Friday, 23 November 2012

CONTEXTualizing it all YO

Feminist art work is becoming more and more fundamental in my practise. The unequivocal attitudes on morality and womanhood are so inspiring and relevant; how women are scrutinized and treated and the assumptions and expectations that are made of them are all key aspects to my current ideas. The practise of collage is a process that I think is really reflective; it is work that requires a sensitivity and focus. I want my pieces to have a meaning that is forceful, while maintaining that beauty, like the topless warriors from Ukraine, imagery is really important. Whether it’s a cold dramatic display of kitchen utensils, or evocative scenes described in a novel or sensitive embroidery; in the kitchen, on the streets, in a gallery, the predilection for a sexual equality is notable.

 The work of Martha Rosler has been very influential to my current practise. ‘Semiotics of the Kitchen’ is a sarcastic comment on the role of women in the 60s. Semiotics meaning the study of signs, Rosler uses herself as a ‘symbol’ of femininity, filming herself in the traditional domain for a woman; the kitchen. In the film she proceeds to name and display like a sign, the different elements that make up a woman’s day-to-day existence; the kitchen utensils; ‘A’ for ‘Apron’ etc. Her movements are dark and static, instigating nervousness from the viewer, as we watch her coolly and violently demonstrate each utensil, deconstructing the classic image of a woman in the kitchen. Her movements become even more aggressive as she transforms even the safest objects into weaponry; brandishing each article with a silent fury that suggests a breakdown is imminent. This darkly humorous piece of work is such a simple but impassioned representation of the repressed housewife.

Tracey Emin, the ‘bad girl’ of British art. Her oeuvre has posed serious feminist questions about women’s sexual responsibility; her consistent confessional and autobiographical approach within her work, which along with her use of the domestic aesthetic, connects her to the practices of feminist artists such as Rosler. However it is not that work that I am interested in, seeing as her work has apparently changed; from the bluntness of ‘My Bed’ she has now a new opus; one of more subtlety and sensitivity. In her latest exhibition She Lay Down Deep Beneath The Sea’ at the Turner Contemporary she reveals a sensitive installation that explores the themes of love, sensuality and romanticism. 
The particular piece that is so exciting is ‘Head Falling’ being interesting aesthetically because it appeared to be a sketch in ink, but on closer inspection revealed to be a piece of embroidery. The effective embodiment of the activity of ink through the slow process of embroidery is fantastic. The subtle deception and enlightenment that the piece provides is so revealing and rewarding. There’s also a tenderness and honesty that’s poignant in her documentation of her relationship with herself, men and love.

Máximo Tuja’s work is really exciting. When I want an example of modern day collage where the time and skills are evident, I look to ‘Max-o-Matic’.  It reassures me that the time spent is worth it.  His pieces are so brilliant and exciting to look at; a mixture of subtle and outlandish arrangements. I like the blending and indistinct overlaying of black and white imagery like the faint deception of Emin’s ‘Head Falling’ to obvious bold compositions. Despite most of the work untitled and the content not about sexual equality, it is a medium that I am infatuated with, when I see his work I am suddenly filled with a desire to get out my scalpel and cut paper. 
‘Cutters’ a group exhibition curates by James Gallagher, reaffirms that collage is back and better than ever.

Revolutionary Road is such a useful insight into the housewives in the sixties, of course American life differed from the English, but when considering the classic housewife I automatically refer to the character of April Wheeler in Richard Yates’ classic.  The novel is a portrait of a failing marriage between a young couple in their prime, both looking for extraordinary things. Frank and April; always the first the first to throw a contemptuous remark about the suburban life, an existence they outwardly resented and with a smug satisfaction believed they were indifferent to, until they realise they are wholly immersed in this ‘ideal’ of suburban life. The story is relevant not just for the setting, but for an example of a marriage failing and animosity incited for want of a different lifestyle. The dialogue is used brilliantly to reveal these concealed resentments. We see the unravelling of the marriage largely from Frank’s point of view and hear conversations that he imagines having with his wife, cleverly being that they are derived from what husband and wife may have been able to say to each other, had suburbia not smothered them whole. April’s attempts to escape this mundane life escalate from harmlessly taking part in an amateur dramatic play that wasn’t as Frank put it “exactly a triumph or anything..?” to more dramatically inducing her own miscarriage. April had defiantly resisted suburbia’s attempts to smother her dreams of escaping this suffocating lifestyle, so much so that she died for her cause. The suffering of being a housewife may not be physical and violent, but oppressive in its own way; a smothering of ambition and freedom.

FEMEN are the infamous group of topless Ukrainian female activists, who use their bodies to stand defiantly for sexual and social equality in different parts of the world. They describe themselves as soldiers; morally and physically, provocatively fighting a war on discrimination standing proudly topless and adorned with a symbolic wreath of flowers. Their naked bodies echo the women of Amazonian tribes; their strength but also the sacredness of their form. For the women of FEMEN; to be naked is to be free. These aren’t meek compliant girls, these are women who have been beaten and imprisoned for standing up for what they believe in; a new wave of feminism; women who are undermining the patriarchal world all its forms from the church to the sex industry ‘bringing neurosis and panic’ to the men by means of their intellect, sexuality and agility. In Eastern Europe there is a disturbingly high rate of sex workers; Kiev has become notorious for ‘sex tourism’. While the method of legislation; criminalising the person who engages the services of a prostitute is unsuccessful in Ukraine only radical measures; protests and shock tactics can make society change its opinion and compel parliament to change the law. Their work is so admirable, compelling me to want to rip off my clothes and stand with them. Their aim is to empower women. Subtlety is not an option; I want my work to be reflective of their struggles. It encourages me to make my images bolder and more audacious. It doesn’t mean that the craft of collage has to be dismissed, it is fundamental; it just means subtle mocking of the 60’s American housewife isn’t the only source of commentary.

Reckitt, H. (2001). Art and Feminism. London, Phiadon Press Limited
Januszczak, W. (2012). Home Is Where The Art Is. Available:[Last accessed 20th October 2012]
Wullschlager, J. (2012). Traces of Tracey. Available: [Last accessed 19th October 2012]
Turner Contemporary. (2012). News > She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea: Tracey Emin at Turner Contemporary. Available: [Last accessed 22nd October 2012]
Mullan, J. (2004). Guardian Book Club; Left Unsaid. Available: [Last accessed 16th November 2012]
Klanten. R, Hellige. H, Gallagher. J. (2011). Cutting Edges Contemporary Collage. Berlin, Gestalten
 Gallagher, J. Cutters (2010). (collage) [image online] Available: [Last accessed 17th November 2012]
Yates, R.(2007). Revolutionary Road. London : Vintage
Wilsher, K. (2012). Femen's Topless Warriors start Boot Camp for Global Feminism. Available: [Last accessed 4th October 2012]
Camatsos, S. G . (2012). FEMEN sheds light on Ukrainian sex industry [Interview: Anna Hutsol]. Available: [ Last accessed 17th November 2012]
Femen. About Femen. Available: [Last accessed 17th November 2012]

No comments:

Post a Comment