Violet Costello 'Bringing Home Baby' at Richard Saltoun

Image: Holiday Inn (‘Bringing Home Baby’ series), 2018. Acrylic on canvas 122 x 152 cm⁠


Bringing Home Baby

15 September – 31 October 2020

Saltoun Online: Women 2.0

‘Bringing Home Baby’ is an online presentation by Violet COSTELLO, winner of the 2020 ‘Procreate Project – Mother Art Prize Online Award’. Featuring new paintings and works on paper created over the last two years, the exhibition marks the first show in a commercial gallery context for the artist. It launches as part of Richard Saltoun Gallery’s Women 2.0 series, a new programme of online exhibitions presenting work by non-represented artists with the aim of providing an additional platform and visibility for women artists.

The work of Violet Costello is inspired by the complexities of the human condition: our quirks and familiarities, our moments of loneliness and moments of joy, the ways in which we identify and represent ourselves in and to the world. With a practice incorporating painting, sculpture and installation, Costello explores the home, familial relations and society’s ability to shape identity. A common thread in much of her work has been the consideration of children’s world of play, a realm where reality readily gives way to, and is confused with, imagination – as can be seen in her ambitious series Bringing Home Baby.

The paintings in Bringing Home Baby depict the meeting of innocent babyhood with prevailing, if idiosyncratic, culture. In each work, a baby is confronted by the foreign and intensely detailed culture of a family home: Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch on the floor or the 1970s American sitcom Flying Nun on TV; two men happily knitting; a sunburnt dad barbecuing; a bejewelled mom sunbathing; a blue teen in angst; a tattooed mother in a swim cap; and a buttoned-up father in a monkey hat. The walls are hung with art: a Basquiat, a black velvet nude, a Klimt, a bullfighter. The absurd, dreamlike quality of these domestic scenes evokes the strangeness of a baby’s new world and is suggestive of the complex processes by which culture defines and imposes the identity that will shape a baby’s life.

The online presentation is part of the Procreate Project – Mother Art Prize, where Costello was awarded the Online Award for three paintings in her Bringing Home Baby series: Holiday Inn, Peek Freans and Touch Him (all 2018). In addition to these paintings, and several more made specifically for the show, Costello will debut new works on paper, including sketches for works in Bringing Home Baby, such as Wieners, Art in America and Three Cats (all 2020), as well as a loose, auto-biographical self-portrait from her Meseries.

“Among 626 entries from 45 countries, selected by an incredible line up of judges, Violet Costello was the undoubted winner of the Mother Art Prize 2020 Online Award. Violet’s works reimagine figurative art into an engaging new language that combines imagination, play and the grotesque. Costello offers interesting new narratives around the idea of family, care and socio-cultural imprints. As directors of an organisation that promotes and investigates themes surrounding the maternal experience and identity, Violet is definitely an exciting discovery and we look forward to working with her in the future,” said Dyana Gravina, Founder and Creative Director, Procreate Project.

Born in Morpeth, England in 1957, Costello moved to Canada as a child at the age of four. Costello studied at the Alberta College of Art before transferring to the Emily Carr College of Art and Design, where she graduated with an honours diploma in 3-Dimensional Studies and received the J.W. McConnell Memorial Fellowship upon graduation. Costello later earned an MFA in sculpture from Concordia University in Montreal. She has taught at Concordia and the University of Saskatchewan. Costello has been on the rosters of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Calgary Arts Partners in Education Society (CAPES) and the City of Calgary Public Art Program. She has received awards from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, British Columbia Culture and Canada Council. Her large-scale sculptural installations have been exhibited throughout Canada in solo and group shows at venues including Latitude 53 Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta; Western Front Gallery, Vancouver, B.C.; Devonian Art Gallery, Calgary, Alberta; and AKA Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; amongst others.

The 2020 Mother Art Prize judging panel included: Niamh Coghlan, Director, Richard Saltoun Gallery; Pauline de Souza, Director, Diversity Art Forum; Elvira Dyangani Ose, Director, The Showroom, London and Lecturer, Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths University; Eva Langret, Artistic Director, Frieze London; Claire Mander, Chair of Steering Committee of UK Friends of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and Director, theCoLAB; and Frances Morris, Director, Tate Britain. The 2020 edition featured three prize categories: the Winner’s Award, including a £500 Cash Prize and two week solo exhibition at The Showroom in summer 2021; an International Award, including a four week residency at the White House Dagenham (in partnership with Create London) and £500 worth of art materials sponsored by Colart; and an Online Award, including an online exhibition with Richard Saltoun Gallery and two mentoring sessions with Sylvie Gormezano, Director, Picture This Productions and the Chair of the Association of Women Art Dealers (AWAD).

Gallery information

Opening hours:

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Mother Art Prize Exhibition 2020 Cromwell Place

Procreate Project is thrilled to present a group exhibition featuring 19 short-listed artists of the Mother Art Prize 2020, the only international prize for self-identifying women and non-binary visual artists with caring responsibilities.

Established and curated by Procreate Project, this prize’s edition puts together the most exciting leaders and organisations working to tackle the gender bias and intersectional issues in the art scene.

Featuring artists that work across a range of media, the works were selected among 626 entries from 45 countries and judged by Niamh Coghlan (Director, Richard Saltoun Gallery), Pauline Desouza (Director, Diversity Art Forum), Elvira Dyangani Tse (Director, The Showroom), Eva Langret (Artistic Director, Frieze London), Claire Mander (Chair of Steering Committee UK Friends, National Museum of Women in the Arts and Director, the CoLAB) and Frances Morris (Director, Tate Modern).

The winner of this year’s edition, announced in May 2020, is Helen Benigson. She will have an upcoming solo show in partnership with The Showroom as part of her award. Helen is followed by Violet Costello, recipient of the Online Award, with an online Solo Exhibition with Richard Saltoun Gallery, and Eileen Reynolds recipient of the International Award with an upcoming residency with Procreate Project and art material sponsored by Colart.

Their works raise questions around the representation and construction of the body, religious identities, sexualities and gender, as well as reproductive technologies.

“Procreate Project is a vitally important space that supports and champions artists who are carers, (m)others or parents. Procreate Project understands the elastic fragility of what it means to make and show artwork, at the same time as having competing caring responsibilities. At this very surreal and anxious time that we are all living through, spaces like this are extremely rare and extra special, so I am very grateful to Procreate Project and the Mother Art Prize for existing and supporting our work.” – Helen Benigson, Mother Art Prize 2020 Winner

The exhibition is co-curated by Paola Lucente, director at Procreate Project and Claire Mander (Chair of Steering Committee UK Friends, National Museum of Women in the Arts and Director, the CoLAB).

It will take place at and will coincide with the inauguration and opening of Cromwell Place, a new unique arts and culture destination for art collectors and visitors.


5 – 30 Oct 2020

Private Opening: 5-9 Oct

Public opening: 10 – 30 OCT

Opening Hours:

Mon to Wed by appointment only

Thursday-Sat 10am to 6pm

Sunday 12-4pm

* Due to government guidelines visitors will need to register prior their visit to the exhibition. Book below.


Cromwell Place

4 Cromwell Pl,

London SW7 2JE

Book now

Procreate Project - New Commissions 2020 Announcement

We are delighted to announce the ten awards to develop new ambitious works and support artists whose work and lives have been impacted by this time of isolation and extra domestic/care responsibilities.

Procreate Project supports the development of contemporary artists who are also mothers, working across disciplines. Thanks to the support of the Emergency Response funds from Arts Council England, we are able to award a £1000 each to ten artists selected between 172 submissions received via an open call.

The awarded artists’ projects are:

– Cash Aspeek

Insideout ( working title) – Photography and public art project

Personal Protective Equipment has become a new normal during this pandemic. They are designed to reduce, often unseen, risks, toxins, fumes, or viruses.

Through images and self-made PPE garments, the artist aims to reduce the perceived risk and enable her daughter, who has recently been diagnosed with autism and has been willingly self isolating for the past four years, to access the outside world.

“This prolonged self-isolation has impacted on motherhood……….. As my daughter’s friendships have fallen away, I also find my own support networks slip.”

The artist will create the protective garment from Flexible Silver and Mylar Film, both highly reflective materials similar in quality to space blankets used to protect after sports events and emergency situations. The material will reflect the surroundings, which becomes an alternative view on its surface, highlighting her daughter’s perception of the outside world.

– Dagmara Bilon

Hungry for human contact – webspace & social art experiment

‘Now, it has been made illegal to have sex with someone outside your household, with the rules being put into place from June 1. Anyone caught breaking the law could face having a criminal record.“ A booty call with that guy you dated for three months last year” is very much not on the list. Nor is “a nightly visit to the nearby flat of the girl/boyfriend you’re not ready to cohabitate with yet”. And don’t even think about going on a date, unless it’s virtual. ‘(Eleanor Steafal, The Telegraph, June 2020)‘Hungry for human contact’ aims to shed a light and push through spheres of loneliness. The project opens up possibilities for human contact outside the ‘ordinary’ encounters and investigates sexuality and intimacy during Covid-19, when dating, sex (unless its virtual) is illegal in the UK. But why do people join Tinder during a pandemic in the first place? What are people looking for?The final artwork will manifest in a webspace storing documentation of Tinder chats between artist Dagmara Bilon (Corona) and her Tinder matches, which include people of all genders and sexual identities. The diverse conversations with various individuals seek to investigate and give insight into people’s current circumstance during the time of the pandemic, the human condition of loneliness, desire, fantasies and invitation for creative interventions, to ‘make art instead of sex’.

– Henny Burnett

Touch-me-not – Photography, Mixed Media

“The Touch-me-not plant is associated with the treatment of vaginal and uterine complaints, inflammations and skin disorders”‘Touch-me-not’ is about skin and ageing process, touch and body politics. Drawn from a personal experience, the artist will use it to investigate the relationship and representation of the female body during and after the postnatal period. For her, this ‘skin growth’ had been caused by the stress her skin had undergone during pregnancy resulting in premature ageing. Suddenly, once touchable skin had become untouchable, rough and unsightly. The Photographic portraits of her torso affected by seborrheic keratosis will be projected onto a tablecloth and re-photographed. The introduction of the tablecloth into the work’s imagery relates to family history, as the Irish linen came from her grandmother. (There are suggestions that seborrheic keratosis could be hereditary). The lace of the tablecloth becomes embedded into the skin adding a further textured layer. The final diptych of images will be screen-printed using thermo-chromic inks. The ink responds to heat: when touched an imprint of the hand may be left fleetingly on the print. Stitching and piercing into the print surface would emphasise the raised quality of seborrheic keratosis. Latex examination gloves should be used to touch the ink surface reinforcing suggestions of clinical examination, and an untouchable status.

– Beatriz Cabur

‘Childbirth-19’ – Digital theatre

Childbirth-19 is a new digital theatre play specifically written to be performed online. The play depicts childbirth in times of Covid-19 and tackles how the experience of pregnancy and labour is shaped by systemic trauma, as due to coronavirus, childbirth interventions and mistreatments have increased, disregarding women’s needs and rights. Major traumas and long lasting damages have been inflicted in the name of minor risk prevention, leaving women without birth partners, not allowing home births, having midwifery led units, ultimately not giving choices to women on where and how to give birth and separating babies from their parents right after birth. “We continue to be contacted by women being told they cannot have a maternal request caesarean and we are concerned that in some places coronavirus is being used as an excuse to dictate to women how they should give birth, which contravenes Nice [the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] guidance” – Maria Booker, from Birthrights for The Independent.Changing these circumstances is a pharaonic task to face. By collecting the stories of many women who have given birth during the COVID-19 pandemic, and translate them into a monologue for digital theatre, Childbirth-19 will try to make a difference.

“I alone can’t change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples, let Childbirth-19 be that stone.”

– Jane Cheadle

‘The quality of her silence: make your failures visible’ – experimental animation

An experimental animation project based on two analogue film reels inherited from the artist’s grandfather, an amateur film maker and inter-war economic migrant from Europe to Africa. Over half a century old and originally titled ’Tribal Africa’, the film’s ethnographic documentation of women in villages is testimony to a both colonial and patriarchal gaze. Conscious that these legacies reverberate into our present, we ask if these ideas are held together through image and filmic representation then in what ways can they be pulled apart? What forms or narrative might result from an irreversible and aggressive yet poetic manipulation of the physical film medium itself? The project aims to form part of a collaborative response and will be supported along the way by critical friend and collaborating artist Mary Martins and the South African poet Busiswe Mahlangu.

– Laura Eldret

‘Whispers’ – new textile and moving-image

Laura Eldret will produce a new textile and moving-image work. Whispers (2020) will be the result of a series of conversations with mothers, which also relates more broadly to human relationships and attachment at a time of social distancing.

The title draws on the idea of a whisper as a means of soothing speech, touching on issues of intimacy and care, and of speech as something embodied and physical. Both the textile work and the moving image work will explore the patterns and rhythms of interactions of mothers with their children, looking at the viscerality of their exchange and lived bodies and how this unique coexistence is emphasized during the first year after birth and during times of lockdown and isolation. To create the work, Eldret will use ethnographic processes and also draw on her own experience as a mother. Eldret’s work explores the social agency of art and aesthetic elements that bind people. Her practice uses processes of social engagement, anthropology and documentary. Fabric is a reoccurring form in her practice, she is interested in its social characteristics, its ability to wrap, comfort, soften, shield, conceal and display. She also frequently works with video to create works that engage in ethnographic processes such as interviews, observation, participation and reimagining.

– Wanja Kimani

‘Private Protest’ – mixed media, video performance

Artist Wanja Kimani will operate between the personal and the political, exploring the idea of a protest within the domestic space. Using video as a form of documentation of performative works utilizing barkcloth and found materials, Wanja will create images that reflect her body and the women around her. Through a collective intergenerational work, she will draw on the body as a site of transmission.

Monthly cycles of hormones, shedding potential life.
Soaked and drained way.
Death confronts black bodies from so many fronts.

How do we (ad)dress the internal civil war?

– Melanie Jackson

‘Spekyng Rybawdy’ Art Publication

Melanie Jackson will be creating an art publication composed of drawings inspired by a particular set of medieval obscenities known as the ‘bawdy badges’. They challenge us, and demand our attention in the present because they continue to arrest us with their shocking modernity and radical otherness.

Pilgrim Badges were small, mass-produced pewter or lead-alloy brooches and trinkets, cheap to buy, of which hundreds survive from the late Middle Ages and many are based on religious motifs and saints. A sub group are a series of secular badges known as the erotic/sexual or bawdy badges which employ a diverse, entertaining array of images including visual references to linguistic puns, visual allusions to aspects of religious and social life, and persistent images of mobility. Above all, the sexual badges delight in hybrid creations. They represent subverted gendered modes of asserting power and control over the inscrutable, vital, yet precarious forces of sex, fertility, and reproduction – satirical of the castration anxieties expressed in both anti catholic propaganda and the post-plague witch trials and pamphlets of the day. The violence of sexual control is made explicit, simultaneously iterated, subverted, made absurd.

Instead of using obscenity to subordinate and demean, can we utilize its transgressive power to give voice to those who are marginalized, to engender empathy for those who are wounded, and consider new paradigms for negotiating desire?

– Anna Perach

Bluebeard [working title] – Textile, Sculptural performance

Looking back at Freud’s identified new emotional state exclusive to women, hysteria, the artist wants to explore and question how female emotions and intuition is depicted as a physical defect or internal illness that needs to be cured and controlled. Through her work Anna wants to reclaim the women’s needs and right for space and expression against a history of women’s emotional and sexual repression. The artist will give life to hand-tufted head masks through a performance inspired by an illustration by Wisnlow Homer made for Charles Perrault’s Tale of Bluebeard (1697). In the tale, a young woman married to an elderly disfigured man, opens a door of which she was given the key to but forbidden the access. In the room she discovers the remains of her husband’s 6 previous dead wives who had previously dared to open the forbidden door, a fate now awaiting her. Homer’s image depicts the heads of seven women hanging by their long hair on a rope. The artist interprets this image as a forced disconnection of women from their ‘wild, hysterical nature’ by means of violent separation from their bodies. Metaphorically these women no longer have their bodies to perform their anguish and thus they are cured from feeling.

– Holly Stevenson

‘What Does It Mean To Mother?’ – Ceramic Sculptures

Through the process of art making, and informed by the collective responses gathered from a group of mothers and artists with materially driven practices, Holly will investigate ‘what does it mean to mother?’ With a profound interest in psychoanalysis, the artist aims to offer interpretations and a view on the different experiences of mothering considering and questioning the idea of the ‘good enough mother’, first coined in 1953 by paediatrician and psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott. Resulting in a series of ceramic sculptures, Holly will glean language and forms that relate art making to mothering and mothering to art making, choosing the material of ‘clay’ as meaning for nurturing, labour intensive and unpredictable practices.