Visiting Colchester in the first half of 2023? Then you might see some very BIG women!

Firstsite is the home of contemporary art in Colchester, and their latest exhibition 'BIG WOMEN' opened on Saturday 11th February. We were fortunate enough to have a look around on the first weekend it opened to the public, here's what to expect when you visit...


Welcome to BIG WOMEN!

Some of the art on display as part of this new exhibition is quite literally of BIG women, in size and presence, and some of it is big in other ways, be it in importance, theme or experience. The women artists in question are also big (read 'mature') and have had long and successful careers in the art world.

The exhibition features pieces from an all woman line up, including Maggi Hambling, Pam Hogg, Princess Julia, Polly Morgan, Gillian Wearing, and Sarah Lucas, who also curated the show, along with many others.


As you enter Firstsite, you are greeted in the large entrance space by cardboard cut-outs of the artists involved in the exhbition, along with instantly recognisable sculptures by Sarah Lucas. There are also pieces in this space left over from previous exhibitions, by Michael Landy & Julian Opie - but there is some very clear signage to help you find your way to the show.

Huge photographic murals by Georgina Starr greet you at the entrance to the main exhibition space, their sheer size is impressive and is a great use of the buildings' curved walls - but a mannequin (of a much more human scale) wearing a textile work by Pam Hogg leads you into one of the smaller spaces in the show. Here you will find another sculpture by Sarah Lucas, reclining on a chair, surrounded by paintings, video and sculpture by other artists, which makes the room feel quite homely and comfortable in comparison to the vast entry way.


In the largest gallery, 'She Forgot' a painting by local artist Sonia-Coode Adams, is overlooked by a massive oil by Sue Webster, a self portrait of her pregnant body. Pregancy and motherhood are also adressed by Renata Adela in a soft sculpture called 'The Origin of the World' and in Maggi Hambling's painting of her own mother, only just distinguishable from the artist herself because she 'never wears lipstick'.

Nearby, Kate Boxers' painting of a dog is the only male representation within the exhibition. In this room, tucked around the corner are colourful abstract paintings by Rachel Howard, a welcome break if the beauty of the naked female form is becoming too much for you (if you are visiting with children - be aware that the exhibition does contain some nudity, adult themes and 'colourful' language).


Beyond a pair of glass doors, work by Polly Morgan awaits which contains a stomach churning yet intriguing mix of skinned snakes and false nails, opposite the much more gentle textile works of Abigail Lane. This room also houses work by Millie Laws, a celebration of the Colony Room Club, a past favourite London haunt of many of the artists in the show.

This celebration is a good place to end on - this exhibition feels like one big celebration, of women's bodies and experiences. A celebration of beauty at any age or stage in life, and a celebration of  artists that may have been somewhat overlooked in favour of their male conterparts earlier on in their careers.

The exhibition contains a real diverse mix of artistic styles, mediums and materials - and we think everyone will find something they like within it whether they are a big woman or not!

BIG WOMEN is open at Firstsite until Sunday 18th June. Admission is free. 




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    I looked at this exhibition today. There are some very competent attractive artworks to view. It left me thinking if my main impression was that the show depicted a celebration of women. I might have thought that, had not some artworks left me with the feeling they objectified women. But, as I remarked to some of the staff at the time, maybe it is more to do with my perspective these pieces, which is from an older generation, which has battled against precisely that in society.
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