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A Q&A with Artist Lorien Haynes on Her Exhibition ‘Pieces of a Woman’

Photo Courtesy of Cult Media Collective

Comment Editor Hanna Pham talks with artist Lorien Hayne on her most recent exhibition “Pieces of a Woman”.

To honour International Women’s Day Lorien Haynes launched her new exhibition “Pieces of a Woman” in conjunction with Zebra One Gallery at Burgh House in Hampstead. The exhibition consists of a series of gorgeously sketched charcoal nudes of women in Hayne’s life, readings from “Punched” the West End play that Hayne’s co-wrote and produced, and the premiere of a short film about the South African rape crisis centre.

Part of the proceeds was donated to The Circle, a non-profit organisation that champions women’s rights as well as Refuge, a charity that helps survivors of domestic abuse.

Roar: What inspired you to create this exhibition?

Lorien Hayne: Zebra One Gallery’s owner Gabrielle du Ploy. Not only does she champion emerging female artists – a rarity – but she uses her gallery to nurture collaborations between artists and the causes they care about. Gaby has worked to support an understanding of body dysmorphia, to support International Women’s Day, Cancer Research and in our case a mutual aim to raise awareness about the exponential rise in domestic abuse and sexual violence during the pandemic.

R: Could you tell me about some of the relationships you have with the women that are titles of the nudes?

LH: All of the pieces are named after the women in my life who have encouraged and supported me; my daughter, my mother, my friends, my colleagues, my therapist Ali. One piece – one of my favourites – is named after a close friend who died too soon. She was an artist. A far better artist than I – and she dragged me along to a life drawing class 20 years ago. We did our first exhibition together – my work was truly shit – but she reminded me how much I love drawing and how lucky I am to be able to do it. I have been in class, studying and drawing ever since. I owe my work to her.

R: Is “Pieces of A Woman” similar to other projects you have done in the past?

LH: I believe in art in service of meaningful cause. It is the foundation of my plays, my films and my art work. Each of my exhibitions has been about the non-objectification of the female form and the inherent strength of the female body. All my shows – “Unbearable”, “barefacedcheek”, “Did You See Her? Diss/embodied”, “I Believe Her” – are titled to address the complex relationship between women and our bodies. How we are constantly judged by the kind of contemporary aesthetic that leaves us faking, tuning and adjusting our appearance on social media and beyond. I want to encourage the celebration of women as we are – not how we are preconditioned to think we should be.

Crucially I believe in supporting women artists and survivors. A marriage I made with my film, “Everything I Ever Wanted To Tell My Daughter About Men”. This project combines 23 short films, directed by 21 female directors into one film, a survivor’s story – with the purpose being to donate any profit to survivor charities. The film was nominated for Best Narrative Feature at the Austin Film Festival last year. We are trying to find the best way to get it out there to serve its purpose.

R: Why do you think now is a particularly important time to highlight women’s and girls’ rights? What issues in this realm do you feel particularly passionate about?

LH: This is a tough time for the world on multiple fronts – environmentally, emerging from Covid, witnessing war in the Ukraine – all world crises that have to be acknowledged, but which sadly do not mean the issues around women and girls rights can be put aside. It was lockdown itself that created a shadow pandemic – the almost doubling of sexual violence statistics worldwide. I feel it is vital that women have a voice and are supported in speaking out about abuse and sexual violence. It’s why I continue to work with The Circle, Annie Lennox’s NPO who act in global support of women and girls. And Refuge who are dealing with sexual violence and safety here on the ground in the UK. One in three women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime and that figure alone makes it clear how much more work there is to be done to protect women and educate men about consent.

Honestly I feel we all believe we are much further along in the evolution of equality than we actually are. I went to a Refuge art auction event at Bonhams recently and was stunned to hear that only 3% of artists who sell on the international high-end art stage are women. I was truly staggered by that.

R: As an artist, could you speak to the experience of creating a multimedia project with a film and celebrity readings? Why was it important to include all these aspects?

LH: I can only describe myself as a multi-disciplinary artist – which is why my work tends to incorporate multimedia. I am an actor, writer, painter and producer. And in order to survive and sustain in any one of these disciplines, I have found I needed to be all of these things.

On a personal level I find acting and painting are both right brain activities and the only times in my life when I truly get ‘lost.’ And my heart belongs to these really. They are essential to my mental health. Writing and producing are left brain and engage the other side of my ‘self.’  Together it works. And I think it can be a similar experience for the viewer. Combining Saffron Burrows and Sam Taylor Johnson’s short films, with readings of survivor’s stories and the art work makes the project more three dimensional and hopefully impactive. It’s a coming together in support of the subject matter – Gaby at Zebra One, The Circle, Refuge, Burgh House, The Koppel Project, Sam, Annie Lennox, Saffron, the actors, myself – we are all trying to raise awareness about the same issues. And I think standing together is the strongest way to get heard.

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