Future Exhibition

Artists’ Talk: Helen Maguire and E L West

17.05.2024

In person at Art Exchange, and online

We are excited to be joined by Helen Maguire and E L West who will discuss the motivations and ideas behind their artistic practices, including exploring themes of memory, language and representation, as well as their relationship with queer history.

The talk is facilitated by Tilly Hawkins and will be followed by Q&A. Light refreshments will be served. All welcome!

Join us in person at Art Exchange, or online via the Zoom link here.

This talk is part of our MA Curating students’ exhibition Lavender Menace, and coincides with the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia.

Speakers Biographies

Helen Maguire, a self-described ‘dyke and part-time slag’, is an Irish artist whose work explores themes of queerness, Irish post-colonialism, and craft. Her primary media are installation, performance and decorative textiles ranging from embroidery to lace, crochet to darning. Currently situated in London, Helen is a recent graduate of the Chelsea College of Arts, London, and works with transnational textile collection Conflict Textiles.

Her artworks in Lavender Menace include ‘A Mullet, a Carabiner, and a Pulse’ (2022) and ‘Lesbian Molotov’ (2023) which combine stereotypically feminine materials with frank, raunchy statements about lesbian desire. This surprising combination encourages the viewer to question their assumptions regarding femininity and sexuality.

E L West is a queer non-binary artist who communicates their own experiences of queerness and disability through a range of textile mediums such as quilting and embroidery. They use craft as the language in which to respond to archives and key points in Queer History – textiles having been deeply linked to the history of queer people and other marginalised identities. 

In Lavender Menace they showcase ‘Shelter’ (2024), which utilises the 1970s ‘Protect and Survive’ civil defence booklet to help create a survival strategy for coming out. Produced during the Cold War, the original publication advised people on how to survive a nuclear war by building shelters at home. We now find the artist creating their own physical shelter which includes patchwork textiles embroidered with phrases the artist would tell their younger self, interlaced with queer imagery from lesbian history, intended to provide tips on how to survive the fall out of coming out.

Tilly Hawkins is an MA Curating student from the School of Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Essex.