Emma Freud had to call Jason Donovan and buy secret Santa gifts and Emilia Fox needed to tidy her bedroom and learn her lines for Silent Witness. The real to-do lists of some of the UK’s most prominent women that feature in Alice Instone’s new exhibition opening in London.
The idea for the show, which launches on International Women’s day on March 8th, came when Instone moved house and found her life consumed by chores. She had no time for art as her days were spent making lists and trying to complete the tasks on them.
Instone says: “Fretting about my lack of productivity I realised that’s where it had gone - into these notebooks, full of to do lists, domestic trivia, they told the story of the pram in the hall. Talking to other women I found the same. I also discovered the cult of the list – colour-coded, subdivided and categorised - and admissions at the school gate of adding completed tasks to make ourselves feel better!”
Along with her own lists, Instone also collected a fascinating and revealing selection from prominent and influential women that offer a unique insight into the juggling involved in 21st century life. Artist or human rights campaigner, model or doctor the majority of women share the commonality of making lists.
Writer and broadcaster Emma Freud’s list included: Getting secret Santa gifts, ringing Jason Donovan and writing to Melinda Gates.
Actress and designer Sadie Frost's: Get teeth cleaned, sort kids' tea and ideas for new range Floozie bikinis.
Human rights activist Shami Chakrabarti’s had to: Buy cotton wool, get Christmas tree and re-read Counter Terror-Bill.
Model Laura Bailey needed to: Book the car in for an MOT, send out her daughter’s thank you cards and buy some vitamins.
Author Jilly Cooper writes hers in the middle of the night and Cherie Blair QC keeps hers in her head.
List contributors include; Professor Parveen Kumar, Thomasina Miers, Lorraine Candy, Bianca Jagger, Cath Kidston, Kathy Lette, Emilia Fox, Alice Temperley Jo Wood, Chantal Joffe, Vanessa Branson, Anita Zabludowicz and Laura Bailey.
The Pram In The Hall looks at how women’s to-do lists reflect a state of mind tapping into the passage of time itself - each list a suspended moment - and the division of domestic work between men and women.
Instone believes lists are intimate and honest portraits and have an unselfconscious beauty from being written only for the writer’s eyes. However, they can also be empowering in both the writing and the crossing off. She has made a number of artworks from her own to-do lists, layering them until they are almost abstract - veils of words that have an intensity from being written at speed. These have been made into huge jewel-like giclee prints, the words floating in velvety-black darkness. Bearing titles such as ‘Background Noise’, ‘Lock All Doors’ and 'The Yellow Wallpaper’, these works reference her mental state whilst making them.
Crucially, the exhibition is also an invitation to women EVERYWHERE to share their lists - to bring their lists to the exhibition and peg them on to that most domestic of inventions, the washing line - an inspiring testament to how women fit it all in and a cathartic unburdening.
Alice says; “If we pause and reflect on how we spend our time and what we impose on ourselves - what is worthy of our attention and what will enrich our lives and the lives of our families and those around us, so much the better.”
Allen & Overy
Alice Instone is an award winning English artist who makes work concerned with gender and power. Generally of or about women the works often use influential or well known public figures. She frequently exhibits in found or non commercial spaces that have a relationship with the work, for example a role in the history of female emancipation or female exploitation.
This sense of place is a hallmark and her work aims to contain a sense of the past and the present. Her solo exhibitions include the Houses of Parliament and the House of Lords, the Royal Society of Arts, Archer Street Soho, London (a former brothel), 1 More London Place (the heart of London’s business community), The House of St Barnabas in Soho (a Grade I listed former refuge for destitute women, closely associated with Charles Dickens), Lamb House Rye (the National Trust owned former home of author Henry James), Chanel’s London Headquarters and Northampton Museum (home to the largest collection of historical footwear in the world), to name just a few.
Instone regularly features in the national press, radio and television and uses individuals who are part of our cultural conversation as the sitters in her paintings. She has worked with Annie Lennox, Baroness Kennedy, Baroness Scotland, Professor Baroness Greenfield, Helen McCrory, Laura Bailey, Elle Macpherson, Sir Peter Blake, Bianca Jagger, Beverley Knight, Baron Woolf, Alice Temperley, Jo Wood, Emilia Fox, Pattie Boyd, Shami Chakrabarti, Nicole Farhi, Sir David Hare, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Anya Hindmarch and Cherie Blair amongst many others.
The Observer described her as a casting director as well as portraitist and the Telegraph stated that she shows prominent women as they’ve never been seen before. Instone’s work is held in several public collections and she has collaborated with various public bodies including the National Trust, the Houses of Parliament, the British Medical Assoc., No 10 Downing St and global organisations including Ernst and Young, Rothschild, Herbert Smith, Chanel and Oxfam.
Alice is currently artist in residence at The Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles where she is painting film stars and The Chiltern Firehouse, London. Upcoming projects include The Pram in the Hall, Bluebeard’s Wives and Hollywoodland.
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