My work reflects on images of motherhood, labour and domesticity. The images create stories of domestic rituals that are both familiar and strange. I’m asking questions about the role of the female body, the maternal and probing the nature of her work. What is her labour? Manual labour, paid labour, domestic labour, mental labour, artistic labour, body in labour.
In my painting, I am interested in how working a surface can both suggest and limit. I begin my work in watercolour or oil, but as the work evolves, I often introduce a contrasting or interrupting material such as wax or felt. For me the “expressive” mark is important, but it also contains a certain legacy of masculinity and myth. The painting finds itself in negotiating with this ‘heroic’ gestural impulse.
Imposed on the painting act are calculations and measurements – the length of a TV show or nap, the space between meals and baths. The realities of caregiving, such as constant interruptions, and diverted attention shape this rhythm of making. Children’s drawings and assemblages are visual cues always in my periphery. Repetitive actions, such as scrubbing, sanding and washing, now become methods of paint application. Something is done and undone and re-done, every day, and out of the apparent futility, something is also continuous and forming.
And so, I think about work, the labour of hands and what they build and nurture and bring into being. I wonder if I can make a familiar space still hold yet become like the moment you begin to see things strange, so that a warm feeling is opened wider and becomes heat. Home might be a primary site of political encounter: behind a curtain, things are always being arranged. You peer down from scaffolding, you might adjust the lighting.
There is a lived-in space where our seeing does not meet. Where there is conversation, but there is no talking. A stillness where people move about in their own private realities: building, yet unable to bridge a gap. There is separateness, even while we live together or while we work and play together. The things we accept so that we can be together, the things we ignore so we can be together.
I use photographs as a starting point in my compositions to examine how our representations of the past, both our own immediate past but also our social past (familial, ethnic, religious) are formative and powerful. We live among these pictures as part of our family archive and they tell us stories about ourselves. Yet we also live in the realm of skepticism and mistrust of the image. We know its limitations, its capacities to tell only a partial truth, to omit, to distort and even to erase. I adopt a posture toward the image in my painting, then, as a kind of accumulation - of labour and of lore.