Coming to the end of the second year of the MA it’s is time to reflect on my personal development as an artist.
In my DPD writen in May I hoped to have built a rigorous practice around the ideas of birth, motherhood and memory. I was pursuing the idea of creating a “bricolage of memory”. What has come out of the work has been a more focused enquiry into birth.
I also wished to make connections outside of the University.
As I progressed through this year I have begun a focused practice investigating birth. I want to improve my methods of making and refinement. I will work hard to remain focused on birth alone.
I have over the last year begun to make good connections to the arts in North Devon. I have curated an exhibition for Art For Life at Musgrove Hospital and have made better connections to North Devon Arts, I was there opening exhibition in there new collaborative space 20 Joy Street, Barnstaple.
I would like to make stronger connections to the public through investigating the stories around birth. I have approached some of my students in this respect and they seem quite keen to get involved.
It is good to see that being on the MA has clearly enabled me to find my own voice and I wish to continue to find that voice across the various outcomes within my own practice as an artist.
Assessment 704 practical work
I was pleased with the work that I brought to the final assessment, having felt somewhat unsatisfied with work in the end of year show before the Easter Break. I have been able to bring the slides to a place where they are becoming more successful, I had new paintings and the triptych had been replaced with the wire figure. I feel I have come to a place where I have lots of work to carry me into the final year.
It was very good to work on the wire figure and even though the material of chicken wire is problematic there is a fragility and transience that I like about the piece. I like that I can mould it around my body and the performative nature of doing it. I will now need to investigate other materials and see what works as a surface with the projections hoping to retain a transparency and fragility.
Just beginning this project I have found that women are telling me their stories and I hope to investigate a way to incorporate these possibly within the surface of the sculpted figure.
It will be good to work towards a body of work that has come out of these beginnings.
I presented the work and was much more confident about the drawings and paintings. I was pleased with Anya’s and Tabatha’s responses to the work. It was good to be able to use the space to put the work especially to see the wire figure in a clear space.
Today I am beginning a second full size wire figure using my own body as the mould. I have asked a friend for an old wet suit as this is quite scratchy and I think the wet suit might offer a bit more protection. I want the figure to continue to have an anonymity to it but to also open conversation around the birthing stories of others. I’m am beginning to consider how and why I might collect those stories. It would be good to somehow use them on the surface of the figure. I want to experiment with tissue that has stories written onto it. It might be more interesting if these stories were written by other people in their handwriting. It would be good to collect the stories told by mothers, children and fathers... we all fit one of these categories...
I want the wire figure to take the place of triptych used in previous experiments with the slide projections. As soon as I felt that the wooden triptych were too ridged I began to think of them as the form of woman and this feels at the moment they way to represent the birthing mother onto which I will project the liquid slides. The expectation being that light will catch the tissue paper and will also fall on the wall behind the figure.
Today has been about making a new painting. Drawing from my head thinking about the internalising nature of birth. The woman thinking only of her self and the next hours that will unfold and the beginnings of pain and the effort ahead. What every happens and however much medical intervention is involved the woman is often very much within her own head... I’m continuing to use the wire type marks and aiming to have an anonymity to the form figure.
The shape to cut the slides has thus far been somewhat problematic in that it has tried to be a wet shape but has often looked a bit like a cartoon splat. Having been working or the labour pictures I wonder if they would work better as a silhouette of a woman in labour. I have cut some of these now and am waiting for the plastic weld to dry before filling them with liquid. I am trying to resist racing in with is and making them before the weld has fully set.
Visiting Ilfracombe today for there open studio event and parked by verity. Damien Hurst’s monumental sculpture of a pregnant women with one side open as if dissected. This anatomical and monumental sculpture looks out across the harbour sword held aloft, a warrior woman, valiant and mystifying. She is beautiful and some how distant. Very distant from the realities of labour and pregnancy. I feel I love this piece whist still reserving a part of me that is not quite sure. It is wonderful for such a remount part of North Devon to have a piece of work by such an acclaimed artist and it helps to draw the crowds. She is bold and valiant but in a masculine way. Som6hing about her does not quite ring true.
Having worked with the pencil drawings it seemed a natural progression to develop this further and extend the images in paint. Working on primed paper and with lose paint mixed with painting medium I have begun large paintings of women in labour. I am working from memory and from some life drawing done of pregnant friends, alongside images from the internet.
I have a friend who is a science teacher and as I was making the slides for the projector I wondered how wet things are seen through microscopes so we made a trip to her science lab for me to see. There is a possibility for using some techniques used in science labs but more interestingly I was able to see a section of a uterus, an umbilical cord and testes though a microscope and even photograph what I could see.
As I continue to explore the subject of birth and this powerful moment that effects all humans but is most powerfully part of many women’s experiences of motherhood. Though I acknowledged that motherhood can be found through addition and surrogacy and full endorse the belief that parenting is not a female prerogative but a human one, I wish to explore the powerful experience of birth itself and the way it has been portrayed and to explore the sterilised version of motherhood and birth that is often found in birth. One that ignores the wetness, messiness and the bloodiness of the first moments of life.
Before the advent of anatomy and male midwifery, the happening of birth was managed in an almost entirely female environment. With the advent of obstetrics atlases, most notably, that of the male midwives Willian Smellie and William Hunter birth be me an illness that needed medical interventions. Dr’s who elected to become male midwives were until this time seen as the lowest ranking in their profession but with the arrival of dissection and the invention of stirrups and forceps their assistance in enabling live births was seen as remarkable Smellie in particular rose to fame. Women no longer walked or moved about in labour but birth was arranged to enable those attending the best view and access to the birth canal. Birthing at home in western societies gradually became more and more rare and remains so today. No-one would dispute the need for safety in birth but there is a need to remember the power and strength of the woman at the centre of birth.
Massey, Lyle Pregnancy and Pathology: picturing childbirth in the eightieth century Art bulletin March 2005 vol. 87 issue 1 p73-91
Today has been about oil and water! I’ve been working in the slides to see if I can make them hold both oil and water and there be movement in the slide projection that’s random and fluid. Finding it difficult to stop them leaking but got a video of one of the slides whilst it was still fluid.