Drawing on Two Worlds: An Exploration of Contemporary Feminist Identity through Creative and Critical Practice (2012- 2017)

 

The immediacy of drawing and the inclusive nature of drawing in contemporary art practice made it the ideal investigative language for a “Feminist Exploration of Identity”. ‘Two Worlds’ refers to Australia and Scotland: the first where I grew up and published seven books on contemporary art; the second, where I have lived since 1987, where I work as a painter, editor and author in Fife, and have raised my family.

 

The aim was to transfer and transform the knowledge base of my research on contemporary drawing since 1985, to my own art practice, with a view to establishing methods to contextualise the female urge to represent material in uniquely female forms. Drawing was my intended investigative means as well as the visible focus of feminine knowledge I chose to examine.

‘Two Worlds’ represented aspects of my own life that have parallels with general problems within a wider global existence, especially when dealing with feminist issues. Using my unique individual experience and the research that I carried out, drew upon a nucleus of material, theoretical and visual that can be applied to a broader universal context. From my research on Aboriginal Art, and on contemporary drawing in Australia; my first drawing book studied 69 artists, the second, a generation later, 80 living artists. It has been a unique art education.

 

Drawing on Two Worlds (2012-2017) became a visual art project that addressed issues of cultural dispossession and personal identity and continues to inform The Portrayal of Loss.

 

It was conceived as a metaphor for straddling a professional and personal life, as an author, researcher and primary carer. The research was informed by the fact that many women, in the 21st century, in the event of serious illness and death, often revert to traditional female roles. Acute isolation results, which is damaging for families and for the cohesion of society.

Wormiston Wood.jpg

Wormiston Wood

Embarkation Wormiston Wood, knitted yarn sculpture, 2012.jpg

Embarkation, woollen sculpture/ spatial drawing (detail) 2011

Storm, drypoint, 2008.jpg

Storm, dry point on perspex with dental drill, 2008

Calaneish Standing Stones midsummer Isle of Lewis 1988.jpg

Calaneish Standing Stones

Isle of Lewis 1988

The first stage: EMBARKATION created as its final piece, a site specific work, using spatial drawing in the environment at Wormiston Wood in Fife and was funded by Creative Scotland and Fife Council. The spatial drawing made allusions to tall ship sails, shards of light, with the tall trees in the ancient wood acting as a virtual cathedral. The spatial drawing in the shape of elongated sails, was made using woolen yarn on large knitting needles in order to make reference to one of the few relics or remnants (that can be re-created) of the 19th century female experience. The shape of sails evolved intuitively in various works in 2008 that were made soon after learning that my husband, after a long illness had just months to live. Later the shapes seemed to lend themselves to meaning on several levels: personal and historic. The installation aims to address issues of human existence, one’s spiritual and emotional journey. They allude to how individuals relate to the wider world, and how from rudimentary beginnings humans have always sought to assert that identity through painting and drawing.

The knitted forms were constructed from and between tall trees; they pay homage to forebears who traveled to the other side of the world, in order to survive. They will also resemble billowing fishing nets, with all those implications and references in Christian iconography and in Scottish history, to the artist’s forebears who were fishermen in Portree, on Skye.