Contemporary Art Society’s Consultancy brought artist Catherine Yass to Spark21, a charity founded to celebrate, inform and inspire future generations of women in the legal profession. Working in collaboration with the Supreme Court to deliver an artwork as part of the First 100 Years campaign to mark the centenary year of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which allowed women to become lawyers for the first time, Yass sought out the stories of women who have been pivotal in the story of British law-making.
Legacy, installed in Courtroom 2, celebrates the achievements of three women in the law including Cornelia Sorabji, Rose Heilbron and President of the Supreme Court, Lady Brenda Hale. Yass’ works are the first portraits of women to enter the Court’s collection, which contains works by Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. The fourth woman featured in Legacy is not named but is presented as a vision for the Next 100 Years of women practising law in the United Kingdom – encapsulating a new century of progress, equality and opportunity for women.
The artist has worked with archival photographic images as well as her own still photography, manipulating the two to create a continuum that documents both the progression of women in the law over 100 years and the development of photography in the same period. Each of the four panels is part of a larger group composition in which the individual portraits work together, reflecting the nature of women’s emancipation movements globally.