The Liverpool Biennial’s Blinkered Approach to Feminist Art

LAUREN ELKIN , FRIEZE , June 17, 2021

The main exhibition at Tate Liverpool takes women’s liberation as its basis, leaning on frustratingly narrow definitions to justify connections between Linder and Martine Syms. 


The undoubted star of the show, however, is Jamaican artist Ebony G. Patterson, with her dazzling and difficult contributions …fraught…for those who bear/bare witness (2018) and …when the cry takes root… (2021). These two, enormous, multi-layered tapestries drip with decorations: fake butterflies; dusty, wilting flowers; photographs; a sequin hummingbird; a big, jewelled spider; a diamanté lizard. Everything natural made artificial, like Jean des Esseintes’s jewelled tortoise, which collapses under the weight of its own embellished shell in Joris-Karl Huysmans’s novel Against Nature (1884). The effect is an explosion of texture, a riot; there is violence here. The outlines looks like continents – Europe, Asia – where there are no borders, just tears in fabric and needlepoint; the sense that the work is not just built up, but that it might actually be in a state of entropy.