An exhibition of new works created collaboratively and individually by a group of women who began meeting online during lockdown in 2021 went on display last week in The Community Gallery at Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries. 

Consciously Rising, which coincides with activities being held by OnFife to mark International Women’s Month 2022, is running from Saturday 5 March until Sunday 1 May.

One of the women, Lesley from Dunfermline, explained how she got involved in the group: “An email popped into my inbox during lockdown from Hayley Muir, then Projects Officer with Dunfermline Heritage Partnership, with information about the Consciously Rising project.  It was exactly what I was looking for during lockdown – something creative, a bit of chat and meeting up with new people. “

“I’ve really enjoyed being part of this and delighted people in Dunfermline will have an opportunity to view the exhibition.”

The works are all shown anonymously and the women involved are not identified.

Visual artist Helen de Main led the group. The exhibition is part of her PhD research at the Glasgow School of Art in partnership with Glasgow Women’s Library. Helen works predominantly in printmaking, creating vibrant and engaging artworks that celebrate the lives of women. She is interested in women’s everyday lives, historically and in the present, and uses archive material and collaborates with women to engage with these ideas.

Helen said: “It’s been fascinating to see how group members translated our discussions into artworks, bringing these together whilst also bringing their own distinctive creative voice to the works.”

The group used feminist consciousness-raising to help open discussions. The ‘personal is political’ was a term coined by second-wave feminists in the late 1960s, which connected experiences in women’s personals lives with conditions and structures in society.

The group began meeting at the start of 2021, with online sessions taking place every two weeks. Sessions were dedicated to discussing childhood, school and education, adolescence, bodies and health, expectations and freedom.

The prints in the exhibition – made using Risograph printing, or riso for short – grew out of ideas and insight gained from the group’s circle discussions. Initially, the group had around twelve members, but as the weeks progressed and lockdown restrictions changed, the circle grew smaller.

At the end of summer 2021, the group were able to meet in person at Glasgow Women’s Library. This was when group members Doreen, F and Lesley worked together and individually to produce the body of prints presented in the exhibition.

Members of the group learnt from each other’s creative processes and were inspired by seeing works other members were making. Working in this way led to a rich and collaborative process. Members have used collage, painting, sculpture, drawing, writing, and photography to make the prints in the exhibition. The works include very personal explorations of identity, which were sparked by discussions within the group. Find out more about OnFife’s International Women’s Day activities.