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28th September, 2016

Sheila Rock: From Punk to the English Sea


Event Details

28th September, 2016
End Date:
28th October, 2016
CHELSEA space, Chelsea College of Arts, 16 John Islip Street, London SW1P 4JU

CHELSEA space is very happy to present the exhibition Sheila Rock: From Punk to the English Sea as its first exhibition in the autumn 2016 programme.

Many of the exhibitions celebrating the 40th anniversary of punk rock in 2016 have displayed a tendency towards depicting this movement as a largely testosterone fueled tribal youth culture. Reflective and knowledgeable of this subject, Sheila Rock’s photographs instead insist on a more sophisticated reading of her subjects, allowing and revealing a far more nuanced collection of portraits. By exploring her subjects outside of these established contexts, Rock has photographed some of the more gently subversive aspects of punk (sub) culture, through attire, environment and attitude.

Central to installation at CHELSEA space are a series of new portraits of the female punk icon, Jordan, commissioned especially for this exhibition. In the forty years since Sheila Rock first photographed Jordan both have developed and evolved; the new portraits are a powerful photographic statement of undiminished beauty and the empathy between photographer and subject.

Jordan is synonymous with Malcolm McLaren and Vivien Westwood’s shop SEX, however, her influence was far more wide reaching, as she inspired not only fashion, but was also the muse for artists including Derek Jarman. Her performance as Britannia in his 1977 feature film, Jubilee, and in the Super 8 films Jordan’s Dance (1977), Jordan’s Jubilee Mask, (1977), Every Woman For Herself and All for Art, (1978) and Jordan’s Wedding, (1981), illustrate her innate power and poise. Interviewed in the publication ‘England’s Dreaming’ by Jon Savage, Jordan states, ”I started ballet when I was about four and carried on until I was about eighteen. It gives you a sense of physical confidence when you’ve done a tight discipline like that. I liked to treat myself as a painting”.

Also accompanying the exhibition are a selection of recent photographic portraits from the series entitled Tough and Tender, that were made in seaside towns around England. Although initially interested in the aesthetics of seascapes when starting on this series, Rock’s dignified and stoic portraits reflect a quiet politics, documenting subjects and environments on the economic margins of the early 21st Century.

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