“Barber’s Son – Hairdresser’s Daughter”: Sunlight and Feminine Art

Etching by Susie Darnton [The sunlight in a rock pool etching depicts the chalky beach of Stone Bay below where I live]

We came across this particular piece as part of our weekly Third Wavelength prompt. The word was sunlight, and we were delighted to be sent this etching in return. Artist Susie Darnton told us, “The sunlight in a rock pool etching depicts the chalky beach of Stone Bay below where I live. I might try to make some coloured versions too.”

Darnton set up Barber’s Son – Hairdresser’s Daughter in 2013 “to produce exhibitions to make people stop, think and discuss.” Born and educated in Surrey, England, she was the only female to a receive a first in her year at Newcastle University. Following this, she was awarded a British Academy Scholarship for an MA, but instead of following the expected route to an MPhil and then PhD, Darnton moved to Venice.

After a length teaching career, she is now based in Margate where the exhibitions take place. Darnton told us, “[Margate] is where the Turner Contemporary is and I wanted there to be a female presence in the town too. Turner was a barber’s son and so was an ordinary, working class person with a tremendous talent. I wanted our exhibitions to be welcoming and accessible to a broad audience.”

So: Barber’s Son – Hairdresser’s Daughter… We asked about femininity in her work. Is it an important theme in her exhibitions? “I think that my work is feminine, though I’d be interested to hear what others have to say. Possibly the strongest influence on my painting in recent years has been David Inshaw. One of my favourite female painters is still Artemisia Gentileschi.”

“Although I do exhibit men’s work, I tend to lean towards women’s generally because I find it more interesting! I must admit that the men I have shown have been very much in touch with their female side.”

Darnton muses, of her upbringing, “I was brought up in rather an unusual manner for someone born in the 1960s in that my mother was the main earner and it was her money that paid for my education. I’ve lived in a very female world for most of my life and so it has been interesting teaching boys for the past seven years. There are numerous, independent unmarried women in my family, I don’t think any of us realised for years that other women did not enjoy the freedoms and opportunities that we have done.”

In relatively recent lineage, Darnton is related to Kate Lupton von Schunk (1833 – 1913), “pioneer of women’s education” in Yorkshire, who made up part of the original Yorkshire Ladies’ Council of Education, as well as the committee that set up Leeds Girls’ High School. Strong female genes, indeed.

What’s next for Barber’s Son – Hairdresser’s Daughter? “The next exhibition relates to walking in the broadest sense and includes the idea of the Flaneuse as opposed to the Flaneur.”

“As I Walked Out” is coming August. Photo via piefactorymargate.co.uk

The flaneur, for reference, is the idea of a ‘wanderer’ – a male observer who strolls about a town, watching what goes on around him. Discussion has evolved about the idea of a flaneuse; a female counterpart. Any flaneuse is considered remarkably independent, particularly in past centuries when the term was first coined, and a woman independent enough to walk alone at all was a feat in itself.

We look forward to wandering ourselves in August, when As I Walked Out opens in Margate. See the Pie Factory Margate’s website for details of the exhibition dates and times.

Are you inspired by sunlight, or by Barber’s Son – Hairdresser’s Daughter? What does feminine art look like? Send us thoughts and creations.

What’s your wavelength?

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