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17.10.2014


In the olden days, the walls and hoardings of Sydney's streets and building sites were festooned with colourful posters advertising bands and clubs, film festivals and protest marches and just about every cultural event happening. A vital part of that history is the subject of Girls at The Tin Sheds: Sydney Feminist Posters 1975-90 . A selection of posters chiefly from University Collections featuring the women artists and poster-makers who worked at the Tin Sheds, a hothouse for social and political debates. Why are you asking me for personal information?We collect personal information including your contact and demographic information for the purposes of identification, account administration and display of personalised content and advertising.
The exhibition Girls at the Tin Sheds: Sydney Feminist Posters 1975–90 celebrates women artists and poster makers at the Tin Sheds, Sydney University. The Tin Sheds is a space which started as an experiment in alternative art education and became an important hothouse for social and political debates during the 1970s and ’80s. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of International Women’s Year, the exhibition at University Art Gallery presents original posters on feminism, the environmental movement as well as Aboriginal and migrant rights. The exhibition opens in a heated 1975 with its struggles for gender equality galvanised by International Women’s Year, outrage at the sacking of the Whitlam Government and building tensions over the environment and Aboriginal land rights. The exhibition includes work from artists including Marie McMahon, Jan Mackay, Toni Robertson, Jean Clarkson, Pam Debenham, Jan Fieldsend, Angela Gee, Leonie Lane and Avril Quail.


Curator Katie Yuill poses with the Girls in the Tin Shed exhibition at Sydney University Gallery.
To tie-in with the 40th anniversary of International Women's Year, Girls at the Tin Sheds: Sydney Feminist Posters 1975-90 is an exhibition featuring 76 posters from a vault of more than 800 which vividly depict the discourse of the time. Marie McMahon's A Stitch in Time Saves Nine encouraged men to be equally responsible for birth control. McMahon came to the Tin Sheds in 1976 through her student network – she was studying fine art at the National Art School at the time. Curator Katie Yuill says the raw dynamism of the images reflects the urgency felt by the artists. Yuill says the densely hung main display, featuring 55 works on one wall, is aimed at mimicking the proliferation of posters at the time and give viewers the feeling of what it was like walking around the uni and City Road areas in that era.
Like an early version of social media, posters were a quick, easy and accessible means of getting a message out – it was cheap and people didn't need formal art training.
Beyond the pages of the street press and culture magazines, posters were a key way to reach a passing audience and although street posters persist in the inner city and on telegraph poles out in the 'burbs, they're but a faint echo of a once dominant part of the visual culture of Sydney.
Located at Sydney University, Tin Sheds was set up in 1970 as a hands-on art making studio for students studying fine arts but unable to make actual artworks.


From the mid- seventies feminism, Aboriginal rights and the environmental movement galvanised the Tin Sheds, most visible in the explosion of dazzling and provocative posters. Many of the posters have obvious pop art influences; elsewhere, the use of metallic inks and fluoro colours was pioneering for its time. Well known for its radical politics and conceptual art practices, Tin Sheds was also the location for poster making collectives such as anarchist Earthworks group and individual poster makers. Some were collectively produced, others designed by artists such as Jean Clarkson, Pam Debenham, Jan Fieldsend, Angela Gee, Therese Kenyon, Leonie Lane, Jan Mackay, Marie McMahon, Avril Quaill, Toni Robertson, Yanni Stumbles and Sheona White.
A woman is depicted fiercely thwacking a man across the face with the caption: "Wake up to yourself!! Tapping into the ready made audience of the street and the walls of sympathetic venues, Tin Sheds became known for the work of women artists including Jean Clarkson, Pam Debenham, Jan Fieldsend, Angela Gee, Therese Kenyon, Leonie Lane, Jan Mackay, Marie McMahon, Avril Quaill, Toni Robertson, Yanni Stumbles and Sheona White who produced striking slogan-rich works that often humourlessly and pointedly made comment on the state of feminist discourse and the status of women in society. Staged to coincide with the anniversary of the International Women's Year, and drawn from the University collection, the posters are snapshots of a different time, but with their messages of feminism, Aboriginal rights and environmentalism remain vital.



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