Fenella Fielding Portraits
Fenella Fielding: Actress
An exhibition of new Fenella portraits painted by:
Natalie Dowse | Sal Jones | Cathy Lomax | Jeanette Watkins | Fionn Wilson
Also, 3D works by:
Patrick Boyd, Martin Firrell and Andrew Logan
Curated by Fionn Wilson and Simon McKay
Artist Fionn Wilson (who recently curated an ACE sponsored exhibition about Christine Keeler) has coordinated the creation of 15 new portraits by 5 artists. The artists did not get to meet Fenella, but through her estate were able to visit her home and hear about her from her close friend and biographer Simon McKay. He gave them access to many unseen images, part of the Fenella Fielding Archive, that they have since used for their work.
The resulting group exhibition examines Fenella's film and theatre career, her carefully crafted image, the much celebrated Carry on Screaming smoking scene and Fenella as herself, in unguarded moments.
In addition to these portraits, the gallery is spacious enough to allow an additional room of 3D Fenella exhibits including Andrew Logan's 1970s Fenella bust, Martin Firrell's MetaFenella and Patrick Boyd's newly created lenticular (moving) images.
Exhibition runs: 8 November to 18 December 2022
Wed 12 noon till 7pm
Thur-Sun 12 noon till 4pm
286 Earls Court Road, London SW5 9AS
(2 min walk South from Earls Court tube)
Fenella Fielding OBE (1927-2018) always wanted to be an actress. Her parents were completely against it. They had very entrenched conservative views about what a woman should do. Mainly, get married!
As a young woman wanting to begin her acting career, in defiance of her parents, Fenella won a scholarship at RADA. Her father responded with his fists while her mother would egg him on. They made it impossible for her to complete the course and managed to delay her progress for 7 years, but couldn’t stop her. She continued in amateur productions, eventually taking her first professional job in 1952. Regardless of her parents, this was a difficult enough time for a woman to develop a career. She described having to be 'quick on her feet' to avoid the attention of certain men and, at that time, felt she had to do it 'charmingly' too. Despite all this, she was so determined and so talented that she became a very successful actress and enjoyed an illustrious career that lasted 67 years!
Fenella was crazy talented. Throughout the 1960s, she took stunning lead roles that included Hedda Gabler and Colette. She appeared in plays by Shaw, Shakespeare, Ibsen, Saki, Pinter, Chekhov, Sardou, Feydeau, Aristophanes, Euripides and Ernie Wise. For more than a decade, she was on-stage practically every night starring in first rate productions while still managing to be a fixture on TV and radio. (By the mid-1970s the TV appearances became less frequent, but the stage and radio performances continued.) Her career also included a number of films of the larky sort including one, playing opposite Tony Curtis, precariously perched on a horse. She appeared in some of the Doctor and Carry On films too.
The ephemeral nature of stage work and a lot of her dramatic TV performances (now wiped or inaccessible) has led to a distortion in the way Fenella is remembered – mostly, through her amazing performance in Carry On Screaming (1966). She was the velvet voiced vamp Valeria, memorably, dressed from morning to night in a long red velvet dress. Understandably, there’s much less awareness of demanding stage roles like ‘The High Bid’ that she felt secured her ‘straight acting badge’.
In her late 80s, Fenella enjoyed a remarkable 'renaissance' (Guardian, 2017) and was packing in audiences when she gave impassioned readings of her memoirs; and on other days, reading Greek classics! Belatedly, at the age of 90, she was awarded an OBE for services to Drama and Charity.
Fenella's story is both remarkable and inspirational; winning the battle against parents who held such narrow views of what their daughter should do with her life. She never did get married, always fearing it would be like being 'invaded'. She devoted herself to her career and her list of credits is astonishing - literally thousands of appearances on stage, TV, radio and film www.fenellafielding.com/career
Read about the Fenella Fielding Foundation