London-based mixed media artist Amy Gardner, originally from Australia, is known for her vibrant use of colour and positive imagery. Gardner’s art celebrates womanhood and the strength of women supporting each other, paying homage to the movement and history of women before. Focusing on the experiences of women, particularly the hidden labour and physical movements, Gardner often employs humour, utilizing images from 1950s advertising to highlight the persistence of the outdated “perfect woman” ideal in modern society.
Gardner is also the founder of Aunt Joy, an art gallery focused on making it easy for art lovers to buy art from women artists, with only 13.7% of living artists represented by galleries in Europe and North America being women as of 2022.
I am an advocate of countering this by accepting our imperfections, laughing at the notion of ‘the perfect woman’, giving ourselves grace, and celebrating the achievements of the women around us.
Yet, in the UK, “73% of postgraduate art and design students are women”; this data highlights the underrepresentation of female artists, an imbalance in the art world that Aunt Joy intends to change. With its limited edition prints, original paintings, collages, mixed media, photography & sculpture from a rich roster of female artists, such as Poppy Lennox, Cassandra Yap, Nadia Attura and, Sara Pope and the Cameron Twins, to name a few. We caught up with Gardner to learn more about her practice, inspiration and more about Aunt Joy.
Q: Hi Amy! How are you doing? Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Please introduce yourself for those who do not know you.
Amy Gardner: Thanks for having me. I am an artist creating bold limited edition prints and original paintings with empowered women and empowering women at the core of my work. I am also the founder of Aunt Joy Gallery, an online gallery exhibiting exciting contemporary art created by women, giving 10% of every purchase to a pool of women-centred charities.
Q: Can you tell us how you got started in arts and how art has played a role in your life?
Amy Gardner: My ‘art spark’ first appeared when I was 8 when an inspiring teacher shared the magic of the colour wheel with us. The first opportunity I had to start building a career for myself as an artist was at the end of secondary school, but life threw me some different curve balls to navigate. I took a 20-year pause from creating. I did a few laps of the world and then built an exciting career in the charity sector and major event production.
There was a turning point after the birth of my first daughter. I couldn’t see a way to be available for her and continue to work in the all-consuming event industry. After giving birth to my second daughter, I remembered I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. As my girls grew, I slowly dipped back into some short courses, which became longer courses under excellent mentors and tutors.
I absorbed as many new techniques as possible. Art was pouring out of me at this point, and the exhibitions came in, for which I am very grateful. The role that art plays in my life is nearly too big to articulate; it’s very much a part of me. I can’t imagine not expressing myself or my message with art.
Q: Aunt Joy is making it easier for art lovers to buy art made by women, with 10% of every purchase donated to eight women-focused charities. Can you tell us more about the essence of Aunt Joy and what experience art lovers can expect and these charitable causes?
Amy Gardner: I am a firm believer of the importance of joy; it is at the core of Aunt Joy. We know our art has the ability to lift a room, and a person, as we hear it from our collectors. Aunt Joy is also a warm community. We like celebrating each other’s achievements and are driven to pave an easier path for the younger generation of female creatives.
Art lovers can expect a powerful collection of exciting art created by established and emerging artists. We exhibit limited edition prints, original paintings, collage, mixed media, photography and sculpture. All works are created by women, all with unique voices and with one clear intention: to continue working towards a more balanced representation of artists present in the industry today.
Outside of contributing towards changing the current statistics on the representation of women in art, Aunt Joy also permanently gives 10% of every purchase to women-centred charities. The charities were hand selected by the collective, and the change they are working towards is very important to us. Our charities include:
Sistah Space created to bridge the gap in domestic abuse services for African-heritage women and girls.
A Bloody Good Periodwho give period products to those who can’t afford them and provide menstrual education to those less likely to access it.
Refuge support thousands of women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline.
Young Womens Trustfeminist organisation working to achieve economic justice for young women across the country.
Q: As well as being the founder of Aunt Joy, you are a practising artist who questions the outdated ideals of the “perfect woman” in today’s society—expressed through a fusion of print mediums and collaged images from 1950s advertising. Can you tell me more about your practice, inspiration, and what the creative process looks like?
Amy Gardner: I am incredibly inspired by the strong women in my life and my two young girls. I think that societal messaging has a lot to answer for, and I am an advocate of countering this by accepting our imperfections, laughing at the notion of ‘the perfect woman’, giving ourselves grace, and celebrating the achievements of the women around us.
The two forms of art I create are nearly polar opposites. Screenprint is a restricted and technical process. I am always looking to push the limits and find magic imperfections. I use a lot of hand finishing and monoprint, so my limited edition prints are each unique.
My original paintings, or flow pieces, are very much about following urges and letting it flow, with no restriction to what tools I use to make the mark; it’s rarely a paintbrush. For me producing work that is uplifting, high vibrational and with positive messaging is especially important. I think this is a lot about what I want my girls to visually consume, as well as myself.
Q: Aunt Joy has a strong stable of female artists and growing. Are there any artists who have caught your eye you would love to add to Aunt Joy’s roster?
Amy Gardner: I would need to put it to the collective, but it would definitely be hard to say no to Tracey Emin, Rose Wiley and the Guerilla Girls!! Cheek aside, we are at such early stages our roster will grow carefully and gradually; there really is a plethora of female artists out there creating incredible work.
Q: In the past two years, NFTs have taken the art world by storm. Will Aunt Joy or yourself be offering any NFTs anytime soon?
Amy Gardner: At the moment, we are focusing on art you can hold in your hand, have on your wall to uplift your home or office.
Q: The studio is the sacred temple of creativity. What are three things you can’t live without in your studio?
Amy Gardner: Music, Audible or a good podcast, mainly decaf coffee, and mess splattered paint/ ink mess, not a disorganised mess. The markings on an old easel or wall from years of creation, or ‘the history of effort,’ is visually something that inspires me as an artist.
Q: What’s next for Amy Gardner and Aunt Joy?
Amy Gardner: For me, as an artist, I am continuing to grow and evolve. Last year I took on 25 exhibitions, which created restrictions around my time to create; this year, I intend to give more space to creating and experimenting. For Aunt Joy, we only just launched in August, and it’s been incredible; a lot of people want to invest in work created by women.
We have a lot of women seeking representation and organisations wanting to partner. There are a few different layers to Aunt Joy that we will be working on developing this year, including more physical exhibitions, resources for artists and much more to come. Watch this space!