Bedford Teasing Out Contingencies art shows ‘there’s no stiff upper lip’

An art project that involved a thousand people shows “there’s no such thing as the stiff upper lip of British Society”.

Quilla Constance, who lives in Bromham, Bedfordshire, is presenting Teasing Out Contingencies, at The Higgins Bedford.

It features eight large-scale oil paintings created from a performance workshops at Tate Modern in 2019.

The artist, known as QC, said she was delighted to bring the show “to where I live” and making the art “accessible”.

Quilla Constance by a work of her art Barbados Bonanza

QC, dressed in a costume she made, standing by her work Barbados Bonanza

In total 1,000 people posed for photos, including students from Bedford College, in a specially organised open studio performance workshop, where about 2,000 photographs were taken.

People who attended were asked to pose with items and dress as they wanted in her costumes. The images were then used as the inspiration for her exhibition, using interiors inspired by Buckingham Palace.

“Never underestimate what people are willing to be part of,” said QC.

“From what I’ve seen, there’s no such thing as the stiff upper lip of British society because some of the most so called conservative people were in these costumes, larking around in a way that surprised themselves.”

QC added: “This is my first figurative painted show and I’m delighted to come to Bedford and bring this back to where I live, it feels like coming home.

“People often ask artists ‘what do you do all day’ and finally I can, ‘say this is what I do, this is what I’ve been working hard at’.

“They’re not just pretty pictures, it’s about rewriting the narrative, it’s about involving people, it’s about making art accessible and that’s the most important thing about this show.”

Quilla Constance by a work of her art, Sista Signifier

Sista Signifier is one of QC’s favourite pieces which shows two women, who were photographed separately but placed together in a portrait

Costumes made by Quilla Constance

QC’s costume installation titled The Grenadiers can be seen across a whole wall at The Higgins

The artist, and lecturer, at University of Arts London, believes there is a cross over with performance art and comedy and has created a performance workshop with comedians Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan, for the television series, Rob & Romesh Vs Art.

A symposium about the exhibition will take place at The Higgins on 15 November from 13:30 to 16:30 GMT.

Supported by Arts Council England, Tate Modern, Bedford Creative Arts, The Higgins Bedford and Bedford Borough Council, it runs until 7 January, 2024.

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