Renee So’s exhibition is comprised of an entirely new body of work. It includes hand-woven textiles, furniture, and ceramic works that refer to representations of the female figure in prehistoric cultures. A tiled mural is based on the Egyptian goddess of the night, Nut, her body bent in a yoga-like pose in order to provide shelter to the earth; other ceramic sculptures are reminiscent of pre-Columbian figurines of Venus. These continue So’s on-going investigation into ceramic vessels that people across the world have made to drink and eat out of for thousands of years.
Pottery and textiles represent some of the earliest forms of material culture. So uses imagery found within these histories to make gently satirical commentary on contemporary social codes and power structures. By using traditional craft techniques such as weaving, knitting and pottery, Renee So addresses the hierarchy between craft and art; the former is traditionally seen as women’s work – less serious, domestic, invisible and un-authored – while the latter is still often associated with the idea of the (historically white and male) lone genius.
Renee So’s exhibition is one of several projects taking place at the De La Warr Pavilion throughout the year that mark the centenary of the Bauhaus School, founded in Germany in 1919. One of the most important art schools of the 20th century, Bauhaus teachers and students believed in the integration of design, technology, craft and fine arts into daily life. So is especially interested in the legacy of female makers of the Bauhaus, many of whom are lesser known than their male counterparts, and who were often pushed towards craft practices within the school. So’s new pieces also refer to Anni and Josef Albers’ collection of pre-Columbian figurines and textiles, a collection that reveals the influence of non-Western culture on the modernist movement.