Rebecca Binns
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The changing face of British arts, politics and culture during Vaucher’s art school years
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This chapter explores the influence of Vaucher’s working class childhood in post-war Dagenham on her outlook and artwork. The roots of her pacifism, autonomy (in particular with regard to gender roles) and embrace of communal living, are all shown to originate in this milieu, as opposed to the counterculture or women’s movement. The chapter goes on to explore the role of art schools in engendering cultural change in Britain during the 1960s. It explores Vaucher’s experience of attending South East Essex Technical College and School of Art (1961–65), where her capabilities as a solo artist flourished. Her largely figurative early work is shown to embody a social realist quality that would become pronounced in her later illustrations for magazines, her journal International Anthem and Crass. It was also in this context that she met her lifelong creative partner, Penny Rimbaud, and their bond was formed through their shared ‘innate disobedience’ as well as their love of Pop Art and the Independent Group. The social mobility of the post-war decades facilitated cultural protagonists, including Vaucher, to emerge from the newly democratised art schools and universities, from a wider social background than was previously the case. Despite this, Vaucher’s experience of the art school environment was as an overwhelmingly middle-class environment that invoked reticence in her. The chapter also explores the formative role of the Aberfan Disaster (1966) on her world view.

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