installation for her Max Mara Art Prize exhibition, for which she was awarded the Turner Prize in 2013.
-Andrea Büttner (2009-11) – Part of Andrea Büttner’s work created for her Max Mara Art Prize exhibition, The Poverty of Riches, and titled Untitled (Paintings) (2011) was included in the Whitechapel Gallery’s landmark exhibition Adventures of the Black Square in 2015.
-Hannah Rickards (2007-2009) – The prize enabled Hannah Rickards to realise an ambitious new work she had been researching before winning the Prize. Rickards was also awarded the Leverhulme Prize in 2015 and had a major exhibition at Modern Art Oxford in 2014.
-Margaret Salmon (2005-2007) – Margaret Salmon travelled to Italy and created a triptych of black and white films exploring themes of motherhood. She went on to exhibit at the Venice Biennale in 2007.
-The Max Mara Fashion Group was founded in 1951 by Achille Maramotti and is now run by the next generation. It is one of the largest women’s ready-to-wear companies in the world, with 2378 stores in more than 100 different countries.
-The Collezione Maramotti opened to the public in Reggio Emilia, Italy on 2007. It is a private collection of contemporary art with an important historical collection (1950-2000);it keeps on with new projects and commissions to international mid career and young artists. For further information, please visit collezionemaramotti.org
-For over a century the Whitechapel Gallery has premiered world-class artists from modern masters to contemporaries. The Gallery is renowned for showcasing emerging and established female artists and has presented major solo exhibitions of Barbara Hepworth (1955), Eva Hesse (1979), Frida Kahlo (1982), Nan Goldin (2002), Sophie Calle (2009), Gillian Wearing (2012) and Sarah Lucas (2013). The Gallery is a touchstone for modern and contemporary art internationally, plays a central role in London’s cultural landscape and is pivotal to the continued growth of the world’s most vibrant contemporary art quarter.
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