MAKE A MARK Barry Bliss: Author and photographer featuring 10 female London painters

MAKE A MARK Barry Bliss- Author and photographer featuring 10 female London paintersMAKE A MARK Barry Bliss: Author and photographer featuring 10 female London painters

It takes a little revolutionary zeal to stay the course in the critically unfashionable discipline of painting in high cost, studio-starved London. The more so as a woman, when most of your historically famous predecessors – and the highest priced contemporary painters, too – are male.

That’s something that Barry Bliss picked up on when he chose to photograph thirty London-based female painters. His portraits were shot with the same model of 1932 Leica camera as Gerda Taro used to document her experiences of the Spanish Civil War,  in which she tragically died at 26. Taro’s story relates directly to the matter of female self-presentation in the arts:  born Gerta Pohorylle, she initially worked with Endre Friedmann under the name Robert Capa, before leaving that name for him to use, and switching to her own more glamorous movie-star-like pseudonym.

Bliss’s images are pared back to just a white backdrop and the painter ready to paint, brush in hand. They capture the determined start of the creative process, before a mark is made. The ArthouSE1 show adds a painting and an actual favourite object – not necessarily a brush –, which ten of Bliss’s subjects see as reflecting themselves as artists. The rebellious streak is, of course, only one aspect of their characters. The statements they’ve made also show plenty of wry humour and self-mockery – often regarding how to present themselves rather than just their work – as well as obvious dedication to their medium. All that feeds into what is shown, so that Mark Makers is an exploration of common spirit as well as a striking and varied anthology of current painting practice.

As Katrina Blannin says: It’s actually a way of life, so you can’t ever give up…

The curators of ‘Make a Mark’ have taken their cue from filmmaker and author Barry Bliss, whose recent books are influenced by his deep respect for the photojournalism of Gerda Taro, a woman whose ideological integrity and eye for detail characterized her photographs of the Spanish Civil War.

Initially, Taro teamed up with her partner Endre Friedmann using the pseudonym Robert Capa, but soon broke away creating her own pseudonym of Gerda Taro (her real name being Gerta Pohorylle) Taro’s work was widely celebrated at the time, especially the images she took at the Battle for Brunete. In July 1937, a tank struck her as it collided with the vehicle she was hitching a lift on and she tragically died of her injuries aged just 26. Over time, Taro’s achievements faded and were eclipsed by her surviving partner who continued as Robert Capa.  Capa, as we know, went on to further fame, co-founding the ground-breaking Magnum Agency.

In recent years, Taro’s own work has returned to wide respect, and using the same 1932 Leica camera used by Taro, Bliss went ‘out in the field’ – albeit a less dangerous one! – to photograph 30 contemporary women artists working in London. With a reportage approach, rather than an Art critical one, Bliss sought to reveal the women behind the work they do, with photographic portraits and artists’ comments.

Each black and white portrait is notable for its simplicity; each time, just a woman in her studio. There’s no studio paraphernalia in shot and no posed action shots ‘à la Pollock’. Direct and communicative, the photographs remove barriers; you feel like a witness. The accompanying texts, however interesting, remind you that you are a recipient. That’s the power of the photographic image, however staged it is or isn’t, we will always trust it and own it more easily, over the written word. Even though we’re so well aware in the digital age that photographic truth is a far from simple matter, we are quite simply, less encumbered by the filters through which the message travels.

Grasping the baton from Bliss, Rebecca Fairman and Paul Carey-Kent give us what could be described as a natural epilogue to Bliss’s book. In ‘Make a Mark’ at Arthouse1 the work of ten of the women from Bliss’s book is shown. Here too, the women are not allowed to remain in the wings but must further personalise the experience by nominating a personal object of their choosing.

The curators have commented that Bliss’s photographs seem to capture “the determined start of the creative process, before a mark is made.” In this exhibition we can also see the determined end of the creative process. The mark has been made!

Artists’ websites

Katrina Blannin, Jane Bustin, Rebecca Byrne, Claudia Carr, Emma Cousin, Sharon Drew, Roxana Halls, Selma Parlour, Carol Robertson and Yukako Shibata


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MAKE A MARK Barry Bliss: Author and photographer featuring 10 female London painters
Arthouse1. 45 Grange Road. London SE1 3BH
Private View: Sunday 9th July 6 – 8pm
Exhibition open from 13th to 30th July
Gallery hours: Thursday to Sunday 3pm – 7pm or by appointment

Bermondsey Art Walk: Artists in Conversation 22nd July 3 – 4.30pm

Open to public during exhibitions Thursday to Sunday 3pm – 7pm or by appointment
077131 89249 or email

Arthouse1 Front Facade
Arthouse1 Front Facade


ARTHOUSE1 believe what makes Arthouse1 gallery unique is the intimate space it offers within a domestic environment, offering great opportunities for individuals and groups interested in furthering their careers or making a statement beyond the ordinary.

The founder, artist Rebecca Fairman, has substantial experience in advertising, marketing and design, utilising these skills to promote the gallery and artists involved.


ARTHOUSE1 offers a fantastic opportunity for both emerging and mid-career artists to participate in ambitious programmes of exhibitions and events. The light open plan exhibition area is over 700 sq. ft, comprising 29m of white wall hanging space. A contemporary space which succinctly merges old with new. If you are an artist or a curator, and would like to put forward a proposal, please email your proposal along with images and full CV in a pdf format to

London Bridge rail and tube – 12 mins walk via Tooley & Bermondsey St.

Borough Tube – 10 mins walk via Long Lane

Buses : 78, 1, 188, 42, RV1

Car parking metres in Crimscott St.

Free parking after 6.30pm & weekends

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