Social Schema… this Interwoven Flesh

social schema

This image should be floating around as a free art card in Warrnambool anytime soon. I was still breastfeeding my 9 month old son when I began this painting in 2009. I embroidered a maternal figure, nursing her infant into the canvas after I stretched it. The frame is the base off our old queen size bed, the canvas gathers in the corners and the are sections where the fabric buckles and pulls. This painting had lingered in my imagination for years, when I undertook my Bachelor of Arts Honours through Deakin University I allowed it to finally come through.

I used this Honours year (or year & a I/2 in my case) to examine questions that had perplexed me for sometime- all around the relationship between our internal and external experiences of reality. Was it possible that the external world was somehow a reflection of our internal self-consciousness, perhaps our unconscious too? This research lead me to investigate the history of “substance dualism” best known as the mind-body split and to trace the history of this dualism through Western intellectual traditions and practices. Having recently borne my third child my own maternal body and contemporary Western culture and medicine became a nucleus for this inquiry.

That period of research was rich and formative, it produced the notion of aesthetic subjectivity which drives my current practice led research. I made a number of sculptures, abstract paintings, a video and this painting which all became the womblike installation space Maternal Interstice.

I have always found it frustrating to be a passive witness of news, of world trauma and global changes. I also cringe at the phrase “as a mother” which is mostly used as a qualifier for nappies and paracetamol. This painting, Social Schema, is the confluence of those two: as a mother passively witnessing world trauma. It was influence by my deep reaction to the Little Children Are Sacred Report in 2006, the on-going anxiety, frustration and grief I feel regarding our destruction of the environment, Australian media’s and politics’ misconstrued representation of asylum seekers. This painting was produced over about twelve months, I drew from Australian artist’s Jeffry Smart and James Gleeson as influences and “as a mother” I found it significant to be referencing great Australian, male painters. I grappled with a lot of questions through the making of this image, parts were challenging technically and this was often mirrored on a philosophical level. I probably began this work from the basis of an “us” & “them”, I was critical of how “they” were screwing up my world- gouging it out in open cut mines, shipping meaningless consumer items across  oceans, starving ecosystems and filling the atmosphere with that contentious, choking gas. The on-going wrestle and dance persisted on the canvas and in my body, in my muscles and nerves: how many items in my home were once afloat on the ocean, how much CO2 had I put in the air on behalf of my precious babies?

This painting became a process of accepting that interfolding between body and world; it gave me an insight into the complexity of this interfolding- we overlap our world views and realities building the familial, communal, socio-political, global, perhaps even spiritual spaces that become “the world”. Many ideas germinated through my honours year- this inquiry into the co-productive relationship between space and consciousness has become quite loud in my current  work….


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