I began this semester by revisiting materials and processes which I have used in the past. I like to work with tactile craft materials, primarily in the colours of blood and flesh, along with latex, to create organic forms that reflect the body and its structures both inside and out. I tend to work with my hands using laborious domestic and utilitarian processes that I find meditative. This semester I have been working with crochet and coiled basketry. The organic forms which have been unfolding appear biological with a likeness to the visceral body, the skin and genitals while also having similarities to other biological life forms that live beneath the ocean or underground. Amongst the artists I have been researching, I have chosen to reference Eva Hesse, Ernesto Neto, Lucio Fontana, and Pipilotti Rist. These artists use materials and processes that evoke the body and its sensations, sexuality and fertility. I have been listening to recordings of the sound of water in a round corrugated iron tank, of plants being pulled out by their roots, of myself crying, of the groans during labour and of myself singing. My video work involves placing my body in locations and positions that arouse contemplative feelings of knowing. My ideas relate to the limitations placed upon my female body, as part of a social structure, which conflict with its overpowering compulsion to operate as a channel for the flow of life.
Historically my work appears to revolve around the ideas of ‘structure’ and ‘flow’. My primary interest has been in naturally formed patterns and the invisible energies flowing through the substances that materialise them. Initially my focus was on the universe, from the microscopic and macroscopic; the similarities between atomic structure and orbital patterns in our solar system for example. These overarching scientific truths have provided a refuge from the complexities and conflicts in my own life. In the past couple of years, however, I have ventured into the territory of my own body and life experiences armed with my ‘universal truths’ in an attempt to find my own ‘theory of everything’. My choice to use visceral materials like latex and wool, and processes like crochet, felting and basketry are motivated by the primal and instinctive feeling working in this way inspires within me.
After presenting my work for critique at the beginning of the semester I realised that my hybridising by stitching disparate material elements together in my Holistic Mutation works were, in effect, attempts to force the poles of duality into a Frankenstein-like symbiosis. By wrestling binaries into unity, I have been trying to work things out within the system of patriarchal dualities, where the focus is on difference, rather than within the unifying similarities of the universe.
Emmet Fox says,
“There are many things that are relatively true at certain times and places only, but God is absolute Truth at all times and in all circumstances. As soon as we touch God, who is the Absolute, relative things disappear”.
God, the Universe, the Absolute is a profound feeling of knowing that I experience on a deeper level within, despite of my own insecurities or the limitations imposed on me by the rules of the social structure in which I exist. This seems to suggest to me a higher system that is not limited to binaries. My knowing is connected to memories of being an infant and the feeling of unity in the oceanic euphoria of love for my mother. This has set a certain tone or standard of loving and being loved in my relationships, as well as in my role as mother. The desire to be nurtured and the desire to nurture. This is the energy that causes me to act as a channel through which life flows. I flowed through my mother and my daughters flowed through me. And our physical connection of nurturance was the umbilical cord.
I recently emerged from three years of intense relationship oriented stress, as a result of my partner’s substance addiction and mental illness, which ended in divorce. I had been looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, but when it finally came, I didn’t even recognise it. It took me a month to see it … in retrospect. I had to keep tunneling forward blindly trusting that my path was part of a pattern too large for me to see. I have been thinking about things that tunnel instinctively, like worms and roots, as well as things that are acted upon like digestion and labour. I envisioned worm-like tunnels that were both the tunnel and tunneling. I thought about the channels in the body through which fluids, nutrients, and waste are pumped or acted upon by peristalsis. I thought of the contractions of labour and the birth process. As I was coiling rope and wrapping the coils in dark red wool, I observed the form as it slowly revealed itself. The spiral movement while wrapping wool and coiling rope mirror each other in achieving a unified structure and flow; a structure that is flowing, and a flow that provides structure.
My body related video works are the result of a meditative mindfulness that I experience while swimming laps. I dip in and out of conscious awareness as I am swimming and thinking. Each video is a visual analogy between my making process and lap swimming. I follow a black line in the pool and I follow a black line of wool coiling into form. I create circular energy movement while coiling with my hands, and while swimming laps with my body. I tunnel with an inspection camera through my created forms while tunneling through the water in the pool.
Lucio Fontana described art as the evolution of thought (Whitfield 1999, 14). Currently, In my attempts to make sense of my existence I find it conceptually more constructive to look to the patterns of the universe for similarities, rather than to patriarchy’s comparison of differences. The elements that are consistently reflected in my work are domestic materials and processes. The subject matter which re-occurs, relates to channels, conduits, tubes, pipes and ducts. These materials and processes, concepts and subject matter, contemplated when I’m alone, stimulate within me a feeling of intimacy and a connection to a history of creation and procreation. This gives me a feeling of optimism and a practical application to my thoughts and feelings. As Elisabeth Grosz explains, “Life remembers … it brings the past into the present … it brings potential to chaos”.
skin . bone . breath . blood