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Your place to explore new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now. Through interviews, films, image galleries and essays, we uncover the creative lives of the people behind the art on our walls.

Collage of women's face predominately in shades of brown, black and white, with one rendered in blue and white.

Jann Haworth and Liberty Blake discuss the creation of their 'Work in Progress' mural

[ Artist Interview )

We spoke to artists Jann Haworth and daughter Liberty Blake to discuss their ‘Work in Progress’ mural – the inspiration behind it, the murals creation and the importance of it’s message.

The 28ft mural, was displayed for the first time in the UK in 2020 and was a celebration of women who were catalysts for change in the arts, sciences and social activism. The mural, featuring over 100 women spanning 3000 years, questioned why so many of these lives and endeavours have become unjustly marginalised or forgotten throughout history.

A long collage of over 100 women from across 3000 years of history, all trailblazers in the arts, sciences and social activism.

Jann Haworth and Liberty Blake, Work in Progress, 2016 (ongoing), vinyl, Photography credit: Alex Johnstone © Courtesy of the artist

What was the inspiration behind the mural?

Taking the stats of twelve women on the cover – half of them are fictional! It’s a terrible thing to happen and needs an apology. The big SLC Pepper mural I did in Salt Lake was partly that. To have a sort of reckoning and an awareness of your own, I won’t say mistakes – we were young, but your own sort of ‘missing-the-point’

Jann Haworth

In 1967 Jann Haworth co-created the now infamous Beatles’ album cover – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – with her then-husband, artist Peter Blake. Looking back, Haworth laments the lack of women represented in the collage and discusses how her need to redress the balance inspired works such as her Salt Lake City mural (2004) – a direct reference to, or even an apology for the original Sgt Pepper’s work – and later, the Work in Progress mural.

Mannequin Defectors

In a 2008 exhibition, Haworth developed a series of comic strips, including Mannequin Defectors. Working on this piece led to an important revelation.

A comic strip featuring mannequins breaking free from shop windows and marching with placards.

Jann Haworth, Mannequin Defectors, 2008, Ink on paper. Courtesy of the artist.

One of the comic strips was called ‘Mannequin Defectors’ and the idea behind it was that the mannequins were leaving shop windows and artists’ studios […] and they were all rebelling and they were marching. […] they were carrying placards though, of women’s art, and at one point in their march, they march in front of a mural […] which I wanted to make a street mural of all women in different fields – women scientists, women writers and so forth.

Jann Haworth

How did the mural come to life?

There are 15 panels so we have about 250 – 275 people who have worked on the mural now and from all walks of life – women from the crisis unit at the YWCA, the Mayor’s office, nurses from the University of Utah, TED women […]

Jann Haworth

So why is the mural important today?

When I came to do the drawing (for the mural), I realised I didn’t know anything! I knew writers, I knew female artists but I didn’t know any women in the sciences of maths or medicine and that sort of thing […] So I had to do some research, and in doing that I felt so impoverished you know?, that I didn’t know my own story.

Jann Haworth

Collage of women's face predominately in shades of brown, black and white, with one rendered in blue and white.

Close crop of Work in Progress by Jann Haworth including images of Twiggy, Anne Frank and many more.

Pictured (left to right)

Top: Mildred Loving (1939 – 2008), Harriet Martineau (1802 – 1876), Claudette Colvin (1939 – present), Mary Oliver (1935 – present)

Middle: Amelia Earhart (1897 – 1937 (lost)), Deepa Mehta (1950 – present), Twiggy (1949 – present), Caroline Herschel (1750 – 1848), Susan Perlstein (1961 – present)

Bottom: Rigoberta Menchu (1959 – present), Marie Curie (1867 – 1934), Anne Frank (1929 – 1945)

The above image is a small section from one of the seven panels in the mural. How many of the women featured in this image can you identify? How many of their stories are you familiar with? As Haworth readily admits, identifying women to be included in the mural – especially from fields outside of the arts – required a lot of research. Why have the lives and endeavours of many women included in ‘Work in Progress’ become unjustly marginalised or forgotten throughout history?

The aim of the ‘Work in Progress’ mural is to bring these women, and their stories in to the light – to inspire it’s audience to question the existing narratives, and perhaps to go forward and do some research of their own.

The other key point about this is it’s an open-ended project, it’s not gonna be finished so it will just keep going on because obviously history goes on but also the more you look, the more women are there and that’s pretty important.

Jann Haworth

‘Jann Haworth: Close Up’ ran until 23 February 2020.

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