Don’t miss the Teasing Out Contingencies exhibition at The Higgins Bedford


An exhibition described by the artist as ‘a form of social activism’ is open to the public at The Higgins Bedford until January 2024.

Teasing Out Contingencies opened on 17 June and features eight new large-scale oil paintings and a costume installation by artist Quilla Constance, also known as QC.

The paintings playfully employ artistic techniques including realism, surrealism and abstraction seeking to depict new and extraordinary social contexts.

They place members of the public, wearing QC’s vibrant punk-carnivalesque costumes, within the luxurious interiors of Buckingham Palace and the subjects are shown holding a variety of objects, from yams through to a box of Mr Kipling cakes, that challenge and clash with their surroundings, creating unusual, humorous, and empowering imagery.

QC’s paintings are highly inclusive of people from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds and celebrate the diversity of British identities. QC refers to her artwork as “a form of social activism”.

Tate Modern and Rob & Romesh Vs…

The project began with a series of Open Studio performance workshops at Tate Modern in 2019. These workshops set out to cross borders, confront stereotypes, and challenge gender, racial and class inequalities.

Gallery visitors were invited to dress up in QC’s punk-carnivalesque costumes, work with a variety of objects, and respond to eclectic music. This music was composed by producer, Rafflesian, in collaboration with QC.

Over 1,000 people took part and QC photographed the participants in action. QC used this imagery to directly inform and inspire the compositions of her oil paintings. Further to this, students from Bedford College who participated at Tate Modern, are featured in one of QC’s paintings, titled: Carnival Throne.

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They can be seen posing with objects and interacting with other workshop participants from London and overseas.

Teasing Out Contingencies seeks to create exciting new narratives, exploring: ‘What is British society now and where is it going?’ These are timely questions as we emerge from the Covid 19 pandemic and as some people re-examine their relationship with the British monarchy in the wake of the Queen’s passing and the Coronation of King Charles III.  

QC’s artworks for this show also reference her maverick performance art workshop with presenter-comedians Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan for the BAFTA-nominated TV series Rob & Romesh Vs. This show made Teasing Out Contingencies accessible during the Covid 19 pandemic when Tate Modern was closed. A clip from the show can be viewed here

Ami Aubrey, programme producer at Bedford Creative Arts (BCA), said: “We first worked with QC on the Processions project, which marked the centenary of women receiving the vote by creating a beautiful banner and parading it through London alongside women from all over the UK.

Quilla-Constance/BCA ‘Processions’. Image: Michael Day

“This new project sees QC return to her home of Bedford and continues to champion and question issues of representation and gender in new and exciting ways”.

Teasing Out Contingencies is an ongoing project and marks the beginning of a larger body of paintings by QC. The huge response to her workshops at Tate Modern, was spectacular and much appreciated, and QC plans to incorporate imagery of as many participants as possible in her future artworks. 

Councillor Sarah Gallagher, portfolio holder for leisure and culture, said, “This is a wonderful exhibition and we’re very lucky to have this kind of cultural experience available for everyone to enjoy in Bedford Borough for free.

“I hope as many people as possible will have the opportunity to discover both this artwork and all the other fascinating things to see and do at The Higgins Bedford this summer.”

Teasing Out Contingencies is supported by Arts Council England, Tate Modern, Bedford Creative Arts, The Higgins Bedford, and Bedford Borough Council.

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