How Linder went from Orgasm Addict to Chatsworth House

The art maverick first made her name in the punk era with collages fusing fashion and pornography, and a major retrospective proves her work still provokes

It’s not easy to celebrate female sexuality and vaginas on public transport, but Linder, the British artist known for her uncompromising photomontages, managed it at Southwark Underground, a station that sees 16.7 million people pass through its barriers each year. The 85m-long billboard she installed there last November – a luscious and cinematic sequence of roses, lips, female faces, food and Roman votaries that emerged from research into local figures and places and the archive of London Transport – is called The Bower of Bliss. And that, as it happens, is a quaint old phrase for vagina. “It suddenly came back to me when I was filming at Chatsworth last year,” she says of the term she had first discovered years before in an issue of Oz magazine edited by Germaine Greer. The work is a reminder that women don’t just need safe spaces but joyful ones, too.

Sex and pornography can loom large in the work of Linder. Among her best known are those where super-tanned 70s Playboy nudes are embellished with explosions of flowers; and naked women in coquettish poses have an electric heater, or a clock, or a Victoria sponge for a head. Linder, who changed the spelling of her first name as punk exploded in mid-70s Manchester (“It felt more European”), has been busy. She spent much of 2018 as artist-in-residence at Chatsworth House, digging through the history of that stately Derbyshire pile to create a film, an exhibition and even a fragrance. “It’s such a treasure house. There are parcels in the attic that have never been opened,” she says, though a more 20th-century discovery was Debo, Duchess of Devonshire’s adoration of Elvis. She also had an exhibition of her finely scalpelled montages at Nottingham Contemporary and created a film and a flag for Glasgow Women’s Library.

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