Fence and Shadow, Invisible Woman and the Telephonic Tree

Sally Payen (1964 - )

Oil on canvas


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  • About the work
    Fence and Shadow, Invisible Woman and the Telephonic Tree is one among a series of paintings by Sally Payen, exploring the contested landscape of Greenham Common in Berkshire, and the women’s peace camps that grew around it in the 1980s. First established in 1981, The Women’s Peace Camp at RAF Greenham Common protested against the nuclear weapons housed there. ‘Embrace the Base’ was a prominent protest action where hundreds of women joined hands in a giant circle around the perimeter of the base.

    Payen’s painting shows the base’s wire fence strung with yarns of green wool and red paper flowers made by the protesters. Inspired by the natural world under threat from radiation, these protest symbols also embodied less tangible chains of communication used by the women. This included the ‘Telephonic Tree’, a system in which chain messages were passed by phone, each caller designated a list of others to contact. Payen comments: The threads might equally represent the complex relationships, conversations and critical discourse that developed during and out of the campaign, and the ripple effects these have had on all manner of aspects of society and thinking today.

    Although missiles were removed from the base in the early 1990s, protests continued until 2000. Today, Greenham Common contains traces and memorials of the protest communities and remains a powerful symbol of women’s activism.
  • About the artist
    Born in Oxford, Sally Payen holds an MA in Painting from the Royal College of Arts (1990) and a practice-based PhD from the University of Brighton (2005). Recent solo exhibitions include ‘The Fence and the Shadow’, MAC Birmingham (2017); ‘The Chase and the Ambush’, Hereford Museum and Art Gallery (2013); and ‘Wolverhampton Riots - One Year On’, Wolverhampton Art Gallery (2012). She is co-founder and director of ‘Salt Road’, an arts organisation which commissions artists, and carries out activities to benefit the community, in particular to improve environmental, social, economic, and cultural wellbeing.
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  • Details
    Fence and Shadow, Invisible Woman and the Telephonic Tree
    Series Title
    The Fence and the Shadow
    Oil on canvas
    height: 200 cm; width: 160 cm
    Purchased from the artist, July 2018
    bottom right: INVISIBLE / WOMAN / TELEPHONIC / TREE ; verso, upper right: Fence and the Shadow / INVISIBLE WOMAN AND THE / TELEPHONIC TREE / SallyClairePayen 2017 / SALLY / PAYEN OIL ON CANVAS
    The artist; from whom purchased, July 2018
    GAC number