solo show – Someth1ng Gallery, November 2018
The theme of women as both life giver and death bringer is present throughout religion and mythology. Women’s ‘sacred power’ formed the core of much ancient reverence and worship, but equally provided the root for suspicion, fear and vilification from patriarchal religions and culture. Contemporary society still places huge value on fertility with regard to women, so why is it that, despite being an integral aspect of human fertility, as well as being a reality for half the world’s population, the taboo around the subject of menstruation still remains?
This central question formed the starting point for ‘The Moon’s Animal’. These figurative paintings are inspired by mythology, religion and fairy tales, as much as personal experience. This body of work allowed me to reflect on the often overlooked positive potentials of ‘the curse’ as a time of heightened creative fertility, introspection and renewal, as well as acknowledging the deeply embedded fear and shame surrounding menstrual blood.
The paintings of myself and women close to me are both personal and universal at once, becoming representations of the feminine divine in every woman. There are several recurring motifs throughout the works; bare feet as the point of contact with the ground are representative of our contact with nature and the divine. The Moon and its duality, whose mysterious waxing and waning has been associated with women throughout mythology and religion, is alluded to, as are symbolic references to the feminine divine. The onset of menarche, and the lack of a rite of passage for this pivotal point in a girl’s life is one of the focal points of the exhibition, featuring paintings of two sisters as they approach this threshold, which can affect a woman’s relationship with her body throughout her life.
During the process of painting, these themes and concerns become bound up with the materiality of the work, and the act of creating itself takes over. The paintings veer between looseness and precision, between pure mark making and carefully crafted painterly technique. This duality in the work mirrors the fundamental themes of my entire practice, as areas of bold flat colour meet swirling painterly backgrounds and almost translucent dimensional figures.
The mysteries of the feminine divine are bound up with women’s menstrual cycles. The discomfort with the subject matter, along with all the negative associations with it (including the language used to describe it), speaks of a continued cultural vilification of female creative power. The series of paintings in ‘The Moon’s Animal’ doesn’t aim to shock, but instead to explore, to celebrate and possibly help normalise conversation about this very natural part of women’s experience.
Group show/Curatorial project September 2018
During the last week of September I was invited to co-curate a group exhibition of women only artists with Gallerist Karina Phillips. This collaborative project with Flying Elephant Productions and their producer Colette Redgrave had live theatrical performances each evening of Picasso’s Women, featuring a series of monologues and confessionals performed by three of the most influential women in the early life of Picasso. Three of the monologues were performed each evening, revealing fascinating detail of the lives of Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova and Marie-Therese Walter. The critically acclaimed production attracted art council funding and premiered at Edinburgh Festival at the Fruitmarket Galley.
Solo show – Gallery Different London May 2018
Inspired by the female archetype, from saints to voodoo spirits, to the goddesses of the Greek Pantheon Dreams, Promise and the Divine is a creative exploration into the many forms these archetypes inhabit. They offer a plethora of possibilities of what it means to be a woman. “Traditional” feminine traits, such as kindness, passivity and a desire to nurture do of course feature, as so do icy determination, power, cunning, and everything in between.
Since childhood I’ve drawn mythological female characters. These have evolved and fed directly into the themes I work on in my current painting practice, which is primarily concerned with female identity, desire and mortality. The starting point for this body of work was an interest in how female spirits and goddesses could serve a way of externalising and giving character to many women’s experiences, making them visible and thereby legitimising them.
These spirits, goddesses, and archetypes, felt very familiar despite being so far removed from contemporary life and seemed to be reflected in the many women I’m surrounded by. The culminating series was born from a playful interpretation of these ideas in which archetypal characters, goddesses and symbols were incorporated and reimagined with images of my contemporaries.
At this very pivotal point where women’s rights, equality and gender are at the forefront of global attention, this series of paintings offers a playful and contemporary take on female archetypes and invites us to question how they continue to shape our view of womanhood.
Solo show – The Chelsea Arts Club, London, January 2018
This body of work is part of the above mentioned series, and represents the beginnings of this deepening interest in mythology and the divine feminine inspired by the female archetype.
Symbolism in this series includes the Serpent which has a long standing connection to female power and fertility. In many pagan cultures the serpent was a potent symbol of fertility, wisdom, transformation, rebirth and healing and as such was closely linked with many goddesses. These animals went from being sacred to becoming the symbols of evil and sin in the judeo-christian culture, mirroring the characterisation of eve/woman as being responsible for ‘the fall of man’.
Once a year the Gallery commissions a major exhibition of new work based on a concept or theme of our time. This autumn GOOD NATURE will be a celebration of our planet, its beauty and its fragility and the essential part we all play in preserving it.
Caroline Lucas MP, 2017
Oil, acrylic and charcoal on canvas
150 x 120 cm
Good Nature exhibition at Candida Stevens Gallery
16 Sept – 28 Oct 2017
The focus of my practice is centred on the human form, with a particular interest in portraiture and female identity. As such, my thoughts on the theme of ‘good nature’ immediately directed themselves towards the people making a positive contribution to nature. Those who dedicate their lives to protecting the natural world and the planet we live on, and Caroline Lucas instantly entered my mind. First MP to the Green Party and current co- party leader (alongside being VP to the RSPCA), she is an historic figure who has changed the face of politics, by providing a consistent voice of reason on matters concerning nature and our environment to parliament. Her politics and life’s work come from an understanding that we as a society and species can only flourish if we value and protect our environment.
She seems to me, to be someone who cares deeply, and fights tirelessly for what she believes to be right, even if this means standing at odds with the status quo; as seen with her arrest for participating in an anti-fracking protest in 2013. There is something refreshingly rebellious about Caroline Lucas MP, and with this first official portrait of her I wanted to capture the sense of fearlessness I get from her along with her ever questioning, fighting spirit.
The painting contains references to the natural world as well as the feminine creative force, together with clues to the methods used in the making of the piece at this very turbulent time in UK politics.
The female form acts as a bearer of meaning in this body of work, which draws on the historical link between the young woman and mortality, and explores the interconnected nature of death, creation and a search for meaning. Drawing on traditional Vanitas motif’s, here the young woman becomes a symbol for the fleeting nature of human life as well as creative fertility and potential. Youth and beauty allude to their natural counterpart of death and decay, coupled with the idea of a woman’s increased awareness of her own mortality, due, historically, to the dangers of childbirth, and more currently, the awareness that she faces a loss of visibility long before her actual loss of life.
I’m interested in the link between women, creation and dying, but also how this relates to the creative process in itself where, just as the young woman holds both forces of life and death within herself symbolically, these oscillating opposites of activity and passivity, chaos and control, are a vital component in the act of making art. Whilst painting, I’m often aware that as much as I have to consciously manifest a mark or an image, I also have to surrender to and accept moments of chaos, allowing ideas or images to be destroyed in order for something new to be born. The idea of resurrection is also reflected in the use of the initial source photograph, which almost acts as a silent witness to the process of painting taking place around it, and during it’s time discarded on the studio floor also becomes transformed. These ‘damaged’, discarded prints are then taken up again, scanned, re-printed and reborn.
The question of meaning is an essential part in this cycle of life, death and creation. The transience nature of life, and our own mortality play a vital role in our search for meaning and purpose, and almost always provide the fuel for the desire to create.
Solo show – Someth1ng gallery London January 2016
This body of work uses portraiture as a vehicle through which traditional vanitas themes can be explored. Youth and beauty allude to their natural counterpart of death and decay, as well as the contemporary idea of a woman’s increased awareness of her own mortality, conscious that she faces a loss of visibility long before her actual loss of life. It touches on the power of the iconic image and it’s relation to our current obsession with our own reflection and the capturing of the ‘perfect’ selfie; as if this idealised avatar could make us impervious to the affects of time, imperfection and age; but primarily it is about the process of image creation itself, which seems directly to reflect the theme of desire and lack at the core of the subject.
The basic human desire for certainty and a sense of wholeness is in direct conflict with the finite, fragmented nature of being, giving rise to a perpetual cycle of desire and lack. The image making process in this body of work mirrors the same cycle; Initial elation at the idea of creating perfection gives way to inevitable disappointment caused by the impossibility of the task.
This cycle begins with the source photograph, which is partially destroyed throughout it’s time in the studio. These prints are then taken up again and reworked. ‘Unsatisfactory’ paintings are destroyed by whiting out. This layer is then also rejected and washed off, which re-activates the old layers of water-soluble ink, leading to a merging of the old and the new.
The ultimately futile yet unstoppable desire to create wholeness, unity, perfection or even in the simple case of art, a ‘finished’ piece, is laid bare in all its stages.
These works for my final MFA project explore the dynamics of desire and the role that iconised versions of ourselves and others play in relation to self-image and our search for continuity. Drawing on concepts of desire and lack situated within the contemporary everyday, in which self-mythologization and the creation of iconised images of ourselves are very much part of our daily experience via the use of social media; these works explore how the images of ourselves that we project outwards can become just as real as our actual being.
“Nowadays you can take 200 photos and if there’s 1 where you look kind of cool from one direction, you can slightly enhance it on Photoshop, and then you start to believe in those images...It’s like this surface, and every now and then somebody punctures it, not with a bullet or an arrow but with a photograph” CJ
RULES FOR CHOOSING A MODEL:
1. A woman who is close enough to me in age for me to be able to see myself in her (specular image) so +-10yrs
2. A woman within the sphere of my everyday acquaintances
3. Using social media, select the first woman fitting criteria 1. who appears in my newsfeed.
This series of works were born from dialogue between myself and my models, whom I chose according to their adherence to the principles I set for this series. The significance of images of women, beauty and self-image was discussed, and the interviews transcribed. (Please see Interviews to find out more). These very personal accounts then gave way for my process of creation to begin. The relationship between desire and lack in relation to the question of self-image, was then taken up as the starting point in which initial ideals were transformed and modified through the practical process of painting. The importance of the iconised virtual version of ourselves emerged as a key theme in the interviews, and interestingly enough each of my models went on to use the paintings as their digital avatar on social media.
To me beauty seems to be representative of the lost object – the ever-elusive promise of a complete sense of being, ultimately stemming from our difficulty to accept our own finitude. Unattainable beauty hereby comes to represent wholeness, an ultimate state of existence, and the iconised image can give us a taste of this, and through this, a taste of immortality. The image remains as it is, whereas the self is unstable, in a constant state of decline until it eventually disappears. My final piece consist of 3 separate pieces, which work as a set, each exploring different nuances on the theme. The choice to have 3 models, and present 3 works (1 relating to each model) refers back the number’s association with the divine and the historical use of the triptych in religious iconography. The work also references various traditional Vanitas motifs, such as the young woman, mirrors and precious objects (Der Tod steht uns gut) alongside other symbolic references to perfection, ideals, and the significance of the specular image. Please see The Specular Self more pieces from the series.
This is a series in which I started to engage the process of painting and image creation more directly with the tension between desire and lack. ‘Unsatisfactory’ images are covered by whiting out and washing off, the process of which re-activates the old rejected layers of water-soluble ink, leading to a merging of the old and the new. This technique begins to develop a visual language which reflects the cyclical relationship between the imagined finished image (desire), the dissatisfaction with the resulting image (lack), and the return to the image (desire) in an attempt to draw something new out from it.
These paintings develop through a combination of chance and active choice, and, through engaging with the processes of creation and destruction inherent to painting, begin to give expression to the constant cycle of desire and return to lack. Much in the same vein in which Francis Bacon and others approached image making, something must be destroyed, or covered in order for something new to form or emerge.
Please see Cycles of Desire for more paintings from this series.