The Time of Our Lives

The Time of Our Lives installation view @BJDeakinPhotography



The Time of Our Lives focuses on the pioneering drawing practices of women artists and their impact on feminist activism from the 1980s until today. The exhibition showcases the work of key artists, examining drawing’s versatility as a medium and the ways it has been used by women to raise consciousness around social and political issues, such as reproductive justice, sexism, racism and other forms of oppression.

Working both independently and collaboratively, often without commercial or institutional support, the voices of these agents for change are now being heard and their trailblazing work taken forward by a generation of contemporary women artists. Beginning with drawings made by Monica Ross in the 1980s, the exhibition will include works by Sutapa Biswas, Sonia Boyce, Margaret Harrison, Claudette Johnson, Lizzy Rose and Soheila Sokhanvari, and includes new commissions by Kate Davis and Jade de Montserrat.

The Time of Our Lives will also include an interactive study display in our library, showcasing drawing in magazines, newsletters and posters from UK feminist collectives past and present. The exhibition is curated by Jacqui McIntosh and Drawing Room, supported by a Curatorial Research Grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. Commissions fees are kindly supported by Marcelle Joseph. It coincides with Women in Revolt, a concurrent exhibition at Tate Britain.


‘and we’ll make art out of the time of our lives 

that is always between one job, one role and another’ 

Monica Ross 



Sutapa Biswas (b.1962) is a British Indian conceptual artist, who works across a range of artforms including drawing, painting, film and time-based media. Throughout her extensive career she has questioned ideas around gender, cultural identity and race, often through a personal lens. Early drawings and paintings investigate the fluidity of identity, exploring the marginalisation of the black and brown figure in white- centric art historical commentaries and the importance of visibility. As part of the British Black Arts Movement in the 1980s, her works were included in important exhibitions such as The Thin Black Line, curated by Lubaina Himid at the ICA in 1985. Through recent works such as the film Lumen (2021), Biswas continues her exploration of the complex legacies of Empire and colonialism.

In her early works, Sonia Boyce (b.1962) addressed issues of race, identity and gender in the media and day-to-day life, often using herself as the central subject for photographic collages, pastel, and charcoal drawings. Boyce was introduced to the work of feminist artists such as Margaret Harrison, Kate Walker and Monica Ross while a student, which solidified her decision to become a feminist artist. She became part of the British Black Arts Movement of the early 1980s, inspired by anti-racist discourse, the legacies of colonialism and feminist critique. Boyce’s work has shifted materially and conceptually since the 1980s. More recent works often involve collaboration with performers, combining improvisation and performative actions, working with a variety of media including video, photography, installation and sound. Her ongoing Devotional series (since 1999) honours the substantial contribution of black British female musicians to public and cultural life.

Kate Davis (b. 1977) has used drawing throughout her career to bring her own experience into contact with art history, ‘telling the truth’about her experiencesas a body. Working across a range of media including drawing, printmaking, installation and film, Davis has a deep interest in feminism and the ways that women have been depicted in society and in art. In her works, she has challenged representations of the female body by celebrated male artists and used a wide range of drawing techniques to create new conversations with the complexities of the past.

Claudette Johnson (b.1959) fills large-scale paper with drawn images of black women ‘to tell a different story about our presence in this country.’ In the 1980s, Johnson was part of the BLK Art Group, an association of young black artists based in the Midlands, whose goal was to increase the visibility of black artists and the political and social issues explored within their works. Johnson helped organise the 1st National Black Art Convention at Wolverhampton Polytechnic in 1982. The talk that she gave is now recognised as an important moment in the history of the British Black Arts Movement and catalyst for the formation of a network of black female artists, which included Lubaina Himid and Sonia Boyce. Working with a range of media – pastel, gouache, watercolour – Johnson’s drawings exclusively feature the black subject, a choice she asserts can be viewed as a political one and that offers a way of exploring black identity and representation.

Margaret Harrison (b. 1940) has been at the forefront of British feminist and activist art since the late 1960s. She was a founding member of the London Women’s Liberation Art Group (1970) and a key figure within the Women’s Workshop of the Artist’s Union (1972), which demanded rights and visibility for women artists of the time. Harrison has used drawing at all stages of her long career to address social concerns and to place the experience of women in a wider context. Her early drawings, which depicted scantily clad women draped over food and men in corsets and high heels, explored the objectification of women in mass media. She has produced bodies of work that have drawn attention to the exploitation of women’s labour and the rights of home and factory workers. Throughout her career, Harrison has been dedicated to making visible the violence and domination exercised against women across the world.

The works of Jade de Montserrat (b.1981) explore the vulnerability of bodies and the importance of recording and preserving history. Working across media including drawing, painting, film, installation and performance, her works consider the ways in which artwork and art making can open discussions around whiteness, neurotypicality, ableism and capitalism. In her works on paper, she draws words and fractured images of the body to voice personal experiences and to stand in solidarity with those who are oppressed. Through drawing, she explores the tactile and sensory qualities of language, sharing passages of text by black writers such as Alice Walker and bell hooks and material alluding to the violent legacy of colonialism.

Lizzy Rose (1988–2022) was an artist and disability activist whose diverse practice included writing, film, installation, curation, and drawing. She lived with a severe form of Crohn’s disease, a chronic autoimmune condition affecting the gut, which led to intestinal failure, alongside other health conditions. Her works often explored ideas of identity and community with a particular interest in the experiences of online chronic illness communities and the culture surrounding them. Through her works she explored feminised forms of labour such as floristry, crafts and nursing. Her works turn a sharp eye on ‘hidden’ culture, asking the viewer to take notice, and showing us that by doing so, we can affect the systems of which we are part. As co-author (with Alice Hattrick and Leah Clements) of the online resource Access Docs for Artists, she made a major contribution to disability activism and the support of artists with disability access needs.

Monica Ross (1950-2013) was an artist who worked with video, drawing, installation, text and performance. Her practice was shaped by feminism and other movements for social, cultural, and political change. Ross used drawing throughout her career, in projects such as Feministo: The Women’s Postal Art Event (1975-79) and Fenix (1978-80), working with artists Kate Walker and Sue Richardson to make visible the conditions and constraints of the working- class female artist. She was part of the national network Sister Seven (1981- 84) and took part in anti- nuclear activism, enacting performances in church halls, libraries, festivals, conferences, shopping centres and at peace camps including Greenham Common. Through the series of performances Anniversary—an act of memory (2008-13), her final work, she highlighted the urgent need for individual and collective commitment to the defence and attainment of human rights for all.

Soheila Sokhanvari (b.1964) is a British Iranian artist whose expansive, multimedia practice engages with the experience of women in Iran and the injustices faced since the 1979 Iranian revolution. The process of drawing is, for Sokhanvari, a metaphor for the loss of memory. In 1978, as a young teenager, she left Iran to be educated in England. After the revolution, she suddenly became an exile from her homeland, losing access to everyone that she loved, her language and culture. Her works play with meaning and materiality, often allowing the medium to carry the political message. In her ongoing series of drawings, Sokhanvari employs crude oil to tell the story of the individual in relation to mass consumerist society and an energy-hungry world – where oil rich countries negotiate and battle for democracy and liberty but at a human cost.

Supported by

Commissions fees kindly supported by Marcelle Joseph