FEATURE: Sheena Revolta’s Garageland Exhibition | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Sheena Revolta – in their many guises – has been something of a fixture of the Tyneside cultural scene for some time now, but this month the fruits of a new practice are revealed with Garageland, a collection of 20 photographs of musicians and creative women from Tyneside, being shown at Arch 16 Gallery in Gateshead from Friday 6th October.

As is often the case, creativity was initially born from necessity. “I was using a lot of photographers for things I was working on, so if I was promoting a gig or designing posters, I needed photographers and it actually became a bit of a pain in the arse. So I thought ‘Why aren’t I doing this? I should be doing this’.” Some work on the London Olympics provide the cash for equipment and Revolta became “almost addicted to it, I had to take photographs every week, had to have a photoshoot in the pipeline.”

Revolta originally wanted to do a show of nudes but couldn’t find a willing venue. “I’m much more of a ‘pop-up’ kind of person than a gallery kind of person and I want to put things where people will go. If you put an exhibition in The Cluny, for example, it will be seen by so many more people than in a gallery where only people who like art go, and people were just a bit nervous about having a nudes show in a space that opens on to the street.”

The other strand common to much of Revolta’s work was creative women, so that became the new theme, and there are a lot of familiar faces in the show – Bridie Jackson, Pauline Murray, Nathalie Stern and Cath Tyler for example. Revolta is fascinated by “the way young women particularly work with the camera, form a relationship with it, you even see it in pictures from the punk era; look at pictures of the Slits, they’re very different than the pictures of The Clash from the same year, acting like they don’t give a fuck, trying to be the ‘last gang in town’.”

whenever I take photos, I try to remove myself as far as possible from the male gaze

Revolta’s sexual politics also play a part in the way the work happens. “I’m very happily married to a woman but I would still strongly say that my politics, my gender, my sexuality still go back to the queer politics of the eighties when I first came across those things. So whenever I take photos, I try to remove myself as far as possible from the male gaze. I hope I could put myself in the mode of someone like Almodovar, who is said to write some of the best roles for women in cinema, or Tony Warren who started Coronation Street, who wrote fantastic roles for women, and I think some of that comes from their queer aesthetic.”

Revolta sees the photos as a collaboration with the subject. “I always try to photograph women looking strong, and sometimes the easiest way to do that is just to say, ‘look straight into the camera and fold your arms and give me some attitude’. Just by doing that you get rid of that whole sexual object thing which is really common in photos of female musicians. “

Garageland opens at Arch 16 in Gateshead on Friday 6th October and runs for the rest of the month.


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