INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ARTS: Theatre of the Domestic, Betty Woodman

Theatre of the Domestic marks Betty Woodman’s first UK solo show, comprising contemporary, slightly quirky, ceramics, colourful drawings and investigative mixed media work.

The artwork exhibited is exclusively from the last ten years and is in many ways a response to Woodman’s retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2006, revealing the direction her new work is taking and her distinctive exploration of domestic space.


Photo credit: Mark Blower – Installation shot: Betty Woodman: Theatre of the Domestic, Institute of Contemporary Arts

“The spaces in between the pieces are just as important as the pieces themselves”

The Institute of Contemporary Arts presents the opportunity to experience and interact with Betty Woodman’s fascinating ceramics, which have been positioned at different heights and in a variety of ways. With some vases seated directly on the floor and others on plinths and platforms, they guide the way you experience the exhibition and which path you take as you navigate through the original sculptures and vessels.


Photo credit: Mark Blower – Installation shot: Betty Woodman: Theatre of the Domestic, Institute of Contemporary Arts

Woodman’s ceramic work is also displayed on the gallery walls, creating what the artist refers to as “Wallpaper” with over three hundred glazed ceramic fragments, leftover from the vessel making process. These irregular, abstract patterns appear to flow across the walls, organically growing through the space. Combining concepts such as wallpaper, vases and other domestic objects seems to subvert how the home is occupied and used, exploring decorative forms and their purpose within the realms of the domestic.


Photo credit: Mark Blower – Installation shot: Betty Woodman: Theatre of the Domestic, Institute of Contemporary Arts

As well as exploring domestic interiors and architecture, Woodman’s practice investigates the world of fashion, working in mixed media to create Kimono Girls shown above. This piece fuses Woodman’s ceramic practice with her interest in textiles, draping the ceramic figures in contrastingly soft, printed fabrics. The arrangement of these lively figures makes them appear to be walking down a catwalk, as if each sculpture is animated and engages consciously with the exhibition-goers.


Photo credit: Mark Blower – Installation shot: Betty Woodman: Theatre of the Domestic, Institute of Contemporary Arts

“…a marriage of surface and form”

The pictorial elements painted onto Woodman’s vessels are deliberately offset against the body of the ceramic, creating “something peculiar about their perspective” – this distinctive, playful style aims to make the viewer think, and makes you twist your head to try to make sense of these optical games. Here at Syndicut, we love Woodman’s bold, unapologetically bright patterns and colour choices and how her painting style changes the way we see the sculptural forms themselves.


Photo credits: Mark Blower – Installation shot: Betty Woodman: Theatre of the Domestic, Institute of Contemporary Arts

“3D objects… become part of the canvas and paint”

Theatre of the Domestic offers the chance to see a wide variety of Betty Woodman’s latest, cross-disciplinary work. Throughout Woodman’s exhibited work she has worked between the two and three-dimensional media, teaming the two to alter perspectives and challenge how we perceive the home, while retaining her characteristically confident forms and refreshingly vibrant colours. Theatre of the Domestic ends on the 10th April – we highly recommend visiting the Institute of Contemporary Arts to experience this exhibition while you still can!